Academic journal article German Quarterly

White-collar Workers, Mass Culture and Neue Sachlichkeit in Weimar Berlin. A Reading of Hans Fallada's Kleiner Mann--Was nun?, Erich Kastner's Fabian and Irmgard Keun's Das...

Academic journal article German Quarterly

White-collar Workers, Mass Culture and Neue Sachlichkeit in Weimar Berlin. A Reading of Hans Fallada's Kleiner Mann--Was nun?, Erich Kastner's Fabian and Irmgard Keun's Das...

Article excerpt

Smail, Deborah. White-collar Workers, Mass Culture and Neue Sachlichkeit in Weimar Berlin. A Reading of Hans Fallada's Kleiner Mann-Was nun?, Erich Kastner's Fabian and Irmgard Keun's Das kunstseidene Madchen. Bern: Lang, 1999. 236 pp. DM 95.00.

Deborah Smail analyzes three now classic novels of Weimar Berlin's Neue Sachlichkeit literature, juxtaposing a non-literary text, Curt Moreck's Fahrer durch das "lasterhafte" Berlin (1931) against the fictional realism, and then relates Berlin's commercial architecture to aspects of the novels. The author applies the textual comparisons toward an understanding of how the physical surroundings in Berlin illuminate the social and economic relations at work in the novels. Much of the discussion of the literary texts concentrates on ways commercial relations shape the language and attitudes of the protagonists. For example, that the world of work brutalizes the "little man" Pinneberg in Fallada's novel, while Keun's heroine Doris lives in the glitter of Berlin's night life and grasps the mutual exploitation underlying relations in fashionable society. Smail complements and supports the readings of the three novels with twenty-six illustrations, ten reprinted from Moreck's titillating tourist guide through Berlin's seamier leisure culture. The author conceives a compelling innovative approach to these often studied novels through her introduction of a non-literary artifact of the Berlin milieu. However, the execution suffers from weak structuring and explication of the main ideas, diminishing an otherwise meaningful contribution.

The first chapter presents a competent review of Weimar themes, such as rationalization of work, mass culture and modernity, technology and communication, urban commerce and architectural experimentation. Keeping in line with the book's intention, chapter one devotes over ten pages to the issue of the Angestellten, drawing most of the background material from Siegfried Kracauer's book-length essay of 1930 and from the English translation of Hans Speier's well-known Die Angestellten vor dem Nationalsozialismus (1977). Chapters two, three and four shift their attention to the three novels. Here the core of the book bogs down in unnecessarily long quotes, the analyses reflect on the citations with little more than paraphrasing and almost trite observations, and rarely does the explication clearly advance the thesis. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.