The magic of Grenouille and the magic of Berholm (from the life of the recent German novel about the artist)


The purpose of this research is to discover and identify the specifics of the modern German novel about the artist in the situation of changing literary epochs in the West. To achieve this goal, the article compares two important works of modern German literature: “Perfume” (1985) by Patric Suskind and “The Magic of Berholme” (1997) by Daniel Kehlmann. In the course of our research, we revealed the similarities in the interpretation of the images of artists: the genius perfumer Jean-Baptiste Grenouille in Suskind’s novel and the unrivaled illusionist Arthur Berholme. Conducting the analysis, we took into account the traditions of the works about artists, created by German writers in the 20th and 21st centuries. This made it possible for us to reveal the connection of the analyzed novels with the leading trends in the development of this genre in its specifically national modification. The novels also focus on the tragic fate of a brilliant artist. This judgement of the artist is based on the modernist approach associated with the idea of the total power of chaos, the primitive hostility of the world, and the tragedy of alienation. The article describes how Patric Suskind and Daniel Kehlmann follow this path, accentuating the genius of their characters, displaying, on the one hand, their extraordinary strength, and on the other hand, depicting its dark, destructive nature, which contributes to the triumph of chaos and absurdity, moral decay, and destruction of beauty. The research results demonstrate that despite the affiliation of these novels to different aesthetic paradigms, postmodern and modern, there exists the possibility of referring them to a current trend in Western literature, neo-modernism, which combines the traits of both trends. In Suskind's novel, the protagonist’s seeming rootedness in reality turns into the fictitiousness of his existence; on the contrary, in Kehlmann’s novel, the ultimate subjectivity of the narrative, demonstrating its conventionality, confirms the “materiality” of creativity as something that leaves a mark on history.

Key words: 

German novels about the artist, artistic paradigm, modernism, postmodernism, neo-modernism.

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