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Man of Straw (1918)

Tekijä: Heinrich Mann

Muut tekijät: Katso muut tekijät -osio.

Sarjat: Das Kaiserreich (1)

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Published in 1918, Der Untertan by Heinrich Mann (1871-1950) - previously issued in the United States only in parts under the title "Man of Straw" - is a satirical novel that connects the tradition of nineteenth-century German literature with the larger problems faced on the eve of the Nazi era. This edition of The Loyal Subject is introduced and edited by Helmut Peitsch. The translation is adapted, with new portions translated by Daniel Theisen.… (lisätietoja)
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review of
Heinrich Mann's Little Superman
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 9, 2012

I learned about this author in the course of research for my movie Robopaths. I learned that his bks were burned by the nazis so I decided to read something by him & to check out any movies that might've been based on any bks by him. This lead me to taking Little Superman out from the library as well as the movie The Kaiser's Lackey as well as to my buying a used copy of the novel Man of Straw. &, Lo & Behold!, they're all the same thing!

As Andrew Donson, Assistant Professor of History and German & Scandinavian Studies @ the University of Massachusetts Amherst, explains in the "Interpreting The Kaiser's Lackey" extra on the movie's DVD version:

"The English title of this film is not a literal translation of the German one, Der Untertan, which is a difficult word to translate. It literally means "The Subject", as in "The Subject of the King" - but in current & turn-of-the-century discourse, the "untertan" has also an authoritarian connotation. Various translators have rendered the title as: "The Patrioteer", "Little Superman", "Man of Straw", & "The Loyal Subject". An awkward, but perhaps more accurate translation of the title would be "The Servile Chauvinist Underling". The title of this film, the same title as Heinrich Mann's 1914 novel on which it's based, captures the main theme. Diederich [the story's central character] is on the one hand a tyrant who lords over other untertanen. On the other hand, he often finds himself in situations where he is the untertan, where others exercise their will over him. The essence and the humor of the film is that Diederich is happy in both situations. The narrative of the film shows how the institutions that shape Diederich's life, family, school, university, brotherhood, army, workplace, and government produce and regulate this authoritarian mentality."

[As a sidenote for bibliophiles, the Penguin edition (1984) that I have, Man of Straw gives no credit to a translator & yet it appears to be the exact same translation as the library edition that I read, Little Superman, published by Creative Age Press, Inc (1947). I suspect some shenanigans & intrigue in the omission of the translator's name in the Penguin edition, so I include it here: Ernest Boyd.]

As soon as I started reading this bk, I found the central character insufferable. He embodies everything that I detest: hypocrisy, social climbing, spinelessness, abusiveness, fraudulence, etc.. He is, indeed, a "Servile Chauvinist Underling", as Donson puts it. I was about 1/3rd of the way thru the bk when I watched the movie & learned that this was meant to be satire. I suppose it 'shd've' been obvious to me that it was intended to be satire all along but it seemed entirely too realistic to really be caricature. &, as the back-cover of Man of Straw states: "Heinrich Mann (brother of Thomas) was imprisoned for his radical and outspoken views, and spent a long exile from the country at which he aimed his bitter satire." - & that's no laughing matter.

Mann was condemned in Nazi Germany for writing Un-German works or some such but I don't think that the hypocrisy & opportunistic cowardice that he so thoroughly portrays is intrinsically German. It may've reached a particular nationalistic fervor in Germany but it was hardly confined to there. In fact, Mann's parody of upper middle class Germany isn't so far off from the lower middle class Baltimore that I grew up in. I'm reminded of a photographer that I once knew. He incessantly ridiculed me for valuing anything other than money. However, once he started realizing that my willful rejection of the 'values' that he represented was earning me some respect from others, he tried to sleaze up to me by asking me to pose for him as a photographer's model. I refused.

Mann's novel is such a thorough look at the completely unscrupulous machinations of his main character that I can only conclude that Mann, himself, must've been surrounded by such contemptible behavior. Diederich is constantly betraying & groveling, ass-kissing & terrorizing - wchever seems 'appropriate' to his 'social position' in relation to who he's dealing w/. & Mann depicts this utterly brilliantly. Diederich is constantly engaged in some sort of fraudulent dealings that he trembles at the thought of getting caught out at & blusteringly camouflages under cover of patriotic bullshit. The library copy that I read has one section underlined in ink that expresses Diederich's philosophy, in the mouth of one of his cronies, quite nicely:

""Democracy is the philosophy of the half-educated," said the apothecary. "It has been defeated by science." Some one shouted: "Hear! Hear!" It was the druggist who wished to associate with him. "There will always be masters and men," asserted Gottlieb Hornung, "for it is the same in nature. It is the one great truth, for each of us must have a superior to fear, and an inferior to frighten. What would become of us otherwise? If every nonentity believes that he is somebody, and that we are all equal! Unhappy the nation whose traditional and honorable social forms are broken up by the solvent of democracy, and which allows the disintegrating standpoint of personality to get the upper hand!"

