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POST-WAR  AUSTRIAN  WRITERS                   521

worse, distinctive, both for their softly gliding style which elimin-
ates all rough notes, and for the Neo-Catholic reshaping of the
myths and legends; certainly Attila, another ambitious attempt to
epicize in prose the Nibelungensage, sacrifices all the dramatic vigour
of the Heldenlieder as we know them in its remoulding as a myth.
Attila is the son of a spirit demon and is himself a spirit with no
flesh and blood, as are all the Huns he summons from the kingdom
of the dead. And yet he marries Kriemhild and has a child! There
may be some allusion to the ravaging hosts of today, especially
since Attila is vanquished only, when at the end of the long-drawn-
out slaughter of the Nibelungs, Dietrich von Bern holds before
his eyes an iron cross and by relating the life of Christ teaches the
heathen a word new to him: sacrifice. A much higher level is
reached by those stories which, like Die vergessene Mutter (in its
way a masterpiece), touch the heart by their simple pathos. Of the
novels, Die Taten des Herakles (1921) swathes the myth of Hercules
in a blanket of Christian mysticism; the deeds of the Greek demi-
god are ingeniously fitted to the formative experiences of a young
Roman patrician, who in Greece meets St. Luke and his disciples,
is converted, and perishes in his fight with a Numidian lion in
Nero's circus. Austrian through and through is Agnes Altkirchner
(1927; new edition 1957 as Herbs? des "R.eicbes\ which unrolls the
ruin of Austria between the years 1913 and 1919. The conviction
that this national ruin, which threatens from without and within,
can be remedied only by religion is obviously the driving force of
Felix Braun's work of recent years. Der Stachelin der Seek (i 9 5 o) is an
endlessly winding interpretation of Catholic doctrine, a Dantesque
vision of a Purgatory here below. The inspiration of the dream-
like prose of Brief "e in das Jenseits (1952) is that we all have com-
munings with our dead loved ones; here the communings are
shaped in epistolary form, which allows commemorative record-
ings, and has thus autobiographical interest. There had been an
autobiographical fundament in Der Schatten des Todes (1910); there
is at least the first part of the poet's autobiography, the story of
his youth, in Das Ucht der Welt (1949)- The title is revealing: the
dark night of the soul is dispersed by the Saviour, the Light of
the World. We have the obsession of this image once again in. Die
dunkle Nacht der Seek (1952), possibly the loveliest translation in
any language of the mystical lyrics of St. John of the Cross, which
centuries before had inspired the Trut% Nachtigall of Friedrich von