Germany Literature Part 1

Germany Literature Part 1

The years from 1949 to 1960 undoubtedly constitute an important moment in the development of contemporary German literature, because in them the actual consistency of trends, directions and individual personalities that came to the fore after the “year zero” was tested. The confused and contradictory panorama has cleared up, the perspectives have become clearer, the meaning of certain researches and experiments has been better determined; while some usurped fame has been reduced. It should be said, at this point, that the clearest picture that results appears to a large extent dominated by figures who certainly do not belong to the younger generations: and not so much by the assiduous work of those now “classic” exponents of contemporary German literature (from Heinrich Mann to Alfred Döblin, from Gottfried Benn to Arnold Zweig, from Hans Carossa to Thomas Mann, etc.) who have continued to give us significant works in recent years, in which the variety of ways and attitudes is only the variation of a “style” by now crystallized; rather, by Bertolt Brecht, whose personality is increasingly proving to be the keystone of today’s poetic situation (perhaps not even only German), and then by the recovery of some names which, already active for several decades, have only now been torn from oblivion to whom the disavowal of their real greatness had condemned them: we intend, above all, to allude to Robert Musil and Hermann Broch.

According to, Thomas Mann (d. In 1955) continued to develop the multiple and complex threads of his speech even in the extreme years of his existence: taking up the favorite themes of the previous essay (with the double Ansprache im Goethejahr held in 1949 in Frankfurt am Main and Weimar, and with the double Schillerian re-enactment of 1955) in the key of an even more explicit and combative humanism, but also welcoming some new names in the “gallery” of that ideal “nobility of the spirit” which is the fullest seal of the Mannian cultural position (Versuch über Tschechow, 1954); and providing, within the context of fiction, some admirable proofs of his formal teaching in the “gothic novel” Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull(1954), even if – undoubtedly – his superb style here tends to become stiff in a mannerist style. Similarly, his brother Heinrich Mann (died in 1950), whose novels Der Atem (1949) and Empfang bei der Welt (1950) resume, in the harsh and biting language, the usual themes of social satire; and then again Arnold Zweig, who in Die Feuerpause (1954) brought forward the great fresco on the First World War with happy epic and choral breadth; Anna Seghers, aimed at projecting her now classic into the environment of the German Democratic Republic and the socialist world engagement (see the stories of Brot und Salz, 1958, and the novel Die Entscheidung, 1959); Gottfried Benn (died 1956), whose tragic condition of contemporary man provided further incentive for his bitter nihilism in the verses of Destillationen (1953) and Aprèslude (1955), in the short story Der Ptolemäer (1949) and in the radio drama Die Stimme hinter dem Vorhang (1952). The name of Ernst Jünger should also be placed within this nihilistic trend, who in the most recent books, halfway between narration and essayism – Die gläsernen Bienen, 1957; An der Zeitmauer, 1959; but see also Der Waldgang, 1951 – applies his negative analysis to today’s mechanized and technicized, that is, wholly dehumanized world. Furthermore, Hans Carossa (who died in 1956), in Ungleiche Welten (1951) and Reise zu den elf Scharfrichtern (1953) reaffirms his fidelity to the poetry of memory; Alfred Döblin (died 1957), returns to vary in Hamlet oder Die lange Nacht nimmt kein Ende (1956) the theme of the previous period, through a novel that is – in a complex language and in a structure that does not disdain the ways of symbolism – a radioscopy of the modern human condition. Lion Feuchtwanger (died 1958) also confirmed, in the novels Goya oder der arge Weg der Erkenntnis (1951), Narrenweisheit oder Tod und Verklärung des Jean Jacques Rousseau (1952), Spanische Ballade (1955) and Jefta und seine Tochter (1957), on the one hand his vocation for the historical novel, on the other the indisputable qualities of consummate and pleasant storyteller that we already knew them; similarly Hans Henny Jahnn (died 1959) continued to vary his insistent and obsessive sexual theme in the tragedy Thomas Chatterton (1955), while he returned to the problem of man’s innocence and his loneliness in the dark contemporary world with the romance trilogy Fluss ohne Ufer (1949 ff.) and with the long story Die Nacht aus Blei (1956). On the other hand, Fritz von Unruh’s most recent production is rather disappointing, represented by the plays Wilhelmus (1953) and Duell an der Havel (1954), as well as the novels Die Heilige (1952), Fürchtet nichts (1952) and Der Sohn des Generals (1957).).

