Schickele, Rene 1883-1940
SCHICKELE, Rene 1883-1940
PERSONAL: Born August 4, 1883, in Oberhnheim, Alsace; died of influenza, January 31, 1940, in Vence, France; son of Anton and Marie Ferard Schickele; married Anna Brandenburg, 1904. Education: Attended University of Strasbourg, France, 1901-03; studied at Sorbonne, University of Paris.
CAREER: Novelist, poet, and journalist. Das Neue Magazine, Berlin, Germany, editor, beginning 1904; Straßburger neue Zeitung, Paris correspondent, 1909-11; Die weißen Blatter, Furstenberg, Germany, staff member then editor, 1911-15.
Sommernächte: Gedichte, Beust (Strasbourg, Germany), 1902.
Pan: Sonnenopfer der Jugend, Singer (Strasbourg, Germany), 1902.
Mon Repos, Seemann (Berlin, Germany), 1905.
Der Ritt ins Leben, Juncker (Berlin, Germany), 1906.
Der Fremde (title means "The Stranger"), Morgen (Berlin, Germany), 1909.
(Translator) Honoré de Balzac, Menschliche Komödie, Volume 10: Die Lilie im Tal; Die verlassne Frau, Insel (Leipzig, Germany), 1910.
Weiß and Rot: Gedichte (title means "White and Red"), Cassirer (Berlin, Germany), 1910, enlarged edition, 1920.
Meine Freundin Lo: Geschichte aus Paris (title means, "My Girlfriend Lo," Weißen Bücher (Leipzig, Germany), 1911.
Das Glück, Juncker (Berlin, Germany), 1913.
Schreie auf dem Boulevard (title means "Cries on the Boulevard"), Cassirer (Berlin, Germany), 1913.
Benkal, der Frauentröster: Roman (title means "Benkal, Consoler of Women"), Weißen Bücher (Leipzig, Germany), 1914.
Die Leibwache: Gedichte, Weißen Bücher (Leipzig, Germany), 1914.
Trimpopp and Manasse: Eine Erzählung, Weißen Bücher (Leipzig, Germany), 1914.
Mein Herz, mein Land: Ausgewählte Gedichte, Cassirer (Leipzig and Berlin, Germany), 1915.
Aïssé: Novelle, Wolff (Leipzig, Germany), 1915.
Hans im Schnakenloch: Schauspiel in vier Aufzügen (title means, "Hans in the Gnathole"), Cassirer (Leipzig and Berlin, Germany), 1917.
Die Genfer Reise (title means, "Journey to Geneva"), Cassirer (Berlin, Germany), 1919.
Der deutsche Träumer, Rascher (Zurich, Switzerland), 1919.
Der neunte November, Reiss (Berlin, Germany), 1919.
(Editor) Europäische Bibliothek, 11 volumes, Rascher (Zurich, Switzerland), 1918-1919.
Am Glockenturm: Schauspiel in drei Aufzügen (title means "At the Bell Tower"), Cassirer (Berlin, Germany), 1920.
Die Mädchen: Drei Erzählungen (title means "The Maidens"), Cassirer (Berlin, Germany), 1920.
Wir wollen nicht sterben! (title means "We Don't Want to Die!"), Wolff (Munich, Germany), 1922.
Die neuen Kerle: Komödie in drei Aufzügen, Rhein-Verlag (Basel, Switzerland), 1924.
Ein Erbe am Rhein: Roman in zwei Bänden (title means "The Heritage on the Rhine"), two volumes, Wolff (Munich, Germany), 1925, Volume 1 published as Maria Capponi: Roman, 1926, translated by Hannah Walter, Knopf (New York, NY), 1928, Volume 2 published as Blick auf die Vogesen: Roman 1927, translation by Waller published as Heart of Alsace, Knopf (New York, NY), 1929.
Soeur Ignace: Ein elsässisches Vergißmeinnicht aus der Kongregation der Niederbronner Schwestern, Salvator-Verlag (Muhlhausen, Germany), 1928.
(Translator) Gustave Flaubert, Werke, volume one: Madame Bovary: Sittenbilder aus der Provinz, Grethlein (Minden and Leipzig, Germany), 1928.
Symphonie für Jazz: Roman, Fischer (Berlin, Germany), 1929.
Elsässische Fioretti aus den Missionen: Lebensbild elsässischer Missionsschwestern, Verlag Alsatia (Colmar, France), 1930.
Der Wolf in der Hürde: Roman (title means "The Wolf in the Fold"; volume three of Das Erbe am Rhein), Fischer (Berlin, Germany), 1931.
Die Grenze (title means "The Border"), Rowohlt (Berlin, Germany), 1932.
