Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Night of Lead


jahnn, night of lead

This may be one of the most uncomfortable books of all time.

It's still in print, but only 300 copies were made, many of them reserved for subscribers.

Atlas's copy:

Self-revelations after time and death, an extraordinary novella from the oddest of the German Expressionists whose works are undergoing a complete revaluation in France at present where many translations are appearing.

Hans Henny Jahnn, (1894-1959) established his name as a major writer with his first publication, Pastor Ephraim Magnus, a play written in exile during the First World War which brought him the coveted Kleist Prize. It also revealed him as an highly uncomfortable writer; his style was and remained idiosyncratic, bearing the discerning influence of Expressionism and later Joyce, and containing the timbre of the antique tragedies. In both his writing and life he rejected society’s morals and institutions, psychological interpretation, dualism, and the enslavement of the world about us by homo faber, championing in their stead a heathen, pan-erotic return to the deeper strata of mythology, where time and place converge into one.

The Night of Lead, published in 1962, shows Jahnn at his darkest: man is portrayed as the toy of supernatural powers, where his only certainty is a bodily existence which, in turn, is blindly bound to the laws of growth, death and decay and procreation - the major themes of Jahnn’s writing. But in the compassion demonstrated by the novel’s central character, Jahnn points to the one possibility to gain some kind of liberty: turning one’s back on conventional morals and embracing creation in its fullness.

Jahnn has never enjoyed popular success, but he is often viewed as one of the most influential and important German-speaking writers of this century, his works are currently being re-evaluated in France, where the majority have now been translated.

Translated by Malcolm Green.
ISBN 0 947757 73 2
64pp 13.5 x 21cm
Webpage for ordering

2 comments:

Kate said...

I can't believe I've never heard of Jahnn. I was scrolling through your blog overwhelmed by the richness and just landed directly on him. Now I'm wondering if I have the nerve to read him. Bernhard seems like Buster Keaton compared to this guy.

jbLog said...

The End Band has a song titled "Hans Henny Jahnn" which is about a dark night:
it is a dark night
I‘m a stranger
I‘m not familiar
around here
and though you seem
quite the right person
i can‘t tell what it is
you know me
so let me fall

I am you and you are me
and we are both the same
and when the morning light bursts
we shout our names
you may destroy me then
as long as you love me
oh can‘t you see

I haven‘t met you before ether
but you‘re my brother, my lover
my skin is yours since it was my blood
if it comes to the worst I am here

so let me fall for you, with you
so let me fall