Hans Henny Jahnn: Epilog [Epilogue]

epilog

The latest addition to my website is Hans Henny Jahnn‘s Epilog [Epilogue], the final part of his monumental and unfinished trilogy. This novel carries on from somewhat before the ending of the previous book. We see that Gemma is happily married to Egil Bohn, the horse dealer and they have four sons. The oldest, Nikolaj, is, in fact, the son of Gustav Horn though he does not know this and Egil treats him like his own son. However, he is different from the other boys and they are aware of this, particularly Asger, the second son. When Gemma reads about Gustav’s death, she is very much in favour of sending Nikolaj to Fastaholm, Gustav’s home. Egil is opposed but, eventually, Nikolaj sets off, though, he will continue to steadfastly maintain that he is Egil’s son, and not Gustav’s. He goes to his father’s home and meets his father’s friend, the vet, Daniel Lien. Eventually, he decides to set off on his travels and arbitrarily takes a train and, arbitrarily, gets off at a lonely station in the middle of nowhere when it is getting dark. He sets off walking and finds a nice hotel where he checks in. There he meets a man, who later claims to be Alfred Tutein, whom we know to be dead. We soon work out that the man is Ajax von Uchri, Gustav’s servant. We also learn that Ajax von Uchri is suspected of having murdered Gustav. Von Uchri/Tutein and Nikolaj become close, with the pair making a contract and Von Uchri/Tutein promising to help Nikolaj in his musical career. However, at this point, the novel fades away, with Nikolaj returning home and the novel focussing on his life at home as well as the life of his half-brothers before ending, incomplete, when Jahnn died. It is a somewhat disappointing novel, leaving the feeling that Jahnn was really just going through the motions to move the story along. Though we do learn both who murdered Gustav and something of what happened to Nikolaj, in the few fragments Jahnn left behind, this work is clearly the weakest link of the trilogy. However, it should not detract from the fact that the previous two parts are great and original works, even if they are barely recognised as such, even in Germany.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. The Untranslated

    Thanks for sharing. I was a tad disappointed with the second part of the trilogy (at least with the French translation), so I don’t think I will proceed with the Epilog. As long as the major bulk of the trilogy remains untranslated, it will continue to be a Rorschach blot of sorts in the minds of many readers who will project to it their expectations of what an obscure Western literary masterpiece should be like. I am not an ardent admirer of either The Magic Mountain or Man without Qualities, but I have to confess that I still prefer them to Jahnn’s mammoth endeavor.

    1. tmn

      I moe or less agree with you. A heroic failure might be a good way to describe it and it certainly needed a lot of editing, particularly in the second part which, after all, was merely meant to be the concluding chapter. However, I cannot help but admire the effort. I never really took to the Magic Mountain, and tend to prefer Mann’s other works, most of which I have read but I did love the Man Without Qualities.

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