Goll, Yvan

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GOLL, YVAN (Isaac Lang ; 1891–1950), Franco-German poet and author. Born in Saint-Dié des Vosges, Goll studied law at the universities of Strasbourg and Paris. Even though French was his native language he at first wrote in German. Under the nom de plume Iwan Lazang he made his debut with Lothringische Volkslieder (1912). Two years later his collection of poems Der Panamakanal (1914) was published and owed some of its material to the expressionist circles he belonged to. With the beginning of World War i Goll as a committed pacifist moved to Switzerland, where he continued his studies in Lausanne and he kept company with Romain Rolland, Stefan *Zweig, Hermann Hesse, Franz *Werfel, and René Schickele. His sympathies transcended political boundaries, and he followed his Requiem pour les morts de l'Europe (1916) with a German version, Requiem fuer die Gefallenen von Europa (1917). Der Torso (1918) is a collection of poems that display Goll's pacifist beliefs and are written in an expressionist style. Not only could he share his pacifist ideas with like-minded intellectuals but he also met Dadaists like Hans Arp and Tristan *Tzara, who influenced his writings and later led to the publication of two essays portraying Arp: "Der Homer unserer Zeit" (1927) and "Aus dem Leben eines Genies" (1932). After World War i Goll published articles and poems in left-wing journals on political themes, such as the revolution in Die letzten Tage von Berlin (1919) and social inequity in the poems of Die Unterwelt (1919). In 1919 Goll settled in Paris, where he married the writer Claire Aischmann (see preceding entry). He soon turned away from expressionism, criticizing its political ineffectiveness and its tendency to sentimentality in his essay "Der Expressionismus stirbt" (1921). Goll became interested in surrealism and in 1924 established the magazine Surréalisme. He also published poems in Der Eiffelturm (1924) which took on the main characteristics of this literary movement, such as montage and the imitation of visual signs and the rapidity of film.

During the time in Paris Goll became a friend of James Joyce and Stefan *Zweig and published the first German translation of Joyce's novel Ulysses. Until 1925 he continued to write in German, his books including Das Herz des Feindes (1920), and the drama Der Stall des Augias (1924). Together with his wife, Goll published three anthologies of French verse: Poèmes d'amour (1925), Poèmes de jalousie (1926), and Poèmes de la vie et de la mort (1926). In the 1930s Goll was friendly with the Austrian lyricist Paula Ludwig, resulting in the Chansons malaises (1934). Goll started writing his novels in the late 1920s and focused on social problems. Le Microbe de l'Or (1927), for example, can be read as a coming to terms with his family. In Die Eurokokke (1928) and Der Mitropäer (1928) Goll sketches the decay of European culture and modernity per se. Especially Sodome et Berlin (1929) is a sharply etched caricature of civil society in Berlin.

Jewish themes constantly recur in the rich and complex work of this cosmopolitan poet. Prominent among them are loneliness, eternal wandering between two worlds and three languages, the haunting presence of poverty, war, and death, and the search for salvation in occult and kabbalistic speculation. The figures of Job and of the *Wandering Jew merge with the homeless poet himself in a major verse collection La Chanson de Jean sans Terre (3 vols., 1936–39), where the only certainty in a foundering universe is total annihilation. In 1939 Goll and his wife fled to the U.S. While they were living in New York he published the literary magazine, Hémisphères, and a volume of English poems, Fruit from Saturn (1946), as a literary response to the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. In 1947 Goll and his wife returned to Paris, where he struggled with leukemia. On his sickbed Goll reverted to writing in German. Two volumes of poetry appeared after his death: Traumkraut (1951), a collection of poems dealing with his experience of illness and death, and Neila (1954). Two other posthumous works were Abendgesang (1954) and a play, Melusine (1956). Other late works of Yvan Goll are Le Char Triomphal de l'Antimoine (1949), Les Géorgiques parisiennes (1951), and Les Cercles magiques (1951). His scattered publications were collected by his widow in Dichtungen: Lyrik, Prosa, Drama (1960) and also in a collection of poems in Yvan Goll: 100 Gedichte (2003).

add. bibliography:

Y. Goll, in: Europe 899 (2004); C. Pleiner, "Du uebtest mit mir das feuerfeste Lied" : Eros und Intertextualitaet bei Claire und Iwan Goll (1999); H. Schmidt, Art mondial: Formen der Internationalität bei Yvan Goll (1999); M. Mueller-Lentrodt, Poetik fuer eine brennende Welt: Zonen der Poetik Yvan Golls im Kontext der europaeischen Avantgarde (1997); M. Knauf, Yvan Goll: ein Intellektueller zwischen zwei Laendern und zwei Avantgarden (1996); J. Phillips, Yvan Goll and Bilingual Poetry (1984).

[Claude (Andre) Vigee /

Ann-Kristin Koch (2nd ed.)]