- Hermann Bahr-Arno Holz: Briefwechsel 1887–1923 ed. by Gerd-Hermann Susen and Martin Anton Müller
The friendship between Arno Holz (1863–1929) and Hermann Bahr (1863–1934) was forged early in their careers, when, as twenty-three-year-olds in Berlin, their paths crossed as they aspired to revitalize German literature. Arno Holz had caught the attention of his peers with the publication in 1886 of Das Buch der Zeit: Lieder eines Modernen, which gave voice to the experiences of his generation. Not long thereafter, Holz, in close collaboration with Johannes Schlaf, established the theoretical basis for Naturalism, and their co-written novella Papa Hamlet (1889) and play Die Familie Selicke (1890) are firmly established in the literary canon as prime examples of that movement. It appeared that his career, plagued as it was by lifelong financial woes, was to be crowned by a Nobel Prize in 1929, when his death removed his name from consideration.
Hermann Bahr found his fame as the promoter and mentor of Jung-Wien in particular and of the myriad of literary and cultural movements at the turn of the twentieth century. Those familiar with Bahr’s career will be aware of his connection to the East Prussian poet and playwright Holz through their collaboration in the literary magazine Freie Bühne für modernes Leben in 1890. That same year saw their break from this journal, and in 1891 Bahr returned to Vienna and published “Die Überwendung des Naturalismus,” as he continued his career as a pathfinder in the artistic and intellectual upheavals of fin-de-siècle Vienna.
By publishing this correspondence, Gerd-Hermann Susen and Martin Anton Müller have provided evidence of a lifelong connection between Holz [End Page 119] and Bahr and have raised intriguing questions about how their early contact influenced their later development. To some extent, this volume follows in the footsteps of Elsbeth Dangel-Pelloquin’s Bahr/Hoffmannsthal correspondence published in 2013, also by the Wallstein Verlag. That work brought together 671 letters and commentary in a two-volume set of over a thousand pages. By contrast, this work is just over 200 pages, offering 72 letters and notes between the two, of which only 27 are from Bahr. Only the years from 1888 to 1899 evoke the true sense of a Briefwechsel, as we find after 1900 only five notes and one letter from Bahr to Holz, making the correspondence appear one-sided. The editors attribute the imbalance to the unfortunate loss of the Arno Holz archive during the Second World War. Almost all of the letters in this volume are from the Bahr Nachlaß in the Theatermuseum in Vienna, although the editors fill the gaps with relevant correspondence from others, including twenty letters from Bahr to his future wife, Anna von Mildenburg. As the editors state in their highly informative Nachwort, “Es ist kein großer Dichterbriefwechsel, die Anekdoten und Bonmots halten sich in Grenzen, dafür tragen sie in vielfältiger Weise dazu bei, die Protagonisten und ihre Rolle im kulturellen Leben ihrer Zeit zu verstehen” (168). In this regard, the editors have provided an invaluable resource with their extensive and meticulously researched footnotes, which ripple from the brief allusions in the letters and notes into the wider cultural and historical milieu of the turn of the century. For example, in a letter dated February 20, 1908, Bahr mentions an actress with “einer abenteuerlichen Vergangenheit.” A footnote over a page in length conveys in small print her rather colorful career, a scandalous misalliance and divorce, the tragic fate of her ex-husband, and a physical description of her that appeared in a review—and all of this with referenced sources. To provide another example, a letter from Otto Brahm written January 13, 1904, mentions “die Weber-Sache” whereby we learn in an extensive footnote about the nature of the official censorship policies and their reform in 1903, which affected the staging of Gerhart Hauptmann’s Weber in Austria as well as Benito Pérez Gald...