October 22, 2007
Hans Henny Jahnn, The Ship
***2008 Update: I started a separate blog for Hans Henny Jahnn here: http://kebadkenya.blogspot.com/
Brad, the editor of the great Neglected Books site [neglectedbooks.com], posted an annotated list of 20 out-of-print books I made in June of 2000. He added links to all the book titles. I'm going to post images of the books discussed (if I still have them).
The permanent link for the list.
10. The Ship by Hans Henny Jahnn (1894 - 1959)
This book is devastating. Even in the fairly rough English translation, it lodged in my brain and I consider it one of the more powerful and disturbing works of the twentieth century. I first encountered Jahnn in the collection Black Letters Unleashed -- an excerpt from The Ship called "Kebad Kenya," which can be read as a stand-alone story. "Kebad Kenya" is also contained in Thirteen Uncanny Stories. Try to find and read this story! I'll post some of it here soon.
Atlas Press published a translation of Jahnn's 1962 novella The Night of Lead. They say that it "shows Jahnn at his darkest: man is portrayed as the toy of supernatural powers, where his only certainty is a bodily existence which, in turn, is blindly bound to the laws of growth, death and decay and procreation - the major themes of Jahnn’s writing." This description can also apply to The Ship. Even after reading Lovecraft and Thomas Bernhard, I'm tempted to think of Jahnn as the most terrifying author. Bernhard can make me feel a little crazy (finishing Correction was one of the more masochistic things I've ever done, and I grew up on gore movies), but he's often hilarious. Jahnn isn't very funny. He's bleak and unrelenting bizarre.
Back cover of Thirteen Uncanny Stories:
The Case of Hans Henny Jahnn: Criticism and the Literary Outsider (Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture)