Trans Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 15. Nr. August 2004

5.9. Austrian Writers and the Unifying Aspects of Cultures
HerausgeberInnen | Editors | Éditeurs: Donald G. Daviau (Riverside)

Buch: Das Verbindende der Kulturen | Book: The Unifying Aspects of Cultures | Livre: Les points communs des cultures

Das Verbindende der Kulturen: Franz Werfel's Verdi-Novel

Todd C. Hanlin (University of Arkansas, USA)


Introduction: Franz Werfel's Life and Art

In identifying Austrian writers who have exerted a transnational influence during the first half of the 20th century, one of the most likely candidates would be Franz Viktor Werfel. Werfel is a remarkable example of the diversity that typified the Habsburg Monarchy a century ago: Like the majority within the Empire, he was assuredly in a minority - in his profession of choice as poet/writer/dramatist, as a Jew within a predominantly Catholic society, a German-speaker in Czech Prague, but also as a humanist, an Expressionist, and as a pacifist. His minority status certainly heightened his sensitivity to other minorities and to foreigners. Moreover, his poetry, plays, and novels gained worldwide acclaim and have been translated into over twenty major foreign languages.(1) He enjoyed numerous bestsellers - works which have resonated with an international reading public since 1911: in poetry with his first volumes Der Weltfreund, Wir sind, and Einander; with plays like Jacobowsky und der Oberst; and with novels such as Das Lied von Bernadette, Die 40 Tage des Musa Dagh, and Stern der Ungeborenen, to name but a few.

Born in Prague in 1890 to a well-to-do family, young Franz avoided serious study in the gymnasium and later serious drudgery in the workplace in direct proportion to the growing success of his poetry. He saw brief service behind the front lines in the Great War and was then called to the propaganda ministry, the Kriegspressequartier, in Vienna where he struggled to uplift morale on the home front, while simultaneously giving pacifistic speeches in Switzerland. As a poet, writer, and dramatist he was popular and thus soon financially independent.(2) Though politically naïve, he and his family finally were forced to flee from the Nazis, escaping to the United States. His wealth was sustained through best-selling novels in English translation, but he suffered a heart attack and died in 1945 at the age of 54.

What makes Franz Werfel of such abiding interest to us as a spokesman for multiculturalism is unmistakably his international credentials as a citizen of the Habsburg monarchy, including his many travels: after an internship in Hamburg during his teens, he lived and wrote in Leipzig, was a soldier in East Galicia, gave lectures in Switzerland, vacationed in Venice, toured in the Middle East, Palestine, Egypt, Syria, then fled from the Nazis through France, Spain, and Portugal to the United States Consequently, many of his protagonists and topics were international as well: his novels featured characters like his Czech nursemaid, Barbara, in Barbara oder die Frömmigkeit; the French saint Bernadette of Lourdes in Das Lied von Bernadette; in some respects his crowning glory was the novel Die 40 Tage des Musa Dagh, for which many Armenians still consider Werfel their poet laureate. And for our purposes today, he also wrote a hugely successful novel about the 19th-century Italian composer, Giuseppe Verdi.


Verdi - Werfel's Novel and the "Verdi Renaissance"

As depicted by Werfel in the novel Verdi, Roman der Oper,(3) the Italian composer has not been able to complete a single operatic work for the past ten years.(4) Now, in 1883 at the advanced age of 70, he has run dry of inspiration and begun to doubt the significance of his completed artistic creations; Verdi has secretly retired to Venice, in hopes of jump-starting an earlier opera based on Shakespeare's King Lear. At this advanced stage in his career, Verdi's earlier operatic successes have been somewhat eclipsed by the new music dramas of Richard Wagner, which were seen as more serious, more intellectual works than those popular pieces by the so-called "organ-grinder" Verdi; as the novel relates, concerning Wagner's popularity: "Als vor vielen Jahren der Deutsche hier in Venedig den Tristan schrieb, kümmerten sich nur sehr wenige Menschen um ihn. In diesem Winter aber war er ausserordentlich in Mode, und nicht nur in Venedig, sondern in der höheren Welt ganz Italiens" (156).

