Classics and Commercials: A Literary Chronicle of the Forties

By Edmund Wilson | Go to book overview

GEORGE GROSZ IN THE UNITED STATES

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF GEORGE GROSZ--A Little Yes and a Big No--is a most entertaining book and an important document on Germany. Here is the record of a German artist who was disgusted by German warmaking and who attacked the makers of war; who spent his youth as a Dadaist rebel in the years of bad food and inflation between the two wars in Germany; who felt the pressure of impending tyranny and, warned, he says, by a Kafka-esque nightmare of blind alleys, covert persecution and a plague of stinking fish, decided to decamp to America at the beginning of 1933. "Yes, it was indeed strange," he writes, "that the deeper significance of my dream remained hidden from me at that time. I know today that a definite Power wanted to save me from annihilation. Why I was to be spared, I do not know. Perhaps it was to serve as a witness." I have not read anything else which has made me feel to what degree life in Germany became intolerable during the years after the Treaty of Versailles. From George Grosz you get the impression that there were only two real courses possible: Hitlerism or flight. Though for a time, after the first of the wars, he allied himself with the political Left, he has a Nietzschean scorn of the masses, and seems never to have believed very strongly in the ability of the working class to recreate

-343-

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