Medusa's Mirror: Studies in German Literature

By August Closs | Go to book overview

XIV
Reconciliation

BERNT VON HEISELER'S 'VERSöHNUNG'

THE NAME OF von Heiseler has already become famous through the German-Russian writer Henry von Heiseler (+ 1928), who is known as the translator of Pushkin, Tolstoy, Browning, Yeats, etc., and above all as a contributor to George Blä atter für die Kunst. His son is Bernt von Heiseler (born in Brannenburg am Inn on 14 June 1907) whose first public success was the story Apollonia, reprinted later in Reclam. His reputation as a creative writer became even more widely known through the Swiss journal Corona which he helped to edit from 1943. He is also the author of plays: amongst them the Hohenstaufen- Trilogie ( 1945) and Der Bogen des Philoktet ( 1947), of essays in criticism and, above all," of the novel Versöhnung which has established his fame beyond doubt as one of the chief writers of present-day Germany.

Versöhnung ( 1953) is not only an outstanding work of art, but one of the most significant documents of the time, mirrored in the destiny of three generations of the Degener family. A vast panorama is unrolled in the course of the story: the near falfilment of the Barbarossa yearning for the Imperial millennium, a sudden outbreak of violence, an equally sudden collapse of ancient and treasured values, followed by an epoch of fear, hatred and sacrifice. The most recent past springs to mind in all its terrifying immediateness. The Röhm-Putsch, the assassination of Dolfuss, Hindenburg's death, Neville Chamberlain's frustrated efforts for peace, the Narvik expedition, the mysterious death of Generaloberst Fritsch, Dunkirk, Rudolf Hess's hazardous flight to England, Hitler's Russian campaign, Field-Marshal Paulus's heroic stand in Stalingrad who according to Hitler 'gave in on the threshold of immortality', the

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