By comparison, the two Austrians Musil and Broch appear much newer and more modern, lucid and ruthless analyzers, in novels and critical essays, of the modern crisis of values. See above all by Musil Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften, by Broch i 2 vols. by the Essays (1955) and the novel Die Schuldlosen (1950). They are distinguished exponents of that “methodical doubt” which makes them wary of any integral solution to the problems currently on the table, and basically theorists of this rigorously and virilly skeptical attitude as the only one that guarantees a scientific notion of contemporary reality; but ultimately they are prisoners of this paralyzing wisdom of theirs, which is also necessary for us as an instrument of control in the face of definitive and peremptory moral and gnoseological choices. Much less interesting, despite its European “launch”, is the “continuer” Heimito von Doderer, whose novels Die Strudlhofstiege, 1951 should be mentioned here ; Die erleuchteten Fenster, 1951; Die Dämonen, 1956, on the decline of Viennese civilization. Ultimately, Musil and Broch tend to bring the newest results of scientific research into the context of literature – as a particular habit and creative technique: who does not recognize science as the possibility of taking refuge in a neutral technique and evading all moral responsibility, is Bertolt Brecht (who died in 1956). True Archimedean point of contemporary German literature: where the problematic is always precise and yet linked to a broad perspective, linguistic research always open to the most diverse experiences but never forgetting its connection with tradition (with a certain tradition), the peremptory critical capacity in all its directions places him in a fruitful position, equally distant from some of the most disparate and closed intellectual adventures of the neo-avant-garde and from the easy, empty optimism of propaganda literature (in which even the names by Hans Marchwitza, Willy Bredel, Bodo Uhse and Johannes R. Becher himself, in which the formal decoration does not correspond to an authentic inspiration). The highest season of Brechtian production is contained in the years from 1938 to 1948; but even in the last period of his existence he has lived up to this commitment in the fragment of the novel Die Geschäfte des Herrn Julius Caesar (1957) and especially in the field of gnomic and political lyric (cf. Hundert Gedichte, 1951, and Kriegsfibel, 1955), which touches accents of true moral and formal height; not to mention his theatrical activity, which certainly does not go beyond an objective evaluation of the specific Brechtian poetry, even if – naturally – it goes beyond the categories of pure literature. It is no coincidence, on the other hand, that Brecht aimed precisely at the literarization of the theater; and see his later remakes Der Hofmeister from Lenz (1951) and Coriolanus from Shakespeare (1959), to name two typical cases. Fewer, however, have kept the ambitious promises from which writers such as Carl Zuckmayer had started (the dramas Barbara Blomberg, 1949; Der Gesang im Feuerofen, 1950; Das kalte Licht, 1955; the short stories Engele von Loewen, 1952 and Die Fastnachtsbeichte, 1959); Ferdinand Bruckner (died 1958) with his skillful plays Fährten, 1949; Früchte des Nichts, 1952; Pyrrhus und Andromache, 1952; Der Tod einer Puppe, 1956; Der Kampf mit dem Engel, 1957; Das irdene Wägelchen, 1957); Arnolt Bronnen, who, in addition to a couple of interesting autobiographical volumes (Arnolt Bronnen gibt zu Protokoll, 1954, and Tage mit Bertolt Brecht, 1960), also published the diary of a journey through Germany, Deutschland kein Wintermärchen (1956) and Aisopos (1956), halfway between invention and documentary reconstruction; or Theodor Csokor, of whom we remember the autobiographical volume Auf fremden Strassen (1956), the novel Der Schlüssel zum Abgrund (1955) and the drama Caesars Witwe (1955).

Germany Literature 01

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