Skip to main content

Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

POST-WAR  AUSTRIAN  WRITERS                   517

- 'fate' in the non-human sense - Urban is ruthlessly ruined by the
devilish wickedness of his fellow-men; he makes a pact with a
devil - the innkeeper who lends him the money to buy horses to
start his business of transporting timber down the mountain-side -,
but not with the Devil; he does indeed, in a moment of desper-
ation, invoke any power above him, good or evil, either the Devil
or the other power, and then all goes well for a time; but this is
more by way of a fanciful addition of extraneous magic, motived
by the memory of pacts with the Devil in local legend, than a set
pact with this legendary Devil. Urban, as a man, has all the sterling
qualities which should bring success; he is not brought to ruin by
love of woman - patient, gentle Barbara, who has been disinherited
for her love of him, bears his children on their lonely farm far
from doctors and midwives, but his steady love for her is a saving
factor; his fate is that deep down in his nature is a passionate love
of horses; and this is vividly and consistently woven into the tale
as the motive force of his grim tragedy. If there is indeed magic
realism in the novel it is in the way these horses, in body and
pulsing vigour as magnificent as he who drives them through the
snow of hard winters, fill the landscape as the very heart of the
action. Smuggled across the frontier by gipsies, they are bought
and sold by Urban till he is arrested; technically innocent, for he
has not crossed the frontier, he is guilty of cheating the revenue
of entry dues, and is condemned to pay a large sum, which means
that he must earn the money by this perilous transport work while
his wife works herself to death on their farm. Barbara, too, is the
victim of fate; she dies, in his absence, bearing their third child;
he goes out then with his team of horses and drives over the ledge
of the mountain into the abyss. His body is found; but in the
forest above the villages the story persists that a turf-cutter on
the mountain-top has seen him borne along at flying speed by his
team of raven-black steeds, with his wife behind him - into the
mystery of what lies behind this life of toil and trouble. The four
short stories of So lange es Tag ist (1953), though each differs
glaringly in tone and tenor, explore the same philosophic concept
that all we do, however simple it may seem, wells up from the
deep sources of being within us; our actions are inevitable, for
they are our fate. In the centre tale, Milch auf Gestein, Sicily in its
burning beauty and with its primitive peasants and their mode of
life is described by one who knows the country from coast to