The Living Are Few, the Dead Many by Hans Henny Jahnn, translated and introduced by Malcolm Green / ISBN 9781900565592 / 176-page paperback from Atlas Press (UK)
The works of Hans Henny Jahnn exploded on to the inter-war literary scene in Germany as a crazed marriage of Gothic Romanticism, modernist literary Expressionism and the experiments of writers such as Döblin and Joyce. Jahnn’s personal cry of existential horror and guilt expresses both a repulsion and fascination for mortality which stemmed from his earliest years; it was subsequently reinforced by his unconventional sexuality and by a philosophy that celebrated life and death in all its aspects — not least in the embrace of eroticism and decay. His narratives, even when rooted in everyday life, burst forth in a wholly intemperate flood of prose, at once lurid and baroque. Little alleviates the apocalyptic fervour and morbid sense of doom in these writings.
Jahnn has been only rarely translated into English, whereas in France translations are many and his works have been compared to those of Antonin Artaud and Georges Bataille. This selection includes three of his 13 Uncanny Tales and the whole of his novella The Night of Lead, which nowadays is without doubt his most renowned work in Germany.