Himmlische Landschaft (title means "Heavenly Landscape"), Fischer (Berlin, Germany), 1933.
Die Witwe Bosca: Roman (title means "The Widow Bosca"), Fischer (Berlin, Germany), 1933.
Liebe und Ärgernis des D. H. Lawrence, de Lange (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1934.
Die Flaschenpost: Roman (title means "The Letter in the Bottle"), de Lange (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1937.
Le retour: souvenirs inédits, Fayard (Paris, France), 1938, translation by Ferdinand Hardekopf published as Die Heimkehr, Brant (Strasbourg, France), 1939.
(Editor) Das Vermächtnis; deutsche Gedichte von Walther von der Vogelweide bis Nietzsche, K. Alber (Freiburg, Germany), 1948.
Werke in drei Bänden, edited by Hermann Kesten and Anna Schickele, Kiepenheuer & Witsch (Cologne and Berlin, Germany), 1960-1961.
Die Schlacht bei den Pyramiden, Eine Erzählung, Friedenauer Presse (Berlin, Germany), 1969.
Das gelbe Haus: Erzählungen, Buchverlag der Morgen (Berlin, Germany), 1977.
Grand'maman; und Der Preusse: zwei Romanfragmente, Buchverlag der Morgen (Berlin, Germany), 1978.
Rene Schickele, 1883-1940, CDNP, CRDP (Strasbourg, France), 1983.
Author's papers are housed at the Schiller-Nationalmuseum, Marbach am Neckar, Germany.
SIDELIGHTS: Author René Schickele was born in Alsace, a historic battle-zone between France and Germany. His beloved homeland, which he called "the heavenly landscape," was for ages a disputed territory; it would shape Schickele's work, causing critics to label him an Alsatian writer.
Schickele's father, Anton, a soldier turned pacifist, and his French mother, Marie Férard, who never learned German, tended lush, family-owned vineyards. As a child, Schickele considered French his first language but found German more exciting. Paul Kurt Ackermann, in Dictionary of Literary Biography, quoted Schickele: "Every person may live in two or more languages, but not the poet."
When Schickele entered the University of Strasbourg in 1901, he and several friends launched a literary journal, Der Sturmer, hoping to promote a cultural renaissance in Alsace. At this point, Schickele was a disciplined aspiring writer and had published the occasional poem; he was also editor of the college journal.
While at the university, he married Anna Brandenburg. The couple moved to Berlin in 1904, where Schickele served as editor of Das neue Magazine. In 1909 the author published his first novel, Der Fremde.
Der Fremde tells of a young Alsatian, Paul Merkel, who comes of age during the turbulent Franco-Prussian War. Merkel, a melancholy artist, feels displaced and thirsts for recognition, success, and acceptance. Ackermann wrote, "Somewhat in the tradition of the bildungsroman, Merkel sets out on a spiritual journey as a 'Pilger der Ekstase' (pilgrim of fantasy). … But the book suffers as a novel of education because Schickele was too young when he wrote it: the level of maturity and spiritual growth Merkel achieves is a reflection of the maturity which Shickele had himself attained." Still, the book received mostly positive reviews. Ackermann quoted critic C. Buchholtz, who, writing for März, called this first novel one of the most beautiful books of the last decade and labeled it "the novel of the Alsatian soul."
That same year, Schickele began work as a Paris correspondent for the publication Straßburger neue Zeitung. Some of his strongest articles from this period were collected in Schreie auf dem Boulevard. This book features sketches of political powerhouses such as Theodore Roosevelt, Aristide Briand, and Jean Léon Jaurès, as well as reports on strikes, demonstrations, and Parisian society.
Meine Freundin Lo, one of Schickele's best-selling works, was published in four editions during his lifetime. Protagonist Lo is a beautiful actress working at the Théâtre Grand Guignol, with admirers at her doorstep. The book's narrator, Henri, is an Alsatian journalist reporting on events in Paris, much like Schickele, and meanwhile dating Lo. Eventually, Lo loses interest and breaks up with Henri. Shickele's experience inspired the novel's background descriptions.
"The appealing characterization of an emancipated Parisian woman combined with the evocation of the Parisian ambience probably accounts for the novel's popularity. In every respect, the work is a complete change from Der Fremde," Ackermann said.
Schickele also wrote a book of poetry, Weiß und Rot, while in Paris. Ackermann said, "The work was devastatingly criticized … by Ernst Lissauer, who called the poetry … extremely unpleasant, uncongenial, and lacking in artistry." But, Ackermann added, Ernst Stadler, in Das literarische Echo, commended the author for his "profound sensibilities."
In 1913 Schickele moved back to Berlin, where he joined the staff of a new literary journal, Die weißen Blätter, which resulted in one of his most significant accomplishments, according to Ackermann. During World War I, Schickele edited the magazine from Switzerland.