During the course of the novel, Verdi encounters several other musical types - though, ironically, never Wagner, whom Verdi had hoped to meet in Venice, but the German dies just before Verdi can see him. Through the death of his perceived rival, Verdi is able to regain his confidence and inspiration, ultimately to compose his two capstone operas, Otello and Falstaff. (5)

As we soon discover, this story of Verdi's life is not historical reality, but a "Novel of the Opera," as the subtitle remind us - it is not biography per se, but a fiction based on Werfel's prejudices. One scholar explains:

In Werfel's opinion Verdi has developed Italian opera to its highest point while at the same time preserving its tradition... In the course of the novel Werfel displays his tremendous knowledge as a music theorist. The work thus becomes a novel about music and musical tastes, a novel about opera. In juxtaposing Verdi, the Italian, and Wagner, the German, the author pits classical Italian opera against the new Wagnerian development: the music drama. In so doing the bel canto of Italian opera is victorious over the Wagnerian Gesamt- kunstwerk, musical inspiration over the leading idea, independent vocal melody over the orchestral symphony, pure singing style over dramatic declamation, and the aria over the leitmotiv. Since Werfel's love and sympathy belong to the Italian opera, Verdi wins as an artist and as a human being.(6)

Indeed, Werfel did more than simply write a novel about the Italian composer - he actually resurrected Verdi's reputation and his music for the 20th century. As part of a well-orchestrated campaign, Werfel edited Verdi's letters, gave speeches, wrote essays, and made Verdi's works more accessible by reworking six libretti in German, among them Simone Boccanegra, Don Carlo, and La forza del destino.(7) And of course he also wrote THE novel, an instant international success that would be translated into a dozen of the world's major languages.(8)

As for the "Verdi-Renaissance," which Werfel seemingly initiated single-handedly, the music scholar George Martin writes:

"It is fair to ask how significant in reality was Werfel in the renaissance. Journalists and critics often create figureheads around whom to group ideas or movements, but in this instance, even after the more general reasons are stated and subtracted, because of his books, speeches, and musical editions, the man remains important. In England the critic Neville Cardus concluded that Verdi, A Novel of the Opera 'helped to put Verdi on the map,' and in France, André Schaeffner cites as an important year in the renaissance, 1933, when the novel first was published in French. In Italy, though Toscanini at La Scala in the years 1921-28 made Verdi his god and revitalized many of the operas, in [the critic] Mila's opinion the greater influence in making Verdi once again intellectually respectable was Werfel. Similarly [the scholar] Toye, in the preface to his Giuseppe Verdi, His Life and Works (1930), gives more weight to the German renaissance than to the Toscanini revivals...."(9)


Das Verbindende in Theory and Practice

For the purposes of this conference it would suffice simply to trace Werfel's artistic encounters with various cultures and the reciprocal effect on his art - his foreign travels, his multicultural topics, his successes with foreign readers. But it is fascinating to note that precisely in his novel about Verdi and opera, Werfel anticipated our conference and its focal point. Throughout the book we are confronted, directly and indirectly, with basic questions regarding artists, their art, and their impact on audiences, domestic and foreign - in other words, the very essence of "Das Verbindende der Kulturen." For instance, having traced the erratic careers of several serious musicians in his novel, Werfel tempts us to ask whether cultural agents and their works must be permanent, significant bonds between cultures? Or might there also be temporary bonding agents, brief fads or superficial contacts that nevertheless bring diverse cultures closer together, if only briefly or peripherally?

First, taste and thus the appreciation of art changes over time, and in unpredictable ways. Werfel has Verdi say: "Was jetzt schon veraltet klingt, hätte man in meiner Jugend als Ohrengraus ausgepfiffen.... Die Melodie ist an ihr Zeitalter gebunden... Sie kann weder zeitlich noch räumlich unendlich sein"(200-201). As if to underscore the transitoriness of any given cultural exchange, Werfel has created a peripheral character who, due to the fact that he is 105 years old, offers a unique perspective on life and art. This character, the Marchese Gritti,(10) creates an analogy to the world of art by noting the changes in language during the century of his life:

"Unsere Sprachen machen im Ablauf der wenigen Jahrzehnte, die wir unser Leben nennen, eine unmerkliche Entwicklung durch. In unserer Kindheit haben die Menschen anders geredet als heute und nicht nur in gewissen Modeworten und technischen Ausdrücken, die wie veraltete Maschinen zur Seite gestellt worden sind. Bis in die geheimsten Endungen, Biegungen, Wendungen verändert sich das Wort. Doch nur nach einem grossen natürlich beendeten Geschichtsabschnitt wird die Veränderung allgemein wahrnehmbar" (45).

