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Literary Exiles from Nazi Germany

Literary Exiles from Nazi Germany: Exemplarity and the Search for Meaning

Johannes F. Evelein
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 208
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt6wp9dz
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  • Book Info
    Literary Exiles from Nazi Germany
    Book Description:

    Exile is as old as humanity itself but a radically new fate for the "novice" exile, who falls into a world about which personal experience can tell nothing, but does know a great number of stories-myths, legends, allegories, biblical or historical accounts-about exiles. The novice's search for a foothold initiates a learning process in which the exilic tradition assumes a major role. The present book captures this learning process: it is a cultural history of exile as it was experienced by thousands of German and Austrian writers and intellectuals who opposed National Socialism: among them Brecht, Seghers, Remarque, the Manns, and Ludwig Marcuse. It shows how, slowly, exile becomes a reality, in part through one's growing awareness of the exemplary figures who shared one's fate. Scores of fellow travelers, from the mythic figures Odysseus and Ahasverus ("The Eternal Jew") to writers such as Heinrich Heine and Victor Hugo, frame the experience of exile, imbuing it with meaning, giving it depth, and even ennobling it with "High Moral Office." They also frequently make appearances in the narratives of the Nazi-era exiles. The Russian-American exile poet Joseph Brodsky called writers in exile "retrospective and retroactive beings." What their retrospective gazes yield as they search for meaning in banishment is at the heart of this book. Johannes F. Evelein is Professor of Language and Culture Studies at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-327-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    At the heart of this book lies a word that opens onto a world: exile. As a word, it can be defined quite easily. Exile means banishment from a country or a place of belonging, and most often it is politically motivated and punitive. So far, so good, until you read the description of exile written by the German poet Hilde Domin (1909–2006) upon returning from the Dominican Republic to Heidelberg in 1954, more than twenty years after fleeing Germany on the eve of the Nazi takeover: “Unverlierbares Exil, du trägst es bei dir, Wüste, einsteckbar” (Exile, impossible to...

  5. 1: A German Gallery of Exile
    (pp. 17-47)

    Whenever “Germany” and “exile” appear in the same sentence, it is safe to assume that at issue is the mass exodus of cultural and intellectual life from Nazi Germany in the wake of the National Socialist takeover. Typically, this exile within the German historical context fits neatly between two dates: 1933 and 1945. A closer look at this time frame, however, reveals obvious cracks: more often than not, the reality of exile would last well beyond the end of the Second World War, because for many a return to Germany proved a losing proposition. The names of writers, artists, and...

  6. 2: Emulating Exile
    (pp. 48-81)

    As he entered the fifth year of his London-based exile, Bulgarian-born Austrian writer Elias Canetti (1905–94) jotted down a reflection that positioned him squarely within a tradition of exile as old as history itself: “Erst im Exil kommt man darauf, zu einem wie wichtigen Teil die Welt schon immer eine Welt von Verbannten war” (Only in exile does one realize the significant extent to which the world has always been a world of refugees).¹ Of course the erudite Canetti was acquainted with the works of such exiles as Ovid, Boethius, Dante, and Heine well before he was forced out...

  7. 3: Falling into Exile—And Learning to Read Its (Secret) Signs
    (pp. 82-110)

    On January 26, 1938, theNew York Timesran a story about an extremely rare display of the aurora borealis, or northern lights, witnessed by millions of astonished—and frightened—Europeans:

    From 6:30 to 8:30 P.M. the people of London watched two magnificent arcs rising in the East and West, from which radiated pulsating beams like searchlights in dark red, greenish blue and purple…. From an airplane the display looked like “a shimmering curtain of fire.” … Police stations, fire brigades and newspaper offices all over the country were inundated by calls tonight asking, “Where is the fire?” The phenomenon...

  8. 4: What, Then, Is Exile? Toward a Metaphysics of Exile
    (pp. 111-140)

    October 1943 saw the publication of a remarkable—albeit problematic—volume of essays edited by Emil Ludwig and Henry B. Kranz and released by Farrar & Rinehart. It bore the titleThe Torch of Freedom: Twenty Exiles of History¹ and included contributions by such celebrated figures as André Maurois, member of the Académie française; the German authors Yvan Goll and Heinrich Mann; and the Austro-Hungarian writer and publisher Hans Habe (1911–77), as well as a number of other European intellectuals and political activists. What this motley group of contributors had in common was their own experiences of exile. The editors’...

  9. 5: Beyond the Eternal Jew—Representing Jewish Exile
    (pp. 141-171)

    In 1941, shortly after his escape from Europe and arrival on American soil, Franz Werfel began to write the play for which he would be best remembered. While in Lourdes, France, Werfel had met a Jewish-Polish businessman by the name of Jacobowicz who had recounted to him the story of his flight from the Nazis. Werfel’s own experience as a refugee in France, combined with Jacobowicz’s comically tragic escapades, provided the dramatic impetus forJacobowsky und der Oberst,¹ a lighthearted play about the invasion of France by Nazi Germany, rich in tongue-in-cheek humor and comic relief. The play’s two main...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 172-178)

    This conclusion seeks to look ahead more than to rehearse, and with good reason: exile as a topic of critical reflection is very much alive today, and the field of exile studies remains wide open and continues to receive public attention. Nothing illustrates this better, perhaps, than an open letter in theFrankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung,¹ written on June 24, 2011, by Nobel laureate Herta Müller and addressed to German chancellor Angela Merkel. Its headline “Menschen fallen aus Deutschland” (People Falling Out of Germany) was a reference to the largely forgottenEin Mensch fällt aus Deutschland² (A Man Falls Out of...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 179-190)
  12. Index
    (pp. 191-202)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 203-203)