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German Novelists of the Weimar Republic

German Novelists of the Weimar Republic: Intersections of Literature and Politics

Edited by Karl Leydecker
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 294
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    German Novelists of the Weimar Republic
    Book Description:

    The Weimar Republic (1918-1933), that short-lived and fatally flawed endeavor to establish a German democracy after the First World War, was a particularly turbulent and fateful time in German history. Characterized by economic and political instability and increasing polarization and radicalism, the period witnessed the efforts of many German writers to realize, through their novels and other writings, a long-held ambition to play a leading role on the political stage, whether directly, in the chaotic revolutionary period of 1918-1919, or indirectly, through their works, as documented in this volume of new essays. The novelists chosen were all popular in the Weimar Republic, commanding large readerships; each also wrote at least one major work of lasting significance. They range from such leading and now canonical authors as Alfred Döblin, Hermann Hesse, and Heinrich Mann to bestselling writers of the time such as B. Traven, Vicki Baum, and Hans Fallada. The works of these writers, with the exception of Hesse's, Remarque's All Quiet On the Western Front, and, through the film versions, Traven's Treasure of the Sierra Madre and Baum's Grand Hotel, are now largely forgotten in the English-speaking world, and have thus been neglected by Anglo-American critics. Among the authors covered, the full spectrum of political opinion is represented, from the right-wing Ernst Jünger to liberals and pacifists such as Remarque. Also represented is the journalistic engagement with the Weimar Republic, and in particular Berlin, by the well-known Austrian novelist Joseph Roth and the recently rediscovered writer Gabriele Tergit. Karl Leydecker is Reader in German at the University of Kent.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-671-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
    K. L.
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)
    Karl Leydecker

    As Peter Gay observed in his classic study of the culture of the Weimar Republic, “For over a century Germans had looked upon politics with a mixture of fascination and aversion.”¹ German writers and intellectuals, most notably those on the left of the political spectrum, had long dreamt of having a direct involvement in political events and affairs of the state. In the immediate aftermath of military defeat at the end of the First World War and the collapse of the monarchy, it appeared that those dreams were about to be realized. Indeed, some writers even briefly took political office...

  5. 1: Heinrich Mann and the Struggle for Democracy
    (pp. 19-44)
    Karin V. Gunnemann

    Heinrich Mann was one of the most outspoken and visible literary figures during the Weimar Republic. Other novelists were more popular in the twenties and early thirties, but none of them dealt with the political, social, and cultural upheavals of the new republic with more energy and courageous vision than he. Well before the First World War Mann had criticized the repressive life under Wilhelm II in both essays and fiction. His work had provoked the authorities to the point where his ninth novel, Die kleine Stadt (The Little Town), was at first denied publication in 1909. Mann had introduced...

  6. 2: Hermann Hesse and the Weimar Republic
    (pp. 45-60)
    Paul Bishop

    A short poem entitled “November 1914” presents us with the quietness of a forest, in which mist hangs and leaves fall; a storm then tears through the forest, clearing away the mist and stripping the trees of branches and leaves. The final stanza cries:

    Räum auf und brich in Scherben,

    Was nimmer halten mag,

    Und reiß aus Nacht und Sterben

    Empor den lichten Tag!¹

    [Clear up and break into pieces

    What can never last,

    And bring out of night and death

    The light of day!]

    Like many poems of the Expressionist period, this text — written by a pacifist — welcomes the...

  7. 3: In Defense of Reason and Justice: Lion Feuchtwanger’s Historical Novels of the Weimar Republic
    (pp. 61-84)
    Roland Dollinger

    Feuchtwanger (1884–1958) belongs to a generation of German writers who spent their formative years in the Wilhelmine Empire. These writers began their literary careers shortly before or after the turn of the century, were politicized during or at the end of the First World War, established their reputation as representatives of literary modernism or the avant-garde during the Weimar Republic, and often shared the common experience of exile after the collapse of the first German democracy. Many of Feuchtwanger’s artistic friends and acquaintances belonged to this Frontgeneration, as the historian Detlev Peukert has called this generation of intellectuals born...

  8. 4: The Case of Jakob Wassermann: Social, Legal, and Personal Crises in the Weimar Republic
    (pp. 85-100)
    Karl Leydecker

    In 1927 Jakob Wassermann (1873–1934), then in his mid-fifties, undertook a triumphant lecture tour of the United States that lasted several months. He was at the height of his powers as a writer, and the tour of the USA confirmed that he had also advanced from being one of the most widely read novelists in Germany in the 1920s to become a “Welt-Star des Romans” (world star of the novel), as his fellow novelist and friend Thomas Mann dubbed him shortly after his death.¹ All over America, crowds flocked to hear him speak, to the extent that the police...

  9. 5: Signs of the Times: Joseph Roth’s Weimar Journalism
    (pp. 101-124)
    Helen Chambers

    The Austrian novelist Joseph Roth is best known for Radetzkymarsch (The Radetzky March, 1932) a wryly nostalgic evocation of the Habsburg Empire in decline, and Hiob (Job, 1930) a novel about the lost world of the eastern European Jews. As a journalist in the 1920s, however, he was one of the most politically astute and socially aware observers of life in Berlin, and indeed elsewhere in Germany, during the Weimar Republic. His observations were published in the German, Viennese, and Prague press in articles and essays whose literary quality and reader appeal made him, at a Mark a line, the...