Thus language, like the people who use it, and the general cultural environment may undergo transformation over time, while the artwork itself does not. The result can even diminish the fame of the artist or his artwork. In the novel Verdi admits that he doesn't know his musical contemporaries anymore, and even Shakespeare, the inspiration for so many of his operas, is growing more and more unintelligible.

"Er selbst [Verdi], der Fachmann, hatte im Büstenmausoleum Grittis von allen Grössen des beginnenden und mittleren Ottocento ausser Pergolese und Piccini nur noch Jomelli dem Namen nach gekannt. Und die ewigen Grössen? Zu Shakespeare, der, wenn man ganz, ganz aufrichtig sein wollte, zur Hälfte schon unverständlich und schwer erträglich war, führte die lächerlich kleine Brücke von etwa acht Generationen. Und der mythische Ausgang aller Kunst, Homer? Sollte er je gelebt haben, trennten uns nur neunzig Menschenalter von ihm...." (303)

Similarly, cultural affinities between nations change as the times and tastes change. Our cultural artifacts can not, of themselves, change, but they can be ignored or forgotten, disappear or even be destroyed. Not simply fame, but ultimate existence, too, can be fleeting. To illustrate this point, Werfel uses the fictitious centenarian, the Marchese Gritti, as an example: the 105-year-old nobleman has gone to the theater every evening of his life, has collected the programs for each of the thousands of performances he has attended, and thus established his own museum, representing a type of "institutional memory." Inevitably, Gritti will soon die, and his "museum" catches fire, burns down, destroying all that he had scrupulously preserved. Now - assuming that no redundant collection exists - Gritti, his museum, and any trace of those thousands of performances, authors, directors, actors, et al are permanently lost to our collective cultural memory. Thus throughout the novel we realize that works of art and the prominence of the artists who create them, are unique, immutable, yet vulnerable, and perhaps most discouraging, perishable.


Werfel and Verdi

Ten years before he wrote his Verdi-novel, the poet Werfel penned the following pessimistic yet prophetic lines:

"Fremde sind wir auf der Erde Alle,
Und es stirbt, womit wir uns verbinden."(11)

It is notable that the exuberant Expressionist poet Franz Werfel would first categorize himself and all his fellow human beings as strangers, as Fremde,(12) and that whatever binds us together is dying. How are we to understand the ambiguity of "das Verbindende" here? Was Werfel, in this poem from the collection Einander, published in 1915, referring to the Great War? To the centrifugal force of nationalism, pulling apart the Habsburg Empire of his day, as reflected in the events at Sarajevo? Is he deploring the absence of humanism on a continental or global scale? Or simply regretting the impact of an increasingly hectic and impersonal modern world? We could surmise that this sentiment is more likely a symptom of the time in which he wrote the poem than Werfel's final word on mankind's isolation. Werfel, as boy and as man, had grown up under the sway of the Habsburg monarchy, a multinational, multicultural entity. The loss of its cohesion, stability, and cultural legacy could easily have been the object of Werfel's despair.

One reason for this pessimism is expressed a decade later in the novel, in the words of the poet and composer Boito: Art today is a waste of time: "Brauchen die Menschen Kunst? Ohne Zögern gab er sich selbst Antwort: Die heutigen Völker brauchen nicht im mindesten irgendeine höhere Kunst. Soweit es eine solche gibt, ist sie müssiges Spiel der lebensunfähigen Absprengsel gewisser wohlgesättigter Schichten. Diese ganze Kunst ist, wie so vieles andere, eine weitergepäppelte Pietätslüge" (302). No doubt Werfel, who lived for and from his art, was writing here tongue-in-cheek! Nevertheless, it begs the question whether art has any claims to the "truth," whether art has a deserving audience, whether art is ultimately worth the effort.

