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The German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
Masterpieces of German Literature Vol. 19

written by "Howard, William Guild, 1868-1960"
...rless life of the philistine borough into which Weimar more and more degenerated after Goethe's death may be read between the lines of this apostrophe. Repelled by the gloomy humdrum and filled with dreams of past greatness as well as with longing for a more abundant life in the future, the young writer felt the close confinement of her home town. In this state of mind she met the man who proved to be her fate. Since his first, unhappy marriage had been annulled according to Turkish, but not according to German law, she followed him to Constantinople, and Helene Bhlau became Madame Al Raschid Bey. The Orient furnished the German authoress with strikingly few motifs; but Munich, whither she later returned with her husband, became her second home. On the bank of the Isar lies the scene of her best novel, The Switching Station (1895). In this book she is a disciple of naturalism, not merely in respect to the fidelity with which life in the art centre and the restless haste and nervous disorderliness in an artist's family are depicted, but also in the use of symbolism after the manner of Zola: for the switching station, with its purposeless turmoil, its disquietude, its pulling and hauling, is a symbol for the noisy [Pg xxiv] life in general, and in particular for the comfortless, hapless marriage in which a delicately organized artistic soul is worried to death. The fate of the woman who becomes the victim of a man is the theme of the succeeding novels, A Mother's Rights (1897) and Half Beast (1899), in which Helene Bhlau enters the lists side by side with Gabriele Reuter and Marie Janitschek and other women as a passionate champion of the rights of her ever oppressed sex. From the point of view of literary art the immoderate formlessness of these partisan novels was an aberration; but meanwhile the writer has once more emancipated herself from such servitude to the cause. The finest understanding for feminine characters, all of which are ...

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