Page 151 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

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Arthur Schnitzler
On the Occasion of the 50th Anniversary of His Death
H a l f a c e n t u r y
afte r A rthu r Schnitzler’s death on October 21,
1931, he is generally accepted as a classic o f modern literature.
For the quar te r o f a century, from 1889, when his first playlets
appeared , until 1914, when the outbreak of the First World
War and the rise o f Expressionism dimmed his appeal to readers,
he was the ou ts tand ing literary chron ic ler o f the decaying
Austro-Hungarian Empire, especially o f the oversophisticated,
overripe culture concentrated in its capital Vienna. Although he
lived on after the collapse o f this Danubian Empire and although
he continued to create dramatic and narrative works o f endu r ing
value, he was felt to be an historic ra th e r than a contemporary
writer. He recognized this decline o f his influence when he iden­
tified himself with his protagonist, the poet Sylvester T ho rn in the
Gang zum Weiher,
published in 1927, and wrote: “I
speak to those who are to come. They alone are my friends. What
disturbs you is tha t I am still alive. You are right. O u r sojourn on
earth falsifies ou r true being. O u r life is a mask that clings to us.
But when this mask is torn down, then whatever remains exists,
not for us any longer, but only fo r you.”
This insight was prophetic. For a full generation he was almost
forgotten. His works were unpublished and un read while the
Nazi upheaval and its tu rbu len t afterm a th shook the foundations
of the cosmopolitan, multiracial society o f Vienna. In the 1960’s
and 1970’s, however, a new upsurge o f interest manifested itself.
In 1951 a comprehensive edition o f his works appeared . In the
same year, the In ternational A rthu r Schnitzler Research Associa­
tion was founded and stimulated scholarly studies on Schnitzler
and his circle. His plays were again staged. T he quarterly jou rna l
Modem Austrian Literature
devoted more space du ring the past two
decades to Schnitzler-articles than to those o f any o the r writer.
T h
e Annotated Arthur Schnitzler Bibliography 1965-1977
by Jeffrey
B. Berlin, published in 1978, m irro red the rising tide o f the
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