If art is worth the effort, Werfel prompts us to ask whether one man can make a difference in establishing a work of art or a specific artist among the world's cultures? Cultural bonding agents and their works are individual, not reciprocal, not logical, not predictable, not imitable. Works that are successful in several cultures are, even for the artists themselves, a mystery and a miracle; later in the novel our friend Boito defines the nature of "Das Verbindende" in the following manner: "Die Menschen ergreifen einen Gesang, ein Werk, einen Namen. Sie genießen ihn, und wie in ein Gefäß versenken sie ihre eigenen Visionen und Tränen darein. Eine mystische Mitwirkung, ein gegenseitiges Geben und Nehmen entsteht. Es ist nicht nur Genie und Schicksal, es ist eine unerklärliche Kraft im Spiel, wenn ein Mensch oder eine Tat zum Märchen wird." (355-356)

Who would be interested in sponsoring another artist's case? It would be beneficial if the sponsor were multi-national, as in the case of Werfel, and thus with few ties to a single, dominant "national" culture; were sensitive to a minority (such as the Czechs Werfel met at the Café Arco in Prague), or were from a minority himself (like Werfel, the well-to-do German-speaking Jew amidst a poor Czech Christian majority); and if one were not in the cultural capital of the country, Vienna, but rather in a provincial backwater like Prague. And, at some point, the sponsor would be acquainted with the commercial marketplace, perhaps dependent upon greater markets than his own for artistic and commercial success (for Werfel, Germany at first, later all of Europe). Werfel certainly qualified as a multi-nationalist, but also as a passionate artist of Expressionism. Intellectually, he was interested in international, multicultural issues, interested not in the political aspects but in cultural and human conditions on a global scale. In spite of his nationality, or perhaps again because of his transnational upbringing, Werfel was oblivious to politics, both those of the Habsburgs and, later, to those of the Nazis.(13) Interestingly, he was able to support Verdi for artistic reasons - despite the fact that the Maestro's operas frequently contained anti-Austrian sentiments. A large number of Verdi's operas were political or patriotic in nature, and at least to some degree supported Italian independence from Austria. As one scholar emphasizes: "...Austria was recognized clearly as the chief obstacle to independence for any Italian state"(14)

Secondly, why would a sponsor sacrifice his time, energy, and talents on another artist's behalf? Certainly it would require an enduring love for the cause at hand. As a boy Werfel had heard Verdi, was enthralled at guest performances by Enrico Caruso singing Verdi, learned many arias by heart, would sing them at the drop of a hat, and would defend "his" composer against more popular ones, Wagner, for example.(15)

Furthermore, a benefactor might feel a personal empathy or elective affinity with the other artist: There is the suspicion that, on a personal level, Werfel identified more with the southern Verdi of his novel than the northern Wagner of his imagination: Verdi's modesty, inwardness, humility, insecurity, his ties to the common man rather than to an aristocracy, his charity rather than selfishness, his personal embellishment of "edle Einfalt und stille Größe" all appealed to Werfel. Too, perhaps Werfel felt he was as genial and modest as Verdi? After all, "Werfel's Verdi is an artist of the people, a popular artist in the best sense of the word."(16) Werfel may have identified with Verdi's peasant soul, his works for the masses; since Werfel was no intellectual, having done poorly in school, repeating grades, he was not enchanted by the psychological and intellectual aspects of Wagner's music dramas and the Geist they represented!(17) And, if that weren't enough, as many critics point out, Werfel could simply create a Verdi more to his own liking, a product of his imagination more than that of reality or history.(18)

As if in his own defense, Werfel has Verdi's friend, the Senator, proclaim:

"Die moderne Kunstmaxime versucht das Banale, damit man es nicht durchschaue, zu komplizieren. Unser Maestro aber hat das Gewaltigste und Komplizierteste vereinfacht. Er ist der letzte Volks- und Menschheitskünstler, ein herrlicher Anachronismus des Jahrhunderts...Schön, tugendhaft schön zu leben lehrt die Kunst, sagt dieser Vers eines unbekannten Tragikers. Lehrt uns diese moderne Kunst wirklich das schöne Leben?" (345-346).

The answer, of course, for both Verdi and Wefel, would be an emphatic 'no!'