Two pages later, the same underliner highlighted part of this passage:

"Diederich raised himself on his toes, "Gentlemen," he shouted, carried away on the tide of national emotion, "the Emperor William Monument shall be a mark of reverence for the noble grandfather whom we all, I think I may say, worship almost as a saint, and also a pledge to the noble nephew, our magnificent young Emperor, that we shall ever remain as we are, pure, liberty-loving, truthful, brave, and true!"

The underliner (not the untertan) emphasizes Diederich's claim of being "pure, liberty-loving, truthful, brave, and true!" w/ an exclamation mark next to it presumably b/c these are all qualities wch Diederich is completely lacking in. Earlier, I mention "Diederich's philosophy" - but that's misleading. In order to have a philosophy, one probably has to have a mind capable of formulating a justified position to adhere to. Diederich lacks even that - he simply takes the most cowardly & dishonest path of least resistance & changes his political allegiances to kowtow to whoever he's most afraid of at the time.

In the East German film version, a scene that exemplifies the preposterous bravuro posturing that Diederich & his kind rely on for image-building & bullying is the duel. The scene is also in the bk but I found it more compelling in the movie. It's common for men in Diederich's class to initiate duels w/ each other in order to simulate bravery. Under the most ridiculous pretexts ('Sir! You were looking at me!' - that sort of thing), men challenge each other as if their honor can bear no insult. But, as w/ cowards & bullies the world over, it's all just pretense. They know they're not taking any risks whatsoever. As w/ generals who send soldiers to the slaughter, it's the soldiers who get senselessly killed, while the generals, safe elsewhere, get the medals & other social rewards.

These duels consist of nothing more than 2 men heavily padded & w/ one arm behind their back fighting w/ swords until one of them scratches the other on the face. Even their eyes are heavily protected w/ goggles. As soon as Diederich is scratched on the cheek, he gets his scar that 'proves' his bravery - even though there's no risk of serious injury. Diederich then uses the scar as a badge of 'honor'. It's all completely ridiculous.

After Diederich unsuccessfully & humiliatingly attempts to get Lieutenant von Brietzen to not leave Diederich's 'dishonored' sister in the lurch, he's walking on the streets. "Suddenly he noticed that the gardens were still full of perfume and twittering beneath the spring skies, and it became clear to him that Nature itself, whether she smiled or snarled, was powerless before Authority, the authority above us, which is quite impregnable. It was easy to threaten revolution, but what about the Emperor William Monument? Wulckow and Gausenfeld? Whoever trampled others from under foot must be prepared to be walked on, that was the iron law of might. After his attack of resistance, Diederich again felt the secret thrill of the man who is trampled upon. . . . A cab came along from behind, Herr van Brietzen and his trunk. Before he knew what he was doing Diederich faced about, ready to salute."

In one of the very rare moments where Diederich somewhat introspectively criticizes the worldview that he otherwise takes for granted, Diederich sees his now 'dishonored' sister, Emma, in a new light: "The lieutenant, who had caused all this, lost notably in comparison - and so did the Power, in whose name he had triumphed. Diederich discovered that Power could sometimes present a common and vulgar appearance. Power and everything that went with it, success, honour, loyalty. he looked at Emma and was forced to question the value of what he had attained or was still striving for: Guste and her money, the monument, the favour of the authorities, Gausenfeld, distinctions and high office." Indeed. Alas, this critical introspection doesn't last long.

I noted earlier that these characteristics were hardly confined to Germans. As Diederich bullies 'his' employees he tells them: ""But I forbid socialistic agitation! In the future you can vote as I tell you, or leave!" Diederich also said that he was determined to curb irreligion. He would note every Sunday who went to church and who did not. "So long as the world is unredeemed from sin, there will be war and hatred, envy and discord. Therefore, there must be one master!" This reminds me of Henry Ford.

There's an excellent documentary about Ford called "Demon Rum" in wch some important points about the ironies of Ford's 'moralism' are highlighted - particularly the way in wch his 'moralism' helped create a subculture of thugs that he then used to suppress unions. In the Wikipedia bio of Ford ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Ford ) we find this:

"The profit-sharing was offered to employees who had worked at the company for six months or more, and, importantly, conducted their lives in a manner of which Ford's "Social Department" approved. They frowned on heavy drinking, gambling, and what might today be called "deadbeat dads". The Social Department used 50 investigators, plus support staff, to maintain employee standards; a large percentage of workers were able to qualify for this "profit-sharing.""

