EXILE IN NEW YORK: German and Austrian Writers after 1933 by Helmut F. Pfanner

EXILE IN NEW YORK: German and Austrian Writers after 1933

Email this review


Unlike Anthony Heilbut's ambitious, comprehensive Exiled in Paradise (p. 352), this slight study has a modest, fairly superficial goal: to draw a few generalizations about intellectual-ÉmigrÉ life from the writings of some N.Y.-based German/Austrian exiles. Planner offers excerpts from autobiographies, letters, and fiction--some of them previously unpublished, most of them from such little-known writers as Hans Natonek, Leo Lania, Claudia Martell, Salamon Dembitzer, and Oskar Maria Graf. There are chapters on pre-exile experience (""The American visa figures significantly in exile fiction""), first impressions of America, contrasting attitudes toward US relief organizations (including hostility from Communist writers). Later, with the exiles more or less settled, there are short discussions of specific disappointments and frustrations: the difficulties in finding work, cultural conflicts (from eating habits to child-rearing), language problems, obstacles within the publishing world. The political feelings of the exiles are treated in one small, simplified chapter--emphasizing ""their growing sense of historical mission."" And the final sections consider the exiles' nostalgia, their feelings of isolation and lost identity, and their ambivalent postwar attitude towards the possibility of returning to Europe (a conflict which sometimes ""bordered on schizophrenia""). Pfanner, who writes with expository flatness, has no startling conclusions here: despite frustrations and disillusionments, most exiles basically felt ""gratitude that they had been able to find a place in the New World where they could live as free human beings and eventually regain their personal and professional dignity."" None of the insights into exile-life will come as a surprise to those who've read Heilbut. But a few of the lesser-known particulars are engaging--and a large appendix, listing hundreds of exile writings (many in German only), will interest specialists.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1983
Publisher: Wayne State Univ. Press