As a further source of self-identification, at this point in his artistic career Werfel could agree with Verdi's self-assessment and self-deprecation: "Denn was bin ich? Ein leerer, fauler, unglücklicher Rentner eines Ruhms, der lange nicht mehr wahr ist. Zehn Jahre bin ich kein Komponist mehr, und ein wirklicher Bauer leider auch nicht." (51). Werfel himself had been suffering a dry spell and surely perceived himself as a "has-been," since his success with poetry had peaked years before his first lengthy prose work here in 1924.(19)



In conclusion, Werfel forces us to ask the question: Who determines taste? The privileged few who have the leisure and wealth to cultivate "good taste"? The masses with their popular appeal? An educated cultural elite who require generations of students to digest their favorite authors and works? Individual popularizers or defenders like Werfel? The challenge, in Werfel's eyes, was to restore Verdi to his rightful place in the pantheon of music, having been displaced by the "new" music of Richard Wagner. More specifically: Can one man make a difference in establishing the collateral value of a work of art or a specific artist? In the novel Verdi promised to exert his considerable influence to assist two composers, Sassaroli and Fischböck, and a crippled tenor, Mario, though, in the end, none of them was able to take advantage of the Maestro's generosity to further their artistic careers. Could Werfel now act as a benefactor, a sponsor, a publicity agent for Verdi, as Verdi had so unsuccessfully done in the novel for his three protegés?

Werfel obviously felt that he could, indeed, influence public opinion on an international scale and thus revive Verdi's reputation and his operatic oeuvre. That Werfel succeeded (and in the process revived his own flagging career!(20)) was the product of various and diverse fortunate circumstances: First, the time was right. As Peter Gay has written:

...Franz Werfel, among the first of the Expressionist poets, turned toward objectivity from conviction rather than opportunism; his call for humane pacific cosmopolitanism, for plain goodness, never wavered, but his techniques developed from exuberant playfulness to meticulous precision. Around 1924 Werfel's metamorphosis was practically complete; in that year he published a major novel, Verdi, which portrays Verdi in the midst of an unproductive period.... In style as in message, Werfel's Verdi reads like an awakening from Expressionism and a return to reality.(21)

Werfel's style had matured, he had rekindled his enthusiasm for classical music and for Verdi's operas in particular, and, of course, was still a young man endowed with extensive artistic gifts with which to bring his novel to fruition.

For the general European public, it was also time for a return to the simple beauty of Verdi's operas: 12-tone music and various other attempts to bring serious music into the 20th century had frequently encountered resistance; but the events of the new century were also baffling, disturbing, yes, frightening: the chaos and horror of the Great War; the confusion, upheavals, and despair of the first post-war period; Germany's Weimar Republic, Austria's First Republic, Italy's fascism, Russia's communism; furthermore, world-wide economic inflation and eventual depression, a seeming loss of tradition and morality, the absence of law and order during the "roaring Twenties," and on and on.

Werfel's question at the outset was: Are we losing "das Verbindende der Kulturen" or can we still create art which will enrich, engage, connect us? His initial answer was 'no' in the poem quoted at the outset - "Es stirbt/Womit wir uns verbinden" - and Werfel implies the same pessimistic verdict in his Verdi-novel. But Werfel the fan nevertheless attempted to restore Verdi as an international favorite. What better sponsor could Verdi have wished for himself than a product of the Habsburg Monarchy, a multicultural, international humanist - a dedicated Expressionist - who advocated international brotherhood and cultural diversity, regardless of politics, race, religion, nationality, or class affiliation? Werfel thus provided a basis for his own epitaph: we could surely say of Werfel, of his life and his art, and his work on Verdi's behalf, almost 60 years now after his death:

"Und es lebt, womit wir uns verbinden." (emphasis mine).

© Todd C. Hanlin (University of Arkansas, USA)


(1) According to FirstSearch:WorldCat,, as of 13 October 2003.

(2) Werfel could thus afford to travel widely, for inspiration, relaxation, and also to complete many reading tours to popularize his works.

(3) Franz Werfel, Verdi: Roman der Oper (Frankfurt a/M: Fischer, 1979). All further citations within the text will be to this edition.