The Wikipedia entry qualifies this by saying that "Ford's incursion into his employees' private lives was highly controversial, and he soon backed off from the most intrusive aspects." Be that as it may, Ford's resemblance to Diederich is clear. Making it even clearer is that Ford was an anti-Semite who rc'vd the Grand Cross of the German Eagle from Nazi Germany.

& despite Der Untertan's having been written in 1914 about 19th century Germany, it's very prescient about Nazi Germany. In his speeches, Hitler emphasized the unity of classes - this despite his refinement of one of the most hierarchical structures the world has ever seen - w/ himself, of course, as the supreme world dictator, the LEADER (der Führer). ""Only His Majesty," Diederich answered. "He aroused the citizen from his slumbers, his lofty example has made us what we are." As he said this he struck himself on the chest. "His personality, his unique, incomparable personality, is so powerful that we can all creep up by it, like the clinging ivy!" he shouted, although this was not in the draft he had written. "In whatever His Majesty the Emperor decides for the good of the German people, we will joyfully cooperate without distinction of creed and class.[..]"" Diederich's oratorical shouting is highly reminiscent of Hitler's.

Diederich is also reminiscent of the nazi SS officer responsible for transporting Jews to the death camps. On the subject of Eichmann, Hannah Arendt writes in her bk Eichmann in Jersulalem - A Report on the Banality of Evil [see my review of that here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13367624-eichmann-in-jerusalem ] that:

"What he fervently believed in up to the end was success, the chief standard of "good society" as he knew it. Typical was his last word on the subject of Hitler - whom he and his comrade Sassen had agreed to "shirr out" of their story; Hitler, he said, "may have been wrong all down the line, but one thing is beyond dispute: the man was able to work his way up from lance corporal in the German Army to Führer of a people of almost eighty million. . . . His success alone proved to me that I should subordinate myself to this man." His conscience was indeed set at rest when he saw the zeal and eagerness with which "good society" everywhere reacted as he did. He did not need to "close his ears to the voice of conscience," as the judgment had it, not because he had none, but because his conscience spoke with a "respectable voice," with the voice of respectable society around him."

& just as the nazis partially justified their genocide against the Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals, & Political Opponents as a cleansing of the "Volk" (the body of the Germany people) so, too, is Diederich's behavior summed up nicely in this domestic scene:

"As Diederich lived in fear of his master, so Guste had to live in the fear of hers. When they entered a room she knew that the right of precedence properly belonged to her husband. The children, in turn, had to treat her with respect, and Männe, the dachshund, had to obey every one. At meals, therefore, the children and the dog had to keep quiet. Guste's duty was to discern from the wrinkles upon her husband's brow whether it was advisable to leave him undisturbed, or to drive away his cares with chatter. Certain dishes were prepared only for the master of the house, and when he was in a good humour Diederich would throw a piece across the table and, laughing heartily, would watch to see who caught it, Gretchen, Guste or the dog. His siesta was often troubled by gastronomical disturbances and Guste's duty then commanded her to put warm poultices on his stomach. Groaning and terribly frightened he used to say that he would make his will and appoint a trustee. Guste would not be allowed to touch a penny. "I have worked for my sons, not in order that you may amuse yourself after I am gone!" Guste objected that her own fortune was the foundation of everything, but it availed her nothing. . . . Of course, when Guste had a cold, she did not expect that Diederich, in his turn, would nurse her. Then she had to keep as far away from him as possible, for Diederich was determined not to have any germs near him. He would not go into the factory unless he had antiseptic tablets in his mouth, and one night there was a great disturbance because the cook had come down with influenza, and had a fever temperature. "Out of the house with the beastly thing at once!" Diederich commanded, and when she had gone he wandered about the house for a long time spraying it with disinfecting fluids."

