Why is apathy looked down upon?

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Who is Oskar Panizza?

In January 1891 the "Society for Modern Life" was founded in Munich. Michael Georg Conrad chaired the opening ceremony to a large crowd. I was one of the founding members, probably the youngest one, and took on the post of musical director, whose job it was to dress up the public and intimate evenings with music as required.

I shared the enthusiasm for our new, weighty "mission" with a whole host of young hotspurs. It was a glorious Sturm und Drang time for all of us, such as none of us ever returned. Since then, some have gone to the Orkus. Corrupted and dead. I could write a dozen necrologists if you asked. Many other of those fighters, however, have risen to fame and honor, contemporaries pressed the laurel on his graying head, while the next generation arm themselves and boast to look down on him with disdain; with the same, constantly recurring disdain with which we "modernists" looked down on Paul Heyse and others from 1891, who at that time - for their part - viewed our activities with grim scorn and shaking their heads.

About half a year before our bellicose and bellicose phalanx came into being, I made the acquaintance of Oskar Panizzas, who - at that time still nominally an insane doctor - had long since belonged body and soul to literature. His résumé until then is briefly as follows:

Oskar Panizza, the son of a wealthy hotel owner in Kissingen, born in 1853, studied medicine, but dealt very early on with philosophy and literature. As a student he spent several years in Paris and London; There he expanded his linguistic knowledge and thus laid the foundation for an eminently well-read and general rich knowledge. In London he also wrote his first poems, "Düstere Lieder" (1886), "Londoner Lieder" (1887), "Legendäres und Fabelhaftes" (1889). In Munich he worked as an assistant psychiatrist. There he soon made his definitive transition to literature.

In quick succession he wrote “First Contributions on Oberammergau, Bayreuth” and many other less extensive essays, sketches and novellas, as well as the burlesque satire “From the diary of a dog”.

Soon a circle of "chosen ones" had formed around him. I too was allowed to conquer a modest place, from which I followed the stimulating and witty conversations that were held under the aegis of the boy scout and pioneer M. G. Conrad with ever growing interest.

Panizza was a welcome guest at our table. His clean-shaven, sympathetic-open face, which could sometimes look almost apathetic and meaningless, was wonderfully animated when an idea stimulated him, when he struggled for expression in conversation. The bright blue eyes could then glare at you as devilishly clever, and the almost incessant, Jesuit smile of his mouth stood in a strange contrast to the unbelievable coarseness and sincerity that he launched when it came to the discussion. His presence always exuded a comfortable mood; you had the pleasant, tingling feeling of being served new, culinary delights. This extremely clever person with the keen eye of intellectual superiority and great world experience, with the vital brain, the skin gout of a decadent worldview and the blasphemous boldness exerted the same attraction on us as the forbidden reading of a Boccaccio or Casanova, back when we were still them Went to school.

We knew his writings almost without exception; they captivated us as much as they alienated us. Even then, there were numerous opponents of the Panizzasch Muse. And truly: with this unusual, indigestible mixture of rustic coarseness and the most refined gourmet food, no everyday person could get their money's worth. but we, who were looking for the unfamiliar and new, loved him.

His stupendous literacy and unusual memory were astonishing. It was a large reference book that you never asked for information in vain. He spiced up his conversations with countless examples from literature of all countries and times; in this respect he is reminiscent of Karl Julius Weber, the author of the delightful "Demokritos". Panizza's ability to quote everything in the original language and to immediately translate it off the cuff or to comment on it aroused astonishment and admiration. I was soon completely under the spell of this strange man and looked for his company wherever I could; Back then, my productivity, which had begun with vehemence and complacency, stagnated completely: I felt so backward towards this know-it-all. Without will I surrendered myself completely to the secret horror that this versatile, cunning dreamer awakened me.

So it was perhaps lucky that my fate soon drove me away from Munich, out into the hardly suspected world that embraced me with its polyp arms and, oh, oh! so often took my breath away. I had to fight, no longer for words, ideas, principles, but - for my daily bread.

