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This article is taken from PN Review 11, Volume 6 Number 3, January - February 1980.

Gottfried Benn (II): The Poet in Politics 1933-4 Walter Michel
 
This is the second part of what will now be a three-part study of the work of Gottfried Benn: the first part, "Gottfried Benn: An Introduction" having appeared in PNR 6 (p.30), the third to follow in PNR 12. Translations are by the writer. When poems are quoted in part the total number of stanzas is indicated. All poems quoted here are rhymed in the original, usually ababcdcd for the 8-line stanza. Where the lack of rhyme in the translation seemed particularly disturbing the critical word has been put in parentheses. Accents, inversions and locutions are not in the original, but are makeshifts of the translation, used to achieve something of the rhyme, rhythm or wording of the original.

Could not perhaps a nation educate itself to clarity on these (masters of the word: the brothers Mann), on the golden, cold quality that lies about the things they have completed; could not a nation begin to look to this positivism of worked for, hard and absolute things, rather than to the positivism of anonymous truth, of amorphous knowledge, of the fluctuating formulae of scientific relativism? Could not, then, a nation, with its perspective changed in this way. . . also see art differently, art, the proper task of life, the last transcendence within the great European Nichts; art: artistic, dionysiac, perhaps also senseless, like space and time, and the thought and the unthought, and yet it alone-by that reflex of immortality which form causes to rise from ...


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