Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-5d59c44645-ndqjc Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-03-02T09:28:40.459Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

“Die gräßliche Blume des Grinds”: Disfigurement, Disablement, and Discrimination in Soma Morgenstern’s Jewish Trilogy Funken im Abgrund

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 March 2023

Eleoma Joshua
Affiliation:
University of Edinburgh
Michael Schillmeier
Affiliation:
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Get access

Summary

I

REDISCOVERED IN THE 1990s, the novel trilogy Funken im Abgrund (Sparks in the Abyss) by the Austrian-Jewish writer Soma Morgenstern (1890–1976) examines the multiple layers of Jewish identity found between the wars in urban Vienna and Berlin, as well as in the Galician countryside from which the author originally hailed. Only after much difficulty in finding a publisher, and on the recommendation of amongst others Robert Musil, was Morgenstern finally able to bring out the first volume Der Sohn des verlorenen Sohnes (The Son of the Prodigal Son) in the Erich Reiß-Verlag in Berlin in 1935. Because of the restrictions imposed by the Nazis, sales of the novel were limited to Jews only. Composed between 1934 and 1943, Idyll im Exil (Idyll in Exile) and Das Vermächtnis des verlorenen Sohnes (The Legacy of the Prodigal Son) were originally published in English translation at the end of the 1940s in the USA, where Morgenstern had lived in exile since 1942. Not until the mid-1990s did the trilogy finally appear in its original German. (The 11-volume edition of Morgenstern's collected works has been available since the mid-1990s.)

Through the figure of Mechzio, commonly known as “Parach,” Morgenstern construes disability as a stigma mirroring both the society of the “stigmatizers” in their own stigmatization (as Jews) as well as the problem of Jewish self-hatred. At a time when Jewishness was determined primarily by the blood line (FiA, I, 91), it had become more difficult than ever for Jews to determine their individual or collective identity. The Enlightenment's promise of equality had been revoked, with many Jews assuming the stigmatizing values of their host environment. Adopting a sort of Manichaean stance, they now identified themselves with “good,” i.e. assimilated Jews, and were ashamed of the so-called “bad Jews” who appeared to exemplify all the negative clichés. These ranged from their manner of dress and their names down to their language and behavioral habits. As Sander Gilman has pointed out, the urge to be accepted by the privileged group surrounding them led to unconditional conformity with it: “If I am ‘good,’ I will be accepted; those who are ‘bad’ deserve to be rejected.

Type
Chapter
Information
Edinburgh German Yearbook 4
Disability in German Literature, Film, and Theater
, pp. 105 - 126
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2010

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×