"Yes, yes, it's a matter of the sausage, my boy!" Panizza wrote to me in Dollarien when he heard that over there I did not quite agree with God's inexplicable advice.

Soon afterwards he sent me his "Tragedy of Heaven in Five Acts: The Love Council", published in 1895.

With real ravenous appetite, I threw myself on the literary delicacy. The more I realized the meaning and content, the higher my panic-like excitement rose. I was excited in all pores, terrified down to my deepest soul, overwhelmed, crushed by the gigantic blasphemy of the work.

It is dedicated to the memory of Hutten.

Here is the content in one hundred and fifty words:

God the Father learns of the moral depravity at the court of Pope Alexander II. In the greatest anger, he decides on a terrible punishment. Christ, Mary, Mary Magdalene and the Holy Spirit help advise; the devil, quoted before the throne, must invent a means of scourging sinful humanity. He chooses the wickedest of all women Salome, begat a heavenly beautiful woman with her and send her to earth to poison the blood of humanity. The daughter of hell appears to a gathering of the papal family during the holy mass ... In a gloomy dawn she leaves the papal palace with half-bared breast, sleepy, hollow-eyed. The devil rules on them: Now to the cardinals! Then to the archbishops! Then to the ambassadors! Then to the Camerlengo! Then to the Pope's nephews! Then to the bishops! Then through all the monasteries! Then to the rest of the people! - Romp around and stick to the hierarchy! - (Woman leaves slowly. The curtain falls.)

When I recovered from my first anesthetic, I wrote to Panizza:

“Man, how could you have had the recklessness to entrust such a book to the public ?! Thousands will not be able to read it to the end; you will be showered with hatred and contempt. Nobody will believe you are serious. You, the blasphemer, will be spit and nailed to the cross. The savior and the thief had to die the same death! "

I prophesied a minimum of one year in prison for him.

Poor Panizza! Unfortunately, my bill was correct. The fateful book was confiscated, and Panizza fled abroad under pressure from his legal advisers. Soon after, he was placed under a curate. He led a dogged, restless existence and almost died of longing for his German homeland, until, to the horror of his friends, he faced the courts himself, which sentenced him to one year in prison.

When I returned to Germany after five years of absence, the Munich friends were celebrating Panizza's release from captivity. He had become a little pale and thin, but he seemed cheerful and in good spirits. In the quiet conversation, however, I soon recognized the strong change that the gray hours of the prison cell had brought about. The thinker had become a brooder, the knower had become a doubter, the laughing man had become a grinning person. His muffled voice and his puffed eyes stood in shocking contradiction to the bowling atmosphere and the noisy serenity of those hours in the Munich Ratskeller.

A few months after we met again, our intercourse slowed down for reasons still unknown to me until I finally lost it completely from my sight. One day it was said that Panizza had gone mad; in fact, he has been in an insane asylum for over twelve years.

That is how far my personal memories of Oskar Panizza go; they may seem sparse enough to some. But in me the man and the poet left deep, powerful, unforgettable impressions.

This ingenious head not only had the penetrating gaze of the psychiatrist and the relentless logic of the philosopher, he was also especially gifted with a tremendous imagination. His brain was a land of unlimited possibilities. His irresistible tendency towards cynicalism was tempered by touching sincerity and gamin-like humor. He had expanded his fundamentally Lutheran sentiment into the modern age without restricting his fanatical anti-Catholicism. He mixed this polemic and narrow-minded hatred of faith with exuberant fantasy, often putting the latter at the service of the former. And with this armor on, he stepped on the ground of great satire. His historical knowledge and his knowledge of the papacy and Catholic dogmatics, which he had acquired through serious research, predestined him to be a terrible opponent of downright Döllinger importance. But on the one hand he lacked serious purposeful concentration, on the other hand his hate-soaked imagination robbed him of the objective gaze, and so it remained with satire. But he, who has all the artistic tools for a satirist, lacks - here I quote Otto Julius Bierbaum, the precise expert on Panizza - one main thing: the high point of view with the wide view. He has the science of what is wrong in the world in abundance, he has witty imagination in an almost infinite abundance, he has the art of the accurate scourge word. As a character he has the ruthless courage, a daredevil courage of refreshing manliness, the right one who storms everything that gets in his way, be it dung heaps, be it solemn ruins - but he has a narrow horizon.

