The Dear Purchase: A Theme in German Modernism

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This book studies individual works by twelve major writers of German modernism, including Thomas Mann, Musil, Brecht and Rilke, in relation to the history of the twentieth century. It explores the theme of the 'dear purchase', an ideal of moral strenuousness and sacrifice seen as characteristic of Germany after Nietzsche, and reveals the underlying flaw in this notion as a self-justifying value. In this context, it considers the renaissance of German poetry after 1900, the impact of the War of 1914, its aftermath in uncertainty and relativism, and attitudes to the Hitler period, and finally juxtaposes Mann's Felix Krull and Kafka's story Josephine as a deliverance from the value-system of the title. The Introduction, partly autobiographical, traces J. P. Stern's preoccupation with this interpretation of his material in many of the books he published (especially those concerned with Nietzsche and Hitler), and pays tribute to Wittgenstein's influence on his thinking.