Jakob van Hoddis
Jakob van Hoddis (anagrammatic pseudonym of Hans Davidsohn) was born on 16.5.1887 in Berlin and
died after 30.4.1942 (exact date unknown) near Koblenz. Following studies in architecture in
Munich, van Hoddis studied classical philology and philosophy in Jena and later on in Berlin.
In Berlin he met Kurt Hiller. Together with him, Georg Heym and Erwin Loewenson he
founded the »New Club« and the »Neopathetic Cabaret« in 1909. First symptoms of
schizophrenia showed in 1912. A temporary recovery permitted him to travel to Paris and Munich. In
1914 he had to undergo treatment. In private care since 1915, he became a patient in the
Bendorf/Sayn asylum near Koblenz in 1933. From there he was deported in 1942 as »No. 8«.
There were no survivors of this transport.
Jakob van Hoddis and the »New Club« circle are considered to be part of early
expressionism. The most influential member of this group was van Hoddis. His work,
consisting of poetry and prose, was written between 1907 and 1914. His most famous poem is
Weltende, which describes the decline of the bourgeois world as the beginning of the ultimate
catastrophe which will lead to the end of the world, uniting elements of vision, grotesquerie,
irony, sarcasm and melancholy. The typical expressionist motives of the big city and
vaudeville are also present in his poetry. He attempted to increase the intensity of his
language by the use of colloquial expressions and foreign words.
Weltende, 1911, published as poetry collection in 1918. – Weltende, collected poems, edited
by P. Pörtner, 1958.
H. Schneider: Jakob van Hoddis, 1967; U. Reiter: Jakob van Hoddis, 1970.
The hat flies off the burgher's pointed head.
There's an echo of screams and shouts in the air.
Roofers are crashing and breaking in two.
Along the coast, the papers say, the flood is rising.
The storm is here, wild oceans are hopping
ashore to crush big fat embankments.
Most people have a runny nose and sniffle,
and trains are falling off the bridges.
Translation by Johannes Beilharz
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