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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The theme of aloneness in the work of Hans Erich Nossack Roper, David Andrew

Abstract

Wide divergence in the opinions expressed about Nossack's work can be explained by the lack of comprehensive studies establishing the basis for a more objective and comprehensive understanding. This study, "werkimmanent" in its approach, examines the theme of aloneness as a key to Nossack's work. The presence of aloneness in his work has been recognized, but usually misinterpreted as a negative, undesirable aspect of modern life. Though recognizing the dangers of aloneness and suffering occasionally a negative feeling of isolation, Nossack attaches to aloneness a positive value as an intrinsic part of the authentic human condition. Three types of aloneness are distinguished: personal aloneness, arising from the individual's isolation from personal relationships, socio-cultural aloneness, arising from a lack of relatedness to society and culture, and spiritual aloneness, arising from the individual's feeling of being lost in an incomprehensible and bewildering universe. Because of its positive value there is ultimately no attempted escape from the experience through any of the normal involvements and activities of life. Though there are certain eliminable determinants of aloneness in the repressive and collective twentieth century society, aloneness is an inherent part of the human condition. There is an ineffable, metaphysical realm of existence, beyond personal - relationships, beyond society and culture, outside time and place; this the individual can only experience and enter alone. As a private experience which cannot be shared, it is experienced by the individual in absolute solitariness. The individual's awareness and experience of this other, supremely valuable reality are the ultimate guarantors of his abiding personal, socio-cultural, and spiritual aloneness. But this imposed aloneness is intensified through the addition of a self-chosen dimension when, as a matter of policy in his attempt to cross over into the other reality, the individual frees himself from all the usual activities and involvements of life. No attempt is made to change society through reform or revolution, not simply because rebellion is futile, given the all-pervasive rule of the social Apparat, but because of the individual's over-riding metaphysical aspirations. Instead the individual camouflages himself by outward conformism, while leading a life of spiritual resistance and attempting to cross over into the other reality. The traditional love relationship cannot overcome the individual's aloneness because it is impossible, in love or any other personal relationship, to achieve spiritual closeness to another. Nossack formulates a new concept of love, which consists of respecting the fundamental otherness of the other person and of recognizing the other reality as the highest value. Precluding any attempt at personal involvement, it substitutes an indefinable metaphysical intimacy or closeness. Similarly, Nossack's "partisans" (camouflaged outsiders) are linked only by the common reality of aloneness, by a union in aloneness. Man's spiritual aloneness persists because existence cannot be rationalized into a familiar world in which man can feel safe and at home. Transient and unreliable socio-cultural interpretations of reality and equally transient and unreliable personal myths about reality are both shattered when real reality breaks through. The writer's aloneness is central to Nossack's theory of writing. Through his writing the writer maintains himself against society and is engaged in a quest to cross over into the other reality. Writing is monologic, a dialogue with the self, though the hope persists that it will reach another, unknown outsider and establish a union in aloneness. Writing is found to be inadequate not only for communication about the other reality, but also for the writer's own purposes in his quest, so that writing is always tending to pass over into silence, though neither author nor protagonists are for long equal to dispensing with the inborn need for dialogue, if only with the self.

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