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2. Cuttings
HERMANN BROCH
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serve in“ Ulysses?’ as a vessel for enclosing the fate of one man—the
man—were by no means blindly adopted by Broch. His third novel,
as already stated, contains a great variety of actions, of which some are
combined to form a first group, while the“ Story of the Salvation Army
girl in Berlin (that is to say, a second action) visibly goes its own way
(indicated by titles and numbered consecutively). A closer study of the
connections which must doubtless exist between the main action and this
second story reveals that the latter repeats the main action on a mystical
plane as it were, thus removing the flavour of unsavoury realism that
might otherwise cling to it. That this is indeed so is seen from the third
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action'’ which only takes place in the abstract, in the brain of the
author of these novels, is successively entitled“ Decay of Values, and
purports to be a philosophical interpretation of our time.
This is not too ambitious a word. It is true, of course, that the thoughts
of every really great artist issue from an individual, comprehensive
world picture, even where he only delineates figures and events, and not
philosophy: in the case of Hamsun, for example, or Gide, Conrad or
Thomas Mann, this picture could be readily abstracted from the action
and presented as a critical study. In the case of Broch this is unnecessary:
he is an author who has proved elsewhere that he is capable ofthinking out
philosophical treatise. And here also he himself transposes his symbols
on to an abstract plane: he describes a woman arranging her house, a
man arranging his life, and immediately after, in a following chapter
dealing with the style of architecture in a certain period, disengages the
event from the personal and gives it a general significance. The reader
of lighter tastes has an easy task with Broch. He can skip the philosophical
excursions without losing the thread ofthe narrative. The lover of abstrac¬
tions on the other hana will be inclined to skip the narrative and apply
himself to the essays on“ The Decay of Valucs ?. Broch himself waits
for the third type of reader, whose thinking is wedded to life, without
being bound to reality alone.
Such a reader is richly rewarded by Broch: he learns that our world
is a world of sleep-walkers—“ over near and over far, as things are to a
child much about him (man) has become indistinct and yet
aknowledge is beginning to grow in him that he perhaps already possessed
but did not heed. And the reader learns to understand the people in
this world, the Eschs and the Huguenaus, the Pasenows and the Bertrands,
undisciplined and scruple-ridden. He sees these people in their conflict
and struggle with the conditions of everyday life, with the realities of our
time. But“ is this distorted life still reality?“. This question finds an
answer in the following: “ The unreal is the illogical. And this age
seems unable to attain a higher climax of the illogical, the antilogical:
it is as if the overwhelming reality of the war had destroyed the reality
of the world Every form is dissolved, a twilight of dull uncertainty
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