Yes, as many of us are taught, "Cleanliness is next to Godliness" - but what about those of us who are atheists?
( )
  tENTATIVELY | Apr 3, 2022 |
Gesellschaftssatire über das rücksichtslose Emporkommen eines Fabrikanten in einer Kleinstadt im wilhelminischen Kaiserreich. Mit Diederich Heßling porträtiert Heinrich Mann den klassischen Typus des opportunistischen Karrieristen ("nach oben buckeln, nach unten treten") mit stramm nationaler Gesinnung, der dem Nationalsozialismus den Weg bereitete. Genial und beängstigend!
Kongeniale Lesung des großen Schauspielers Hans Korte, der virtuos zwischen hämischer Bösartigkeit und winselnder Feigheit wechselt und den satirischen Ton der Geschichte punktgenau trifft. Eine der besten Lesungen, die ich bislang gehört habe! ( )
  Leandra53 | Mar 6, 2022 |
Tolles Buch ( )
  mastau-xoshe | Dec 1, 2013 |
Hier hat Heinrich Mann das Psychogramm eines herzlich unsympathischen Menschen geschaffen. Mann schildert seinen Protagonisten, den wilhelminischen Zeitgenossen Diederich Häßling, als grotesk abstoßenden Typen. Diederich ist der Sohn eines Industriellen: Der Vater ist Inhaber einer Papier-Manufaktur. Die Erziehung durch den Vater ist extrem streng, von der Mutter dagegen wird Diederich verwöhnt. Kommt uns diese unheilvolle Konstellation nicht irgendwie bekannt vor? Schon von Kindheit an zeigt sich bei Diederich ein krass opportunistischer Wesenszug, der sich während seines gesamten Werdegangs fortsetzt. Egal, ob in der Schule, beim Militär, in der Studentenverbindung, im Studium, als Fabrik-Direktor oder als Stadtverordneter, immer handelt Diederich nach der bekannten Radfahrer-Devise „nach oben buckeln, nach unten treten“. Jeder in seinem näheren Umfeld hat darunter zu leiden, ob es sich nun um seine politischen Gegner handelt, um seine Jugendliebe, seine Angestellten oder seine Familienmitglieder: Diederich unterdrückt jeden, dem er sich überlegen fühlt. Sämtliche Personen, die ihm begegnen, werden eiskalt nach ihrem Nutzwert beurteilt und dementsprechend behandelt. Hoch über all dem steht für Diederich jedoch der Kaiser, den er über alles verehrt und als Inbegriff der Macht maßlos bewundert. Am Ende der Erzählung lässt Heinrich Mann den Diederich Häßling in seiner wahren Gestalt auftreten, dem Teufel gleich. Sogar der Himmel scheint sich über Diederich zu empören und lässt einen gigantischen Wolkenbruch über dem Nichtswürdigen niedergehen, was diesen aber nicht weiter berührt: Der Untertan bleibt seinem Kaiser, und vor allem sich selbst, treu.

Die Charakterzeichnung dieses Scheusals durch Heinrich Mann ist trotz, oder gerade wegen der Satire, einfach beklemmend, wenn man sich vor Augen hält, dass Menschen vom Schlage eines Diederich Häßling kein Einzelfall sind. Auch wenn wir die Monarchie mit all ihren Auswüchsen und Unmenschlichkeiten hinter uns gelassen haben, so dass zumindest das durch Diederich verkörperte, absurde Obrigkeitsdenken in dieser extremen Form nicht mehr vorkommt, ist der Opportunismus nicht ausgestorben. Heinrich Manns Roman ist ein entlarvendes Sittengemälde der bürgerlichen Gesellschaft vom Ende des Neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, in der jeder auf seinen eigenen Vorteil bedacht war. Man kann nicht umhin, mit der heutigen Gesellschaft zu vergleichen. ( )
3 ääni buchstabendompteurin | Nov 11, 2013 |
Der Staat der Obrigkeit und der Untertan (– Untertan: der nach oben kriecht und nach unten ausschlägt):
Ironisch bis hin zur Farce. Wer das wilhelminische Kaiserreich verstehen möchte und wie es zum 1. Weltkrieg kam und wie der Boden, aus dem später der Faschismus sproß, bereitet war, hier ist es beschrieben. Mehr über diesen Roman hier. (VI-12) ( )
1 ääni MeisterPfriem | Jul 24, 2012 |
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» Lisää muita tekijöitä (20 mahdollista)

Tekijän nimiRooliTekijän tyyppiKoskeeko teosta?Tila
Mann, HeinrichTekijäensisijainen tekijäkaikki painoksetvahvistettu
Boyd, ErnestKääntäjämuu tekijäeräät painoksetvahvistettu
Deilen, Bas vanKääntäjämuu tekijäeräät painoksetvahvistettu
Hahn, Albert, Jr.Kannen suunnittelijamuu tekijäeräät painoksetvahvistettu
Hänisch, MartinKuvittajamuu tekijäeräät painoksetvahvistettu
Heisig, BernhardKuvittajamuu tekijäeräät painoksetvahvistettu
Linden, D. van derKääntäjämuu tekijäeräät painoksetvahvistettu
Rost, NicoJälkisanatmuu tekijäeräät painoksetvahvistettu
Schoeller, Wilfried F.Jälkisanatmuu tekijäeräät painoksetvahvistettu
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Englanninkielinen Wikipedia (2)

Published in 1918, Der Untertan by Heinrich Mann (1871-1950) - previously issued in the United States only in parts under the title "Man of Straw" - is a satirical novel that connects the tradition of nineteenth-century German literature with the larger problems faced on the eve of the Nazi era. This edition of The Loyal Subject is introduced and edited by Helmut Peitsch. The translation is adapted, with new portions translated by Daniel Theisen.

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