His book "The Immaculate Conception of the Popes" (Zurich 1893) is a satirical work of the greatest style, as we only very few have. It is perhaps the most terrible, boldest thing that has ever been written against Catholicism. But we see - Bierbaum continues - in this book only the expression of a very eminent satirical talent, and if we are embarrassed by the subject, it is because we wish that such an important satirist would rather seek points of attack that it would It is really worth it to attack with such powerful tools of knowledge and ability. Here lies the weakness of the satirist Panizza. He doesn't see far enough. What rebels in him here is actually the Lutheran, not the completely free man. Basically it is Luther's anger that rages here and storms dogma. The tendency of satire is Don quixottery and challenges itself to satire, and that is regrettable because the artistic value of the work is so extremely important.

What was the Achilles heel in Panizza's oeuvre?

I sum up: this strange person was missing for scientist the iron will and the thoroughness - yet he knew infinitely more than a hundred scholars who, by exploiting a special field to which their talent tended, forced themselves a resounding name and general respect. To the Artist he lacked the divine naive, the harmless of production and above all the longing for the beautiful. He was by no means devoid of self-criticism when he once believed in the real values ​​of his poetry, when it was rewarded as he saw fit; then he sifted with a conscientious hand until a clear form emerged, and looked with tenacious zeal for what was right. But often - all too often! With boyish recklessness he hurled paradoxes into the world, in which, despite the objections of sincere friends, he felt a certain malicious joy; but sometimes it was just a whim. This a-Goethean trait (!) Of his being, which seldom allowed pure joy in the emergence of an art form or in maintaining a uniform style, formed the greatest obstacle in his artistic development. And in spite of all that: his poems, his fantasies, as well as his essays contain numerous artistic moments of true greatness and beauty, undisputed values ​​of exquisite individuality. His phenomenal knowledge of literature and his impeccable memory predestined him to a certain extent to be an epigone, perhaps even a plagiarist: but no one has ever voiced a similar accusation. It was not difficult to recognize the root from which he sometimes drew his strength (even the frequent dedications and mottos of his role models, which he frankly enough at the top of his opera, mostly betray the origin), but there was still a lot of self-strength, a lot of things that I saw myself.

But one thing, as far as I know, has not yet been mentioned when listing Panizza's peculiarities, although it constitutes the most striking pathological factor: the nerve-wracking flight of thoughts and ideas from which he suffered; it undermined the resting points that every normal brain seeks for itself. In the long run he could not resist the restless nervous tension of his imagination. His decadent gourmandise, with which he spied and absorbed everything that centuries had accumulated in literary and artistic delights, produced the worst symptoms of hypertrophy. This soil was all too easily fertilized, all too quickly the exotic heat of his temperament produced this seed; It looked too motley in the wonder garden of his imagination; Between fragrant flowers of the strangest shape ugly weeds shot out, frizzy, confused stuff, hermaphrodites for which there was no name.

"A great fortune is shamefully wasted," is Bierbaum's conclusion in his Panizzaschrift (Society, August 1893).

This tragic word could perhaps be applied to all of Panizza's oeuvre. (Bierbaum was of course not yet familiar with the "Love Council" published in 1895: his judgment would have been different.) But the "Love Council" is, in spite of all tendencies and laws, a work of satanic magnitude, the culmination of the unfortunate in terms of form and content Poet's work ...

In his prime, Panizza (Munich pamphlet) wrote an essay on "Genius and Madness". It was his own diagnosis.

Cologne, April 17, 1914.
Hannes Ruch.


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