(4) George Martin, in his "Franz Werfel and the 'Verdi Renaissance,' Aspects of Verdi (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1988), attempts to set the record straight: "As history or conventional biography, of course, the novel is mostly false. Verdi did not go to Venice in 1882, never tried to meet Wagner, and was not oppressed by him in this fashion. In the years 1881 to 1883 he was not blocked artistically, for he revised Boccanegra, adding considerable new and excellent music, began work on Otello, and started revising Don Carlos, again adding marvelous new music. Yet, in its way, the 'block' is a good symbol of the problem presented to Italian composers by the European triumph of Wagner and his theories: Would they remain true to their tradition of sung drama with the voice and melody predominant, or would they capitulate to Wagner's style?" (75)

(5) Walter Sokel sees the crux of the issue differently - as the failure of the artist to create. Thus he feels that Verdi "has succumbed to a neurotic hunger to be greater than his fellow man, to outshine him and have no gods beside himself. He is saved as soon as he can feel indifferent to the eclipse of this fame and resign his compulsive ambition to outdo Wagner.... As Verdi changes from a machine of creativeness to a simple human being who can live without greatness, the dried-up wells of his creativeness flow again, and his art becomes greater than it ever was." In: Walter H. Sokel, The Writer in Extremis: Expressionism in Twentieth-Century German Literature (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964), pp. 150-151.

(6) Hans Wagener, Understanding Franz Werfel (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1993), p. 81.

(7) Kurt Pinthus, Hrsg., Menschheitsdämmerung: ein Dokument des Expressionismus (Berlin: Ernst Rowohlt, 1959), pp. 365-367.

(8) The Verdi-novel alone has been rendered in Armenian, Croatian, Czech, Dutch, English, French, Hungarian, Italian, Romanian, Russian, Slovenian, and Spanish, according to WorldCat, as of 13 October 2003. The additional languages into which other works have been translated include: Chinese, Hebrew, Japanese, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish, and Ukranian.

(9) Martin, p. 68.

(10) In the novel Werfel introduces him and his ambiguous origins as if to release the author from all credibility: "Andrea Geminiano Maria Arcangelo Leone Gritti war oder nannte sich Nachkomme jenes nicht unbekannten Dogen gleichen Namens, der zu Anfang des sechzehnten Jahrhunderts sich um Musik, Skulptur und Baukunst Venedigs einige Verdienste erworben hat" (39).

(11) Franz Werfel, Gedichte aus den Jahren 1908-1945 (Los Angeles: Privatdruck der Pazifischen Presse, 1946), p. 43.

(12) Vincent J. Günther, in his essay "Franz Werfel," examines the theme of Fremdsein in Werfel's works and from a religious point of view: see Deutsche Dichter der Moderne: Ihr Leben und Werk, Hrsg. Benno von Wiese (Berlin: Erich Schmidt, 1965), pp. 280-299.

(13) "Wie weit Werfel den Roman [Musa Dagh] im Bewußtsein seiner Aktualität angesichts des mächtig werdenden Nationalsozialismus gestaltet hat, muß dahingestellt bleiben, besonders, wenn man seine unsichere Haltung diesem gegenüber bedenkt. Zwar nahm Werfel die politischen Veränderungen in Deutschland im Jahr 1933 wahr, verweigerte sich aber den unvermeidlichen Konsequenzen. Er wollte weiter Mitglied der Preußischen Akademie der Künste bleiben, unterzeichnete daher eine Loyalitätserklärung zum neuen nationalsozialistischen Kurs der Vereinigung: man schloß ihn trotzdem aus der Akademie aus. Bei den nationalsozialistischen Bücherverbrennungen in Deutschland im Mai 1933 wurden auch Bücher Werfels symbolisch vernichtet und anschließend aus öffentlichen Bibliotheken entfernt... Möglicherweise gedrängt von seinem Verleger und in der Angst, den Markt in Deutschland zu verlieren, suchte Aufnahme in den Reichsverband Deutscher Schriftsteller, die nationalsozialistische Berufsorganisation, an... Es ist keine direkte Antwort auf dieses - für einen Juden gegenüber der NSDAP-hörigen Organisation erniedrigende - Ansuchen bekannt." In Heinz Lunzer u. Victoria Lunzer-Talos, "Franz Werfel 1890-1945: Katalog," Zirkular, n.d (1990), p. 48.

