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Summary of River without a bank
Scandinavia during World War II
Denmark declared itself neutral in World War II, but was occupied by the Germans and controlled until 1945. In September 1943, the German diplomat made it possible Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz over 7000 Danish Jews who were supposed to be deported by the Nazis fled to Sweden. Denmark was liberated in 1945.
Norway, which had also declared itself neutral, was also attacked by the Wehrmacht and surrendered in 1940. The country remained occupied by German troops until the end of the war. The attack on the two countries, which took place under the code name “Operation Weser Exercise”, was intended to give the Germans access to the ports of the two countries from which attacks by the naval fleet against England took place.
Sweden also declared its neutrality at the beginning of the war. After Russia's attack on Finland, Finland stood by financially. The Germans were later allowed to be transported across Swedish territory and a trade agreement was concluded. In 1943, after the German defeat at Stalingrad, the attitude changed: the transports were banned, Sweden took in refugees and supported the Norwegian government in exile.
River without a bank was created between 1934 and 1946 while Jahnn was living on his sister-in-law's farm in Denmark. The author processed numerous literary influences: this is obvious and made by Gustav Anias Horn the basis of his first great work Epic of Gilgamesh - the oldest literary work in history, which also has a homosexual main character.
The novel is related to the ideas of existentialism with the motives of fear and withdrawal into one's own self. Jahnn was influenced by Franz Kafka, MarcelProust and James Joyce, but with him there are also allusions and recourse to Georg Buechner and William Shakespeare turn off. The retreat into nature, the self-confessed outsider and the clear rejection of the modern capitalist system refer to the Swiss philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
Maybe also had a big impact Eugène Bossards Biography about Gilles de Rais. The story of the noble serial killer from the 13th century is shown in River without a bank picked up and retold.
Also nautical novels like that of Joseph Conrad could have influenced Jahnn. An interpretation of the work as a detective novel is also possible. But elements such as the secret rooms on the “Lais” and the unreal atmosphere break the rules of these genres.
publisher Peter Suhrkamp gave Jahnn to understand that he would not publish the novel in this form in his publishing house and that Jahnn should write an additional chapter. This "addition" became 1700 more pages. It is noteworthy that in the second part Jahnn indirectly goes into earlier reviews, for example in a music critic's essay about Horn's work.
The parallels between Jahnn's biography and the themes of the novel are obvious. This is probably one of the reasons why some critics rated the work more as a philosophical treatise than as an independent fictional work. It was neglected by literary studies. As if he had foreseen it, Jahnn wrote in 1947: "I was not understood enough to misunderstand me."
Opinions parted about Jahnn while he was still alive. His clear portrayal of violence and sexuality has been publicly criticized and condemned as perverse. While the criticism reacted poorly, Jahnn's fellow writers were impressed by his work. Thomas Mann and Alfred Doblin praised his writings, Botho Strauss called River without a bank "One of the most splendid prose works in the German language" and in 1990 used the prize money he had received from the Büchner Prize in 1990 for a competition to attract more readers River without a bank to win. Participants should write down and submit their impressions. In view of the high costs of the complete edition and the demanding reading, the response rate was considerable.
Jahnn's mammoth novel was still something for lovers. Even the question of the topic raises questions. The author Clemens Meyer said: “If someone asks me what it is about, what should I answer? All or nothing! About nature, existence, love. There are sex scenes, violence. It is an unheard of book. "
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