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  • Kasimir Edschmid. Expressionist—Reisender—Romancier. Eine Werkbiographie
  • Christa Spreizer
Kasimir Edschmid. Expressionist—Reisender—Romancier. Eine Werkbiographie. Von Hermann Schlösser. Bielefeld: Aisthesis, 2007. 480 Seiten. € 29,80.

Kasimir Edschmid (Eduard Schmid, 1890–1966) is best known for Über den Expressionismus in der Literatur und die neue Dichtung (1918), next to Paul Kornfeld’s afterword to Die Verführung, Hermann Bahr’s Expressionismus (1914), and Diebold’s Anarchie im Drama (1921) one of the most important theoretical Expressionist tracts. In contrast, Edschmid’s post-Expressionist works and career have remained largely ignored by literary historians. Indeed, Edschmid himself expressed deep misgivings regarding the attention paid his early works to the detriment of his lifelong commitment to the world of literature. Hermann Schlösser’s detailed Werkbiographie aims at correcting this via an insightful re-evaluation of Edschmid’s works from the early Expressionist period to his death in 1966. The first comprehensive overview of Edschmid’s work and life does an admirable job in analyzing a complex and at times exasperating figure. Schlösser uses the caesurae of 1918, 1933, and 1945 to structure his textual and biographical analyses.

Edschmid studied in Munich, Paris, Gießen, Straßburg, and Geneva before embarking on his journalistic and literary career. Like his contemporaries, he embraced the uncompromising, and at times violent, tone of Expressionism, found in the novellas of Das rasende Leben (1915), Die sechs Mündungen (1917), and Timur (1916), although Schlösser notes that this was balanced by more seasoned journalistic contributions during this period. Published after the outbreak of war, they anticipated the birth of a new order. Influenced by Nietzsche, Edschmid quickly became one of the most important members of the Expressionist movement with lectures and programmatic texts such as Über den Expressionismus in der Literatur und die neue Dichtung. During the war Edschmid also advocated for Germany and its cultural politics; yet, as Schlösser notes, he was “kein ‘Hurra-Patriot’, sondern der Repräsentant eines anderen, aktualitätsenthobenen Deutschland” (74). Like his contemporaries, Edschmid had little desire for actual political involvement and professed solidarity with a range of public audiences. Schlösser does well in documenting the literary intrigues of the era as well as Edschmid’s opportunistic political waffling during the Weimar period, summarizing: “[E]iner Partei gehörte Edschmid nicht an, und in seinen Schriften pflegte er unterschiedlichste Ideale und Ziele gleichzeitig zu propagieren. Mit der Rechten bekannte er sich zu deutschem Wesen, mit der revolutionären Linken begeisterte er sich für ‘praktischen Sozialismus’, [End Page 309] Weltbürgertum und Revolution, mit den Sozial-demokraten unterstützte er die Weimarer Republik und gegen alle behauptet er sich als Kerl, der sich nicht nur auf dem Papier bewähren wollte, auf das er seine Bücher schrieb” (118).

During the early 1920s, Edschmid continued to promote himself and publish works that rejected the precepts of realism for a more visionary and subjective style. But during the ensuing period of Neue Sachlichkeit, Edschmid changed literary direction by turning to sport and travel literature. In Sport um Gagaly (1928), bicycle racing becomes the literary subject. In Basken, Stiere, Araber (1926) and Afrika: Nackt und angezogen (1929) among other works, he documents his extensive travels throughout Europe, Africa, and South America, works that by no means transcend the racial prejudices of his era.

In contrast to his popular travel books, Schlösser considers Edschmid’s most important works of the late 1920s to be Die gespenstigen Abenteuer des Hofrats Brüstlein (1927), Sport am Gagaly (1928), and Lord Byron (1929). These novels were followed by arguably right-wing works such as Deutsches Schicksal (1932), and Lorbeer, Leid und Ruhm (1935), which praised the Italian Fascism of Mussolini (and also Lenin’s Marxist ideology) while denigrating the rise of Hitler. Regarding Edschmid’s opportunistic political and ideological leanings throughout his career, Schlösser writes: “Es ist eben alles viel komplizierter, als es der nachträglich ordnungsschaffende Blick wahrhaben will (Es werden sich noch zahlreiche Gelegenheiten ergeben, dieses Stoß-seufzers zu gedenken.)” (166).

Like others, Edschmid underestimated the Nazi rise to power, and Schlösser carefully recounts Edschmid’s decision to remain in Europe and ultimately in Germany...


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