Die weißen Blätter served as a forum for critical debate and published the writings of contemporary expressionists, including Franz Kafka—little known at the time—Franz Werfel, and Walter Hasenclever. Ackermann said, "The expressionists' aesthetic and political ideas resembled Schickele's in many ways; like them, he believed that literature and politics belong together and that writers and intellectuals should be involved in political affairs. In Die Wießen Blätter, he became a spokesman for antimilitarism, pacifism, and international reconciliation."
Schickele's Benkal, der Frauentröster, consists of loosely connected chapters and one play, titled "Das tote Kinde," or "The Dead Child," borrows heavily from the author's experience. The story is set at an unspecified time in a place called Mittelland, situated between warring countries, Kremmen and Langnasen. Women inspire the sculptor Benkal to make great art. Benkal, in turn, comforts, entertains, and instructs the women, greatly improving their lives.
Aïssé follows the oft-told story of an eighteenth-century Circassian girl purchased by a French envoy at Constantinople and transported to Paris, where she enchants people with her beauty and grace. Ackermann quoted Schickele as saying, "The figure of Aïssé never left me. Every time I looked around me after finishing some work, she stood there at the roadside, a naked, brown girl who hid her face in her arm."
After World War I broke out, Schickele's first published piece was the play Hans im Schnakenloch, ostensibly a drama depicting marriage in the challenging locale of Alsace. Ackermann explained, however, "Hans … became notorious … as an antiwar play. In fact, it is tendentious only in that it advocates peace, particularly between France and Germany." Many critics praised the play, although Schickele's portrayal of French characters and the story's anticipation of German victory offended some French citizens.
Schickele wrote the story collection Die Mädchen in memory of his trip to the Acropolis. "Schickele was impressed by the sensuality of the caryatids of the Erechthion and by the feeling of 'Sehnsucht' (yearning) they provoked in him," Ackermann said.
Whereas his play Am Glockenturm depicts human beings' violent and inherent need to gain power, Die Genfer Reise, a book of essays and lyrical fictions, and Wir wollen nicht sterben!, a collection of political musings (1922), emphasize pacifism.
At this stage, working as editor of Die weißen Blätter, and based in Switzerland to avoid the rampant censorship underway in Germany, Schickele firmly against the military, believing war projected man's internal conflicts. He differed from intellectual writers who viewed the war as a heroic necessity. Soon after World War I ended, Die weißen Blätter folded.
Schickele now found himself a French citizen, thanks to the ceding of Alsace to France. He moved into the Black Forest with a view of the French Vosges mountains and set to work on his trilogy, Das Erbe am Rhein. The series, which contains Maria Capponi, Blick auf die Vogesen and Der Wolf in der Hurde, studies the fictional life of Alsatian nobleman Claus von Breuschheim, a man devoted to his homeland. Thomas Mann lauded the books as the standard work of the Alsatian soul.
Die Grenze collects essays, fragments, and sketches, including one piece on Romain Rolland, and personal entries on Schickele's life in the Black Forest. Ackermann said of Himmlische Landschaft, "In exquisitely lyrical prose he evokes the color and luster of flowers, the supple shapes of clouds, the capacious sweeping folds of distant mountains, and the limpidity of spring water. The countryside becomes alive."
Die Witwe Bosca, which Ackermann described as representative of Schickele's last period, examines the tragic life of Widow Bosca, whose teenage daughter Sybille has just been crippled in a bus accident. Eventually, Sybille is killed in a second car accident, her mother murdered by her second husband.
Schickele was living in Sanary-sur-Mer, the home of many writer refugees, when he penned Die Witwe Bosca. Written about the same time, Schickele's essay, Liebe und Argenis des D.H. Lawrence criticizes Lawrence's sex-obsessed story realm, celebrates the authentic artist, and proclaims that art and politics are entirely separate.
In his later years Schickele produced a comedy written in diary form, Die Flaschenpost, about a man named Richard Wolke living on the Riviera. When Alfonso XIII, former king of Spain, moves in nearby, Wolke's big problems begin. Eventually, he falls in love with the monarch's mistress and shoots the terrorist-at-heart king dead.
Schickele wrote only one book in French. Le retour, a collection of fragments and short essays, reports on the newfound political fervor in Alsace and the German-French reconciliation. Schickele lost interest in politics, however, near the end of his life. His memorial plaque contains the line, "His heart bore the love and wisdom of two peoples."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 66: German Fiction Writers, 1885-1913, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1988, pp. 439-449.
Schickele, René, René Schickele, 1883-1940, CDNP, CRDP (Strasbourg, France), 1983.*