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HERMANN BROCH
Broch, however, had only to wait before acknowledging his work as his
own until it had become wholly imself; and having sprung from a source
of significance and greatness, it was itself significant and great. And since
he only writes when he has something of importance to say, and writing,
apparently, does not come easily to him, and it is therefore all the more
necessarv for him to wait for an adequate fruitful stimulus, his next
book“ Die unbekannte Grösse? (“ The Unknown Quantity?’) did not
appear until three years later. To this we may add a number of essays,
most of which appeared in the“ Neue Rundschau, — Das Böse im
Wertsystem der Kunst’ (“ Evil in the System of Art Valucs?' or“ The
Artistic Value of Evil'’), essavs which represent, as we shall see later,
an important aspect of his work; further, a paper on James Joyce, which
is only now being published, lyrical poetry and a play," Die Entsühnung
(“ The Atonement*').
Everything that Broch writes serves a definite purpose: no mere
handicraft or seasonal work. When he writes, when he depicts our times
in his novels, poems, essays, plays, he does so to help us overcome them.
And in this he succeeds, because outward occurrences always signify
to him an inner meaning.
Die Schlafwaendler? (“ The Sleep-walkers*), Broch’s chief work
so far, is in the form of a trilogy. If we consider it as a whole, as forming
one structure, each ofthe three parts appears to open a new door that would
lead us to the heart of the world. Of the three books comprising the work,
the first:“ Pasenow or Romanticism?' is the most easily accessible.
This is because the contents of this book are still readily comprehensible,
and because the central idea of the work, for the sakeof which it was written,
is still kept well in the background. Only after becoming familiar with the
other volumes can we learn from this first volume also, that already in the
year 1888 (a date which is appended to the title ofthe novel) it was possible
to recognise that laws may become obsolete, and that coming changes
in the times may be deduced from the destruction of conventions based
on conceptions that appear indestructible. To give one example: a father,
who has grown up with strict ideas of honour and has brought up his
children in the same spirit, loses his eldest son in a duel. How the world
becomes without meaning for the old man, but how also the recognition
of the senselessness of a hitherto unquestioned dogma is a sign of the
passing of a world, is wonderfully brought out by this symbol. Of course,
„“
this is not the only form of romanticism dealt with in“ Pasenow.
The new age, as depicted on the estate of the Pasenows, not onl y creates
for itself new conceptions of honour, but also casts its own lig ht on the
romanticism of love and human life. Though at the close of the first
volume the young Pasenow has shaken off his mistress and married the
girl who loved his friend but had been appointed for him, we cannot resist
the feeling that the time of the“ Eschs“, the time of“ Anarchy (1ooz)
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