The Germanic Mosaic: Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in Society

By Carol Aisha Blackshire-Belay | Go to book overview

2
Work and Freedom in the Minority Community: Ferdinand von Saar's Die Troglodytin

VIRGINIA L. LEWISa

The work ethic enjoyed anything but universal popularity during the Empire period in Germany and Austria. Witness the testimony of the main character in Die Troglodytin [ The Troglodyte, 1887] by Ferdinand von Saar:

Ja, jetzt werden sie braten -- alle -- alle -- die mich ins Arbeitshaus gebracht. Oh, was hab' ich dort ausgestanden! Ich will nicht arbeiten, ich mag nicht arbeiten, ich kann nicht arbeiten -- und wer mich dazu zwingt, der ist mein Feind, den hass' ich und den bring' ich um!1

[Yes, now they will all roast -- everyone -- everyone -- who dragged me off to the workhouse. What didn't I have to put up with there! I don't want to work, I don't like to work, I can't work -- and whoever forces me to is my enemy, I have them, and I'll kill them!] 2

The attitude of Maruschka Kratochwil, the "Troglodytin," toward work is representative of a significant number of notable characters in late nineteenthcentury German and Austrian literature. Diethelm von Buchenberg in the Auerbach novel ( 1853) prides himself on his ability to accumulate riches without toiling away as neighboring farmers do. In Sudermann Frau Sorge [ Dame Care, 1887], Max Meyhofer's refusal to labor hard brings economic ruin to his family and farm. John Kabys, in "Der Schmied seines Gluckes" ["The Author of his Fortune," G. Keller, 1874], clings to his hope of getting rich through deceit until the bitter end, when poverty finally forces him to work for his living. Authors of the Empire period often portray aversion to work in combination with other traits which they cast in a negative light: laziness, dishonesty, criminal behavior, foreign nationality, poverty, and

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