The Thwarted Pursuit of the Whole
Germanic Literatures 1
Legenda: Oxford, 2014
The life of the bilingual writer Yvan Goll (1891-1950) was one of perpetual experimentation and self-renewal. In the first study to treat Goll’s whole literary career, Robert Vilain explores the full range of his poetry, novels, dramas, libretti, essays, translations and editions – from Expressionism in pre-war Berlin and fisticuffs with André Breton over Surrealism in post-war Paris, to the dream of a new poetry for the atomic age. Goll’s journey took in satirical Überdramen, extravagantly ironic novels and collaborations with Kurt Weill in the 1920s, lyrical love poetry for his wife and a lover, and the experiences of his magnificent alter ego Jean sans Terre in the 1930s, and poetry inspired by alchemy, geology and the Kabbalah in the 1940s. In 1945 he wrote the first poetic response to the Atom Bomb test, the greatest alchemy of all. Born into a Jewish family on the Franco-German border, at home all over Europe until forced into exile, and at his death an American citizen, Goll both suffered and relished his protean identity, living and writing in search of an elusive experience of wholeness.
Robert Vilain is Professor of German at the University of Bristol.