The New International Encyclopædia/Sudermann, Hermann

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SUDERMANN, zo͞o′dẽr-män, Hermann (1857—). A German dramatist and novelist, born at Matzicken, East Prussia, September 30, 1857. He studied history, philology, and literature at Königsberg and Berlin, and after some obscure years as tutor and journalist he won European fame and assured literary position by a drama Die Ehre (1888), and the novel Frau Sorge (1888; trans. as Dame Care, 1892). He followed these up with the novel Der Katsensteg (1889; trans. as Regina, 1898); the stories Im Zwielicht and a sensational drama, Sodoms Ende (1890); the humorous novel Iolanthes Hochzeit (1893); and his greatest drama, Heimat (1893; trans. as Magda, 1895); a fine novel of moral psychology, Es war (1894); an inferior drama, Die Schmetterlingsschlacht (1894); and Das Glück im Winkel (1896), a strong but unpleasant play. Then came three one-act dramatic scenes in verse collected under the appropriate title Morituri (1896); Johannes (1897), a realistic dramatic presentation of the story of John the Baptist; Die drei Reiherfedern (1898), an ethical and literary mystery in dramatic form. Es lebe das Leben (1902, translated The Joy of Living, 1902), is a powerful drama of the struggle between soul affinity and marital obligation. His work since 1894 shows failing power and has been much interrupted by sickness, but that for the six years preceding is, with the dramas of Hauptmann, the most significant in contemporary Germany, powerful in conception, admirable in technique, virile in its grasp of humanity in the more sombre aspects, and with occasional touches of delicate humor, though Sudermann is more skilled with the sterner weapons of satire. Frau Sorge is a pathetic Odyssey of duty with some romantic aberrations; Katzensteg is a declaration of ‘naturalism;’ Iolanthes Hochzeit breathes the serener realism of common life; Es war is a protest against the fruitlessness of brooding repentance. The dramas Die Ehre, Sodoms Ende, and Heimat are all social satires and militant democratic protests. By comparison the later dramas are increasingly out of touch with modern life. In Die drei Reiherfedern the evolution has become complete transformation. To some it seems a deepening, to others a sinking of his dramatic power. All Sudermann's greater works are translated into English. Consult: Brandes, Menschen und Werke (2d ed., Frankfort, 1895); Litzmann, Das deutsche Drama (Hamburg, 1896).