Author Topic: Master of German prose  (Read 1975 times)

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Offline Florestan

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Re: Master of German prose
« Reply #20 on: November 07, 2018, 04:37:47 AM »
From an essay by Joseph Epstein in the Wall Street journal:

Thanks for posting. The review contains an (all too frequently made) error: when Franz Joseph II acceeded to the Austrian throne in 1848 there was yet no Austro-Hungarian Empire; nor was it any such empire in 1859 at Solferino. It was created in 1867, when FJII Emperor of Austria was crowned King of Hungary as well. Prior to that year, any mention of an Austro-Hungarian Empire is an anachronism.

Other than that, the review is spot on. And I just love Roth's bon mot that Radetzky-Marsch is the Marseillaise of conservatism.  :)
What is Music? How do you define it? Music is a calm moonlit night, the rustle of leaves in Summer. Music is the far off peal of bells at dusk! Music comes straight from the heart and talks only to the heart: it is Love!  --- Rachmaninoff

Ken B

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Re: Master of German prose
« Reply #21 on: November 07, 2018, 06:47:52 AM »
Joseph Roth is a great writer indeed. Do try the sequel to TRM, Der Kapuzinergruft (The Emperor's Tomb).
No, but I will add it to my ridiculously long list.

Offline Jo498

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Re: Master of German prose
« Reply #22 on: November 07, 2018, 07:20:07 AM »
The greatest German prose writer of the early 19th century and maybe ever has not yet been mentioned: Heinrich von Kleist. (He also wrote one of the few Geman comedies that actually work: Der zerbrochene Krug. And he ended his short live at around 30 in a double suicide with his fiancée.)
Kleist did not write any novels but a dozen or so of shortish novellas (ranging from the length of a few pages to the extension of a short novel). I don't know how well his style survives translation. Despite very long sentence, his style is very concise. His paragraph-long sentences are often breathless eruptions, highly charged. Almost the opposite from the detached armchair irony of Mann about a century or more later. Correspondingly, the subjects are emotional, sometimes gruesome. The most famous ones by Kleist are probably:
"Michael Kohlhaas" about a peasant and horse trader becoming an outlaw because he was wronged by a nobleman in Lutheran Germany.
"Die Marquise von O." (The marquess of O.) which nowadays must come with all kinds of trigger warnings about a young woman who becomes pregnant under unusual circumstances.
"Die Verlobung in San Domingo" (The betrothal in San Domingo) which takes place during the Slave revolt in Haiti (I think).

Others that are quite highly regarded are
E.T.A. Hoffmann (who has been mentioned already) with Kater Murr, Cardillac (aka Madame de Scudery) and The Sandman as maybe the most important ones
Theodor Fontane who is sometimes compared to Flaubert (but maybe mainly because a lot of his novels are about adulterous women)
Wilhelm Raabe (of whom I have only read one book that did not leave much of an impression but he is considered a classic)

And while I do not share the verdict that all or most German philosophers are unintelligible, the only major one who really was a brilliant writer, aphorist and stylist (many think that he was better in this regard than as a philosopher...) is Nietzsche. Schopenhauer is a decent writer, Hegel rather horrible (and often impenetrable), Kant usually dry as dust but actually better than his fearsome reputation.
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)

Offline Jaakko Keskinen

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Re: Master of German prose
« Reply #23 on: November 07, 2018, 07:45:36 AM »
What do you guys think of Marx? He's easily my favorite German philosopher.
"Javert, though frightful, had nothing ignoble about him. Probity, sincerity, candor, conviction, the sense of duty, are things which may become hideous when wrongly directed; but which, even when hideous, remain grand."

- Victor Hugo

Offline André

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Re: Master of German prose
« Reply #24 on: November 07, 2018, 08:25:11 AM »
I hold Klaus Mann and Ernst Jünger in high regard. Both were individualists not afraid to go against the grain.

Offline Jo498

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Re: Master of German prose
« Reply #25 on: November 07, 2018, 08:33:48 AM »
I forgot about Marx, his writing is quite clear, succinct and often bitingly funny. Far better than almost any later Marxist (not that I read much of either).
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)

Offline Jo498

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Re: Master of German prose
« Reply #26 on: November 07, 2018, 08:38:18 AM »
Has anyone here managed to read The Death of Virgil? Or indeed any other Hermann Broch.

I’ve enjoyed some Mann, and I’ve enjoyed some Kafka. But the German prose write I’ve enjoyed the most is Alfred Döblin’s  Berlin Alexanderplatz.
Never read any Broch or anything else by Döblin but I loved Berlin Alexanderplatz (although it's been probably more than 20 years since I read it in my 20s). It is a little like "Joyce light", very impressive in capturing the general tone and the polyphony of voices of that Moloch of a city. And unlike Ulysses recognizable as a novel, not more like an experiment.
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)