Academic journal article German Quarterly

Der Un-Verständliche Prophet. Paul Adler, ein Deutsch-Jüdischer Dichter

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Der Un-Verständliche Prophet. Paul Adler, ein Deutsch-Jüdischer Dichter

Article excerpt

Teufel, Annette. Der un-verständliche Prophet. Paul Adler, ein deutsch-jüdischer Dichter. Dresden: Thelem, 2014. 533pp. euro59.00 (hardcover).

Paul Adler (1878-1946), a contemporary of Franz Kafka, was a relatively minor figure in the literary and cultural scene of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His slim oeuvre, little understood by his contemporaries, is today largely forgotten. The book under review shows us, however, that Adler was a highly complex figure whose work deserves our attention. Adler was a German Jew who grewup in Prague and proceeded to live for a substantial period of his life in the artists' community of Hellerau near Dresden, and his biography merits a closer enquiry. He constitutes an interesting example of a Jewish visionary whose mystical thinking radicalised Martin Buber's Jewish Renaissance and the Expressionist-inspired dream of the New Jew. In the context of the commemoration of the Great War, Adler's pacifism and anti-nationalism, which distanced him from Buber, show that Cultural Zionism did not necessarily spell enthusiasm for the War.

This book presents Adler's life and work in chronological order, devoting the largest section to what the author terms Adler's "autonomous prose," three substantial narrations published in quick succession at the beginning of the Great War. The texts, which draw on contemporary themes such as the apocalyptic vision (Elohirn, 1914), psychopathology (Nämlich, 1915), and the historical dimension of myth (Die Zauberflöte, 1916), are presented as windows on Adler's worldview and as his response to the contemporary political crisis. Teufel subjects each text to a minutely detailed close reading identifying its intertexts and philosophical contexts. All this is backed up by an impressive apparatus of secondary sources suggesting that the author is well read in a number of areas that include amongst others the literature of the German Romantics, Jewish mysticism, and Expressionist literary theory. As interesting as these details may be, they do not necessarily help us gain a better understanding of Adler's work, and they do nothing to dispel his reputation of having been an "incomprehensible" prophet. …

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