Jakob Wassermann

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Jakob Wassermann
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Wassermann, Jakob


Born Mar. 10, 1873, in Fürth, Bavaria; died Jan. 1, 1934, in Alt-Aussee, Austria. German writer. Born into a bourgeois Jewish family.

Wassermann was the author of the novels The Jews of Zirndorf (1897; Russian translation, 1909), Story of the Young Renata Fuchs (1900; Russian translation, 1908), Caspar Hauser (1908; Russian translation, 1926), The Goose Man (1915; Russian translation, 1925), Christian Wahnschaffe (1919), and others in which social and ethical themes are combined. In the trilogy from the life of German youth—the novels The Maurizius Case (1928; Russian translation, 1929), Etzel Andergast (1931), and Kerkhoven’s Third Existence (1934)—the dissolution of the bourgeois family and the inhuman character of bourgeois relations are portrayed; however, Wassermann did not go beyond the ideals of bogoiskateVstvo (god-seeking). He wrote the satirical play Comedy of Lies (1898) and the book Pilgrim’s Spirit (1923; Russian translation—excerpts under the title Kakhamarka s Gold—1956).


Gesammelte Werke, vols. 1-7. Zürich, 1944-48.
In Russian translation:
Sobr. soch., vols. 1-5. Moscow, 1912-13.


Istoriia nemetskoi literatury, vol. 4. Moscow, 1968. Chapter 33.
Lennartz, F. Dichter und Schriftsteller unserer Zeit, 7th ed. Stuttgart [1957].
Voegeli, W. Jakob Wasserman und die Trägheit des Herzens. Winterthur, 1956.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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One detail: an early Berlin reading shared with Jakob Wassermann, which the editors (they are meticulous) label 'nicht belegt', is confirmed by an imaginative newspaper report that contrasts Wassermann's dark colouring with 'der blonde, ganz und gar norddeutsche Thomas Mann, ein mokantes Simplicissimus-Lachelnumdie scharfblickendenAugen' (BerlinerTageblatt, 5February 1903;TMA, Ida Herz Sammlung).
The authors discussed include Heinrich Heine (1798-1856), Berthold Auerbach (1812-1882), Karl Emil Franzos (1848-1904), Karl Kraus (1874-1936), Arthur Schnitzler (1862-1931), Jakob Wassermann (1873-1934), Max Brod (1884-1968), Franz Kafka (1883-1924), and Lion Feuchtwanger (1884-1958).
Arthur Schnitzler and Jakob Wassermann used him as the model for aesthetes in their works, and he may also be among the originals for the decadent Detlev Spinell in Thomas Mann's Tristan.
He is particularly incisive in exploring the tensions of assimilation and acculturation as they are depicted in the Jewish family novels of Ludwig Jacobowski, Jakob Wassermann, Georg Hermann, Arthur Schnitzler, Auguste Hauschner, Adolf Dessauer, and Max Brod.
Switching from the lyric to the epic genre Gottschalk selects Jakob Wassermann's novel of 1907 Caspar Hauser oder Die Tragheit des Herzens and seeks to prove that this novel explores the psycho-sexual dynamics latent within both the foundling and his various relationships, but concludes that Wassermann is unable to shake off the cloak of hypocritical bourgeois morality so rooted in German society at that time.