Skip to main content

Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

534                  MODERN   GERMAN   LITERATURE

at all events it indicates a close reliance on Freud's discovery that
in the lower layers of our brain there is a primitivity which shows
through when in the crises of life we are thrown out of our orbit.
One feature it shares with much of the Austrian novel of today is
that localities are not defined, and that the ante-history of the two
characters - the rest are mere accessories - is only revealed in
snatches by what passes through their minds in strain and stress.
Nevertheless we get a clear idea of the flying ace, Christopher
Hall, who is a symbol but serves as a hero. He has been flying
since he was a boy; he is married to his machine; and though, as
we find out - but not till we are half way through the book - he
has a wife, his relations with her are formal and casual; she is the
daughter of his chief and as such keeps her distance, while he lives
for his work ('repression'). As he stumbles along in the desert
after baling out he has no memories of sex experience; he does
remember Martine, a translation clerk, who smiled once as she
was walking along by the office wall We go along with Christo-
pher as he follows the trace of two feet in the sand; close at his
heels prowls a ravenous, dirty hyena, ready to spring. The foot-
steps lead to an amphitheatre of rocks, Hassi el emel, where,
famished and fevered, he shelters in a cave from the spear-shafts
of the sun. The sense emerges from the never-ending monologue
that grows more and more hectic in the accretion of his fever and
from his nightmares; we are not conscious of the bounties of
nature, he realises; we need to be lost in a desert or whelmed in
war to savour the warm moisture of new-baked bread or (above
all) to know what a boon and a need water is (there follows a
highly poetical evocation of all the famed waters of the earth,
from Memphis to the Alpine heights of Peru), As he lies in his
desert cave these visions pass in procession through his fevered
brain; they are ravings in an Ansf^r^m^ but they are also Freud-
ian truth. In the second half of the book we are with his wife,
whose inner mind is likewise laid bare by what passes within it.
She has been flown out to the desert and sets out in a motor-car
to find her husband* As they approach the oasis where they find
him she takes the wheel; as they bump over the rocks near the
oasis the driver jolts against her repeatedly; this, in the then state
of her brain, awakens her repressed sexuality, and she is so afraid
of him that she gets out and walks the rest of the way* When she
finds her man, and when he awakens from his torpor he whispers: