Wolfgang Koeppen: “death in Rome”

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Rome in the summer of 1954. The ghosts awaken. The submerged SS General Jew Jahn meets his divided family. Koeppen describes the ironic umhaucht – German spirit of the postwar Era.

Rome in the early fifties. The first tourists to roam the city, in the cafes and Restaurants amused the Bohème, in the late-night bars, the scene of the transvestites and Homosexuals.

Here is a long-divided German family in an African desert state under the submerged SS-General with the evil-ironic name “Jew Jahn”, its the “Führer” Adolf Hitler and the Nazi state painful night rauernde wife, the German national brother-in-law, and the BRD-German-adapted to the lawyers son.

Unfortunate mentality of the post-war years

The occasion for the memorable family vacation are special events, which are the two adult sons of the separate Nazi couple in Rome. Unpopular events, from the point of view of the Older son, Adolf, was expected in Rome for the ordination of priests. He was “chained to the cross,” as his mother called it . Siegfried has escaped in an artist’s existence. A famous orchestra will perform the twelve-tone music inspired movement, “in Siegfried’s youth rich in unwanted Composition.”

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“Death in Rome” Wolfgang Koeppen

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“Death in Rome” Wolfgang Koeppen

Wolfgang Koeppen, published in the early fifties in a short sequence of three narrative works, in which he took the mentality of the immediate post-war years and the social failures of the 1949 the newly founded Federal Republic of Germany to the visor. “Death in Rome” appeared in 1954, not 200 pages long, but the compressed narrative density.

Figures as prototypes

Each of the figures is a type of German prototype, and each is represented in the novel through their own, self-reflective perspective. The brutal military General Jew Jahn recalls: “He had been shot. He had contributed to the final solution. He had met a leader of the command. That was a good one. And now he had to hide. It was not yet the final victory.”

The blind national socialist, Eva, the “German woman” ended, is trapped in her past madness: “It tormented her to see him, to see him in the hated Uniform of a Power which had contributed to their Belief in the nefarious Alliance with the Jewish under-world, overseas plutocrats and Bolshevik beasts to disturb the sublime dream of Empire, of the Aryan world of gratification and Germanic Herrentum, to destroy, perhaps for ever.”

The troubled, aspiring priests, career-addicted lawyer. And the composer, Siegfried, to become free from the burden of his tight Nazi education through the search for truth in art.

The cafes and Restaurants included in the fifty years to the Flair of the Italian capital

The search for the New

These members of an unfortunate German family two-light design in Koeppens novel: from Nazi Germany who have migrated conductor and his Jewish wife. It is the recommendation of the Dirgenten and his idol crown mountain, drove Siegfried to the avant-garde twelve-tone music was.

“Experiment with everything, with all the pomp and all the dirt of our world, with humiliation, and size – you might find the new sound!” The conductor believes in a new time, an Era, in the Drill, ideology and dogma rule the life. “In me are contradictions, and contradictions are in them – this does not contradict himself.”

A tribute to Rome

The paths of all these characters intersect in two days in the streets and in the Bars of Rome. Everyone experiences the town differently. Siegfried loves you as the city of the old gods and the young Wicked:

“…I love the homosexual poets in their tight drainpipe trousers and lace-thin-floored notched shoes, the life of the foundations and their sounding bracelets flirtatious from the overlong cuffs of their shirts, shake, …”

The SS General Jew Jahn addiction in Rome, the fascist legacy, writes everywhere Mussolini to detect structures, where there are none. (Homo)erotic encounters bare while the entanglement of political and sexual violence. Nothing ends well, the Nazi who feels his death is near, shoots in the delusions of his “work”, the Jewish wife of the conductors of crown mountain.

Rome in the 1950s

A novel as a deep psychological analysis

Wolfgang Koppen told no continuing story, but he reveals observations and positions in an ever-changing shift in perspective of his fictional characters. The temporal and spatial Close, he lets his protagonists meet, is completely constructed. The novel gives something Hyper-Real: created as a case study and a historical analysis of social psychological Depth-of-field.

A red thread, it is only through the novel again and again recorded a first person perspective of a son, Siegfried, which allows a glimpse into his Psyche. He is the hope of the novel: The musician overcomes his problems of Identity.

The new Generation that he represents, is hard to the Nazi past, it has overcome the period of national socialism, the fascist megalomania and militarism. The questions Koeppen introduced more than six decades with the metaphorical force of the German post-war society, in 2018 also in the reunified Germany.
 

Wolfgang Koeppen: “death in Rome” (1954), Suhrkamp Verlag

Wolfgang Koeppen was born in 1906 in Greifswald. As a teenager, he enjoyed not a good education and went home early from school. He had the opportunity to work through until he was in the 1920s, first in Würzburg, then in Berlin in the literary and theatre scene. In 1932 he became editor of the left-liberal daily newspaper “Berliner Börsen-Courier”, 1935, he published his first, highly autobiographical novel, “An unfortunate love”. After three of his novels in the early fifties he wrote only in travel books and reports on extensive travel in the USA and the USSR. He died at the age of 90 in Munich.