(14) Martin mentions Nabucco, I Lombardi, Attila, and Macbeth as operas with Risorgimento themes (p. 7).

(15) Norbert Abels, in his Franz Werfel (Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1990), cites an undated letter Werfel wrote to the dramatist Gerhard Hauptmann: "Verdi war mein musikalisches Jugenderlebnis, ein eigenes Erlebnis, das ich gegen Haß, Mißachtung, Unglauben verteidigen mußte. Eine verlachte Liebe ist die ehrgeizigste Liebe, die es gibt" (p. 65).

(16) Wagener, p. 81.

(17) The radical, mentally unstable composer Fischböck condemns contemporary classical music with the diatribe: "Dann aber war das achtzehnte Jahrhundert zu Ende, und der oberste aller Beelzebube, Beethoven, trat prompt ein, und ihm gelang es, die Eitelkeit, Hohlheit, Brutalität, Beschränktheit seiner Person in Musik zu setzen. Der so gewonnene Gegenstand schamloser Nervenreizung nannte sich 'Seele'! Jetzt wird in allen Konzertsälen der Welt dem genußsüchtigen Pöbel 'Seele' verkauft, verschwommene, psychische Inhalte und schlechte Musik..." (p. 180

(18) For an extensive comparison of the fictionalized and the real Verdi, as well as Werfel's artistic challenges in this regard, see Wagener, pp. 78-81.

(19) Richard Specht, Werfel's collaborator on the volume of Verdi's correspondence, opined that Werfel himself was also a topic in this novel: "Nicht nur in dem Sinne, daß seine leidenschaftliche persönliche Neigung für Verdi, die schon seine Jugend erfüllt hat, ihn zum Nachbilden dieser über alles teuren Meistergestalt drängen mußte; zwölf Jahre lang hat er den Entwurf in sich herumgetragen... Aber dieser Zwang wäre vielleicht kein derart entscheidender gewesen, wenn in Werfel selbst nicht so vieles lebendig wäre, was wie eine vorbestimmte Affinität zu Verdis Wesen anmutet. Hat er nicht wirklich viel von dem italienischen Maestro? Den Fiebertropfen im Blute, die romanische Sinnenfreude, die Lust am Ariosen, an der Stretta, an Übersteigerung und Ensemblewirkung... - aber auch die Schmerzen des Überfüllten in unproduktiver Zeit, mit der jedesmal heftiger und unwiderleglicher über ihn hereinbrechenden verzweifelten Überzeugung endgültigen Ausgeleertseins und Unvermögens, den inneren Widerspruch und Zwiespalt, die 'rasenden Spannungen,' die Strenge gegen die eigene Pose und den gewollten Wohllaut - all das ist beiden eigen, und mit all diesen seelischen Merkmalen hat Werfel den größten Melodiker der Opernwelt gezeichnet, ohne zu ahnen, daß er damit gleichzeitig ein Spiegelbild hinstellt und ein Bekenntnis ablegt." In Franz Werfel: Versuch einer Zeitspiegelung (Berlin/Wien: Paul Zsolnay Verlag, 1926), pp. 263-264.

(20) Peter Stephan Jungk writes: "Bereits wenige Tage nach Erscheinen des Verdi-Romans, Anfang April 1924, zeichnete sich ein großer Verkaufserfolg für das Buch ab: die erste Auflage von zwanzigtausend Exemplaren war rasch vergriffen, sogleich wurde eine zweite nachgedruckt. Die Reaktion der Leserschaft übertraf Werfels Erwartungen bei weitem - seit dem 'Weltfreund'-Erfolg, vor nunmehr zwölf Jahren, hatte er solch begeisterte Zustimmung für sein Werk nicht erlebt." In: Franz Werfel: Eine Lebensgeschichte (Frankfurt/M.: S. Fischer Verlag, 1987), pp. 151-152.

(21) Peter Gay, Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider (New York: Harper & Row, 1970, p.123.

5.9. Austrian Writers and the Unifying Aspects of Cultures

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For quotation purposes:
Todd C. Hanlin (University of Arkansas, USA): Das Verbindende der Kulturen: Franz Werfel's Verdi-Novel. In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 15/2003. WWW:

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