The tales that Heym wrote in the last year of his life, the most powerful in German literature since Kleist, have a strong gothic flavour and prefigure the great era of the Expressionist film. An ageing, Apocalypse-crazed dropout who sees it as his God-given mission to steal and cut up the Mona Lisa, a sweet moment of memory in a corpse lying opened for autopsy, a released maniac who journeys homeward to murder his wife, the ghastly fate of a crew marooned off New Guinea – the disaffected young writer’s compulsive relationship with his material is reflected in the mesmeric, spellbinding character of these stories, which partake of the violent imagery of paintings of the time. On publication they were compared to the tales of Edgar Allan Poe and the prose pieces of Baudelaire. In the German-speaking world they have been acclaimed ever since for their power and formal beauty; they deserve to be far better known to the English-speaking reader.
These translations, the only ones in English, first published in 1994, are now distributed by Angel Classics.
‘All these stories portray humans in extremis… studies in madness, isolation and depravity, as well as essays in sickness, pestilence and destruction . . . All this is presented in Heym’s inimitable style, which combines cool observation with the most striking, lurid imagery. The translation is superb throughout.’ – Choice