The German and Austrian Expressionists of the first two decades of the twentieth century constituted one of the truest and most energetic avant-garde movements of the last hundred years. In little more than fifteen years they brought about lasting and fundamental changes in the fields of dance, drama, painting, film, typography and, all too often overlooked, in writing. Concentrated in the years preceding the First World War, the movement burned like a magnesium flare, short-lived but intense, and very much in keeping with the tempo of modern city life which was its chosen backdrop. Much of the writing, as assembled here for the first time in this anthology, belies the gaunt, grainy, slice-of-life demeanour that is the movement’s traditional image. Instead we find dandyish despair, slapstick horror, and black humour, visionary speculation, linguistic experimentation, the arcane and the capriciously grotesque - in other words, the dreams and dementia that fed into Dada, that served as the true precursor of Surrealism, and inspired the “Vienna Group” in the 1950s.
This anthology, originally put together for Polygon of Edinburgh (then sold at £9.95) and now available exclusively from Atlas Press, incorporates several of the movement’s illustrious forerunners, such as Franz Held, Oskar Panizza, and Paul Scheerbart; a large number of the early Expressionists, whose writings are especially astonishing for their absurdism and archness of tone, such as Albert Ehrenstein, Hans Arp, and Gottfried Benn; and concludes with the early Dada and Surrealistic speculations of Hugo Ball, Wieland Herzfelde, and Kurt Schwitters.
Writers included: Franz Held, Oskar Panizza, Albert Mombert, Paul Scheerbart, Alfred Döblin, Albert Ehrenstein, Carl Einstein, Gustav Meyrink, Georg Heym, Ferdinand Hardekopf, Wassily Kandinsky, Mynona, Hans Arp, Alfred Wolfenstein, Paul Zech, Else Lasker-Schüler, Georg Trakl, Alfred Lichtenstein, Theodor Däubler, Heinrich Nowak, Gottfried Benn, Hans Flesch-Brunningen, Hugo Ball, Conrad Felixmüller, Heinrich Schaefer, Wieland Herzfelde, Kurt Schwitters, Franz Kafka, Iwan Goll, Robert Musil, Hermann Ungar. Plus short biographies of all the writers, and an introductory essay by Malcolm Green.