- Doderer, das Kriminelle und der literarische Kriminalroman: Zu Heimito von Doderers ed. by Gerald Sommer and Robert Walter
The foreword introducing this volume dedicated to Doderer’s Ein Mord den jeder begeht is straightforward: Sommer and Walter state they intend to refute the claim that Doderer’s one Kriminalroman is somehow less “anspruchsvoll” than his other works and to highlight the novel’s “überraschende Komplexität” and “gestalterische Raffinesse” (11). This introduction is also remarkably concise. Barely two pages, it stands in pointed contrast to the collection’s 653 pages (almost twice as long as the novel itself). But the sheer length of the work is matched by the complexity and variety of the analyses, and the volume will be useful to Doderer scholars and graduate students alike. That it is also mostly a collection of conference papers is probably to blame for the volume’s main weaknesses: a sometimes chatty, unpolished tone as well as an occasional lack of synchronization between essays on similar themes. Indeed, at varying points throughout, some authors would have benefited from a [End Page 124] closer look at what their colleagues were doing. These are fairly minor quibbles, though, with what is otherwise an engaging and interesting collection.
The volume’s contributors are a mix of relative newcomers and seasoned Doderer scholars, the latter constituting most of the volume’s heft. First is a short section with a piece about the novel’s source material (a fait divers of dubious veracity), and one chapter by Gerald Sommer juxtaposes descriptions from the novel with photographs of the actual places. The second section contains the bulk of the collection, with essays either about Mord’s success as a Kriminalroman (or lack thereof) or about the novel’s literary qualities, such as its structural and intertextual motifs. Third, the editors included three essays on Die Strudlhofstiege (1951). This may seem like a haphazard addition, but the section’s authors bring their analysis to bear directly or indirectly on Mord in ways that enhance rather than detract. Essays involving Doderer’s biography comprise the short fourth section. Finally come sections dedicated to book reviews and very recent work by young Doderer scholars.
Uniting all authors is the desire is to rejuvenate interest in Doderer’s work, which has been branded “old-fashioned” (202) or, worse, of “questionable meaning” (398). Though the authors are by no means of any uniform opinion, there are also major themes that connect them, such as the novel’s genre, Mord’s baffling end in which the hero’s death coincides with his Menschwerdung, the wide range of intertextuality in Doderer’s work, the Oedipus myth and human guilt, mother/father motifs, Heimat/Literatur and Romanticism, and Doderer’s brief connection to Nazism.
Beginning with the source material and the photographs is clever; however, the volume’s tone is definitely set by Martin Loew-Cadonna, an oft - cited Mord expert whose compact contribution begins the second section. In this essay about “Autor und Alibi,” Loew-Cadonna uses the phrase “ja, aber” to sum up the difficulty of truth-seeking in Doderer’s work as the truth is always “anderswo” (42). With his play on the word alibi (Latin for elsewhere), he asserts the affinity of the “detektivisches” with “dodereske[s] Erzählen” in general (49). Thomas Wörtche and Stefan Schäfer both acknowledge that Mord is missing many elements necessary to the genre of crime fiction, but they astutely point out that it reflects or anticipates modernist (Wörtche) and postwar (Schäfer) changes in the genre itself. Joachim Linder’s essay on “Die Polizei als Reflexionsinstanz” focuses on storytelling in detection and looks at the role of the ineffectual police in Mord with a brief detour into crime fiction under the Nazi state. In “Strategien der Spannung,” Christoph Deupmann notes [End Page 125] that the protagonist’s detection is not essential to solving the case and thus undermines the...