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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

POST-WAR  AUSTRIAN  WRITERS                   509

of 'action' - and 'action' itself is not governed by force of will but
by temperamental instincts and urges, which are at the mercy of
chance. For our 'hero', therefore, let us take a man with no char-
acter at all in the stereotyped novelist's (or historian's) sense: a
man without qualities, der Mann ohne Eigenschaffen, which is the
very title of Musil's great novel, and this Doderer's cycle is perhaps
intended to outstrip, if only because it is closer down to brute
reality. The titular hero of Die Stmdelhofstiege, Melzer - typically,
his Christian name is not given - illustrates the argument. He is
introduced as a lieutenant in the Austrian army, and in the final
stages he is a retired major and a civil servant (Amtsraf}. It is
repeatedly stressed that he is considered to be a fool; this does
not make him less fit to be the hero of a novel, for he is the
perfect type of the majority of men, the type of man who, though
opportunities are within his grasp, 'never gets there'; or, he always
misses the bus. He is throughout an outsider on the rim of the
happenings; he is sucked into the whirl, but not engulfed. That
is, he is aware of the social cynicism which is the prerogative of
the clever ones, but he remains decent; one may, therefore, if one
is simple (or silly) enough, remain good, uncontaminated. Even
as an Amtsrat, a minor official in the Tabakregie, he has, to begin
with, no 'civil intelligence' (Zivilverstanctyi'he is incapable of think-
ing, and it is only by learning to link the present with the past
that he learns to think at all, or, as the sub-title indicates, to probe
cthe depth of the years'. Surprisingly he marries a girl who to his
knowledge has been the mistress of a former cavalry officer, a
friend of his, the Rittmeister (facetiously: Zerrtittmeister) von
Eulenfeld, who always gets there with women, because 'he is the
major'. The ending is thus on the face of it happy; but judged by
the course of other marriages in the book this seems to be ironical.
More interesting than Melzer is Rene Stangeler; clearly he is a
contrast figure; where Melzer fails to act Rene acts instantly and
situationsgemdss; and therefore (throughout the cycle) women yield
to him in animal fashion. Rene has intelligence and scholarship;
he is, like Doderer, a history graduate and he has written a book
on Memoiren im Mittelalter. He has qualities of a sort, but they have
no importance; he remains vacuous. Ren6 is just the centre of a
revolving crowd of more or less clearly defined characters. We see
these characters clearly, with their physical traits and their ways of
dressing and even the perfumes they diffuse - thus Rene has schrage