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Der Uhrwerker von Glarus.

There is one common theme that runs through Ludwig Harig's collection of six humorous slort narratives Der Uhrwerker von Glarus: it is the artistic ability to transform "ordinary" reality into the autonomous world of Dichtung and then to enter and visit this realm "as the only second world in the present one" ("er ist in der Dichtung gewesen als der einzigen zweiten Welt in der hiesigen"). These journeys are executed under the auspices of some late-romantic sentiments. (Jean Paul is the guiding spirit in the pastiche on Holderlin's sojourn to Bordeaux; Peter Schlemihl presides over a journey to Australia, where the protagonist wants to learn to jump over his shadow and arrive at "the other side"; Herr Preetz, living in the present, follows Wilhelm Lehmann's Bukolisches Tagebuch on his way into a gruesomely contemporary death.) When the direct references to the romantic forebears are missing, their bemused and humoresque spirit nevertheless pervades the narratives. This is shown in the inclination to create a world of improbable occurrences (in "Dr. Quirins Reise" the unerhorte Begebenheit centers on the chimpanzee Tinny's literally taking Dr. Quirin's speech away); it is shown in the playful confusion and ultimate destruction of the time dimension, in the interpenetration of narrative voice and narrated event (in "Mein liebster Roland" the narrator becomes the narrated), in the easy violation of verisimilitude, and in the constant movement back and forth between fictional reality and fantasy, between the probable and the purely imaginary. (In "Der Uhrwerker von Glarus," for example, the two explorers who search for the book that teaches how to make time stand still reach a dead end on a mountain path and are rescued by a Mr. Gahler, who simply opens the door to his museum and lets them enter: "Es gelang uns nicht mehr, das Auto zu drehen, wie es den Prinzen nicht mehr moglich war, ihr Pferd zu wenden, wir sassen eingesperrt in unseren Polstern wie sie in ihrem Sattel--da offnete Herr Gahler die Tur seines Museums, wir schlupften hinein und traten vor eine breite Buchervitrine."

Each of the stories focuses on a "fantastic" event to ensure the interrelation of the ordinary and the fantastic and to establish the equivalence of the realms of the ordinary and the imaginary. Ultimately, each of the stories is an homage to Dichtung, to its power to enchant and to posit a reality distinct from that of daily events. In this reality, time is indeed aufgehoben, sublated and transcended, and those who enter partake of its timelessness. When uncle and nephew search for the book that would teach them how to make time stand still, they are wrong in insisting that they must find a specific technical manual, since each and every book can stop time; one only has to start reading! ("Denn jedes Buch vermag die Zeit anzuhalten, man muss nur mit dem Lesen anfangen").

Ernestine Schlant Montclair State College
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Author:Schlant, Ernestine
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 1994
Words:482
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