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Zwei Striche. Zu einer literarhistorischen Koinzidenz um 1900

Wilhelm Raabes ‚Die Akten des Vogelsangs‘ und Thomas Manns ‚Buddenbrooks‘

Kai Sina


Pages 285 - 298



This article examines an astonishing parallel between two eminent literary works from the period around 1900: the motif of drawing a final stroke in Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks (1901) and Wilhelm Raabe’s Die Akten des Vogelsangs (1896). Both novels deal with an ‘end’ in two senses: firstly, the end of the individual family with its genealogy (Buddenbrooks) as well as the individual subject with its specific life script (Akten des Vogelsangs), but also the end of the entire (bourgeois) age. The final strokes are thus to be interpreted as distinctive expressions of the Fin de Siècle. In this context, the world weariness of the characters turns out to be ambivalent: although the characters know for certain that an era is over (which they clearly articulate with their strokes) they cannot understand what is going on around them and within themselves. This demonstrates that the end of the familiar world, and the beginning of a new era, does not take place as an act of understanding or reflection; the sense of the end is a feeling which is both certain and nonetheless hard to pin down.

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