The Modern German Novel: A Mid-Twentieth Century Survey

By H. M. Waidson | Go to book overview

XI
SUMMING UP

GERMAN fiction between 1945 and 1957 is full of variety and wide in range; only a selection has been discussed here. In its subject- matter there is no avoidance of major problems of a contemporary nature. Many novelists have wished to make their reckoning with the events of 1933-45, and have expressed in decided terms their revulsion from the régime of that time. There has been in particular among younger writers a desire to write about the present and its problems in an uncompromising manner. One of them, Krämer-Badoni, has put it like this:

If I pick up a novel which deals with the present time but makes a détour round contemporary ideas, cares and horrors, obviously because the author has in mind his possible readers of 1999, then I put the book respectfully on one side. Unfortunately it was not written for me, for by 1999 I shall have been dead a long time.

He who hovers above his time because he wants to do justice to eternity confuses the never with the eternal.

There are no thoughts or works of lasting value at all apart from those which arise shrewdly from the present day, which exist in the present day and which are there with a vigorous blow for the present day.

The Zeitroman which springs from such a programme hovers uneasily between literature, reporting and confession. Many of the works which have been mentioned are novels of ideas, and it is true that the German novel-reader tolerates, even welcomes a greater ballast of speculative thought in fiction than is usual in the English novel; this is in the tradition of the Bildungsroman, with its inevitably didactic tendency. Indeed it is remarkable how persistent the influence of this long biographical novel form still is in Germany; it forms the structure of works as different as

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The Modern German Novel: A Mid-Twentieth Century Survey
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword vii
  • I - The Blurred Edges of Realism 1
  • II - Documentation 16
  • III - Past Time 33
  • IV - The Idyllic Ideal 42
  • V - Irony and Conviction 51
  • VI - 'the Golden Future Time' 62
  • VII - The Observers 72
  • VIII - Surrealism 78
  • IX - The Length of Time 90
  • X - Novel and Short Story 104
  • XI - Summing Up 115
  • Select Bibliography 120
  • List of Authors and Works 123
  • Index 129
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