  10. 6: Ernst Jünger, the New Nationalists, and the Memory of the First World War
    (pp. 125-140)
    Roger Woods

    Ernst Jünger is chiefly known for his writings in the years of the Weimar Republic, when he was one of the leading figures of the Conservative Revolution, the cultural and political movement that served as “intellectual vanguard of the right.”¹ Embracing some of the best-known writers, academics, journalists, politicians, and philosophers of the period, the Conservative Revolution produced a flood of radical nationalist writings in the form of war diaries and works of fiction, political journalism, manifestos, and theoretical tracts outlining the development and destiny of political life in Germany and the West. During the Weimar years the Conservative Revolutionaries...

  11. 7: Innocent Killing: Erich Maria Remarque and the Weimar Anti-War Novels
    (pp. 141-168)
    Brian Murdoch

    Erich Maria Remarque’s Im Westen nichts Neues (All Quiet on the Western Front), published in both German and English in 1929, is arguably the best-known of all Weimar novels. Certainly it is one of the few German novels of the period to have achieved the status of an international classic, and it remains, further, one of the most read antiwar novels in any language. Assessing the status of Erich Maria Remarque (1898–1970) specifically as a Weimar novelist, however, is not straightforward. In the simplest of definitions — a writer publishing between the formal declaration of the Weimar Republic in July...

  12. 8: In “A Far-Off Land”: B. Traven
    (pp. 169-192)
    Karl S. Guthke

    In the spring of 1926 the fledgling Socialist publishing house Büchergilde Gutenberg in Berlin dramatically enlivened the literary scene by bringing out, within a few weeks of each other, two novels, Das Totenschiff (The Death Ship) and Der Wobbly (The Wobbly) — one about the life of an American sailor aboard a dilapidated freighter destined to be scuttled in an insurance fraud scheme, the other about the adventures of an American hobo in the hinterland of the Mexican state of Tamaulipas on the Gulf of Mexico. The name of their author, B. Traven, was unknown, except to readers of the Socialist...

  13. 9: Weimar’s Forgotten Cassandra: The Writings of Gabriele Tergit in the Weimar Republic
    (pp. 193-210)
    Fiona Sutton

    The writings of journalist and novelist Gabriele Tergit during the Weimar Republic exhibit a powerful urge to chart and evaluate the conflicts arising from shifting social and cultural values and from contemporary economic and political instability. Although Tergit wrote feuilletons (subjective impressions), travel reports, and reviews, her main focus as a journalist during the Weimar Republic was reporting from the law courts at Moabit in Berlin, because she felt they offered her insight into the essence of the age: “Moabit ist seit einigen Jahren Quelle für die Erkenntnis der Zeit” (For some years now, Moabit has been the source for...

  14. 10: Radical Realism and Historical Fantasy: Alfred Döblin
    (pp. 211-228)
    David Midgley

    Before the publication of Berlin Alexanderplatz (1929), the work for which he is most commonly remembered, Alfred Döblin already had an established reputation as a radical literary experimenter. He had been engaging forcefully in the cultural debates of the Berlin avant-garde since around 1910, and the novels he published from 1915 on were uncompromising in their depiction of the materiality of human existence and of the capacity of human beings, individually and collectively, for extreme forms of behavior. Döblin’s historical vision, coupled with his energetic pursuit of innovative narrative techniques, made him an inspirational figure for the rising generation of...

  15. 11: Vicki Baum: “A First-Rate Second-Rate Writer”?
    (pp. 229-252)
    Heather Valencia

    Vicki Baum (1888–1960) was Austrian by birth and spent her first twenty-eight years in Vienna. She lived in Germany from 1912 until 1932, then in the United States until her death in 1960. Before moving to Germany she had published little apart from some short stories and articles, but during her Weimar period she wrote five volumes of novellas and eleven novels, including her two most successful works. The themes of the major works reflect many contemporary concerns and prevailing literary trends. In order to place Vicki Baum in context, it is helpful to review these aspects of Weimar...

  16. 12: Hans Fallada’s Literary Breakthrough: Bauern, Bonzen und Bomben and Kleiner Mann — was nun?
    (pp. 253-268)
    Jenny Williams

    Siegfried Kracauer, in an essay in Die neue Rundschau in June 1931, identified a new type of writer in Germany, one no longer devoted to absolute values, who considered that the role of a writer was to be a social and political commentator.¹ The writer Hans Fallada, whose Bauern, Bonzen und Bomben² (Farmers, Functionaries, and Fireworks) had appeared in March of that year, was just such a writer.

    Bauern, Bonzen und Bomben was the novel that established the literary reputation of Hans Fallada, the nom de plume adopted by Rudolf Ditzen (1893–1947). Thanks to the critical acclaim this work...

  17. Notes on the Contributors
    (pp. 269-272)
  18. Index
    (pp. 273-286)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 287-287)