Page 152 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
contemporary Schnitzler-renaissance. This renaissance, how­
ever, paid less attention to the specific Viennese and Austrian
aspects o f his work than to the eternal problems with which he
wrestled. Though he himself disclaimed having found final an ­
swers to these problems, since he held that, by definition, there
could be no ultimate answers short o f eternity, he nevertheless
did volunteer meaningful insights that are still o f great value to
us.
In the face o f increasing centralization o f power in gov­
ernmental authorities, Schnitzler projected individual freedom
as a shining ideal. At the same time he also held that an excessive
amount o f freedom and the disregard o f traditional values must
lead to a disintegration o f one’s personality. He advocated u n d e r ­
standing and tolerance as guides to hum an conduct, bu t at the
same time he realized that understanding , if carried too far, acted
as a paralyzing force and that tolerance in a world o f growing
intolerance exposed one to ineffectiveness and alienation from all
dynamic social forces.
I t was my privilege to be a frequen t visitor at the home o f
Schnitzler du ring 1929 and 1930. When I saw him for the last
time in August 1930, I mu rmu red the usual German parting
formula: “Auf W iedersehen.” His answer was: “Wenn ich noch
lebe!”
AWARENESS OF DEATH
This consciousness o f life’s fragility and o f possible imminent
death was always with him, even when he enjoyed perfect health.
Death dom inated many o f his narratives, from the early tale
Sterben,
1892, until his last novel
Flucht in die Finsternis,
1931.
Nevertheless, he felt that we should not succumb to gloom ju s t
because o f dea th ’s inevitability. We should ra the r experience
every moment o f ou r life fully and fervently as though it were ou r
last. The most horrible words that could ring in ou r ears were the
words “too late.” This awareness should, above all, come to youth,
since “as long as one is young, all doors are open and before every
door the world begins.” As Schnitzler wrote in one o f his still
unpublished fragments: “I f one knew at twenty how fo r tuna te
one was to be twenty, then one would get a stroke because o f sheer
ecstasy.” But it was not until the twenties passed beyond us tha t
realization o f their supreme value begins to dawn upon us.