Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Schreuderspitze” is a quest story: the story of a man, wounded by the loss of his loved ones, who undertakes a physical and spiritual journey and returns triumphant, born anew. The weasel-like photographer, Franzen, who appears in the opening section, ironically is blind to everything except the requirements of commerce, and this tunnel vision enables him to get ahead in the world. Wallich, on the other hand, is less successful materially precisely because he has an eye for beauty, for the rich and grand possibilities depicted in fairy tales. It is this vision that saves him in his hour of need. It drives him up into the mountains where he can be alone and discover the meaning of life and death. The Schreuderspitze, as he prepares to climb it, has a perilous beauty for him, for, as the story makes clear, to attempt a physical ascent would be to die, despite all his valiant preparations. However, having lost his wife and son, he is more than half in love with death.

He is saved finally by his openness to the world of human life: the Beethoven symphonies to which he listens, the family on the platform. Thus, he is able to climb to the summit, the world of ice and pure radiant light, in his dreams (as a result of his arduous preparations), yet he is anchored to the world as a mountaineer is anchored by ropes and pitons. The journey is circular, as it must be. Franzen, who stands for all who neither think nor see, will never understand him. However, Wallich, an unassuming, not very successful little man to those who know him in Munich, is a true hero. Having stood at the border, seen the light, come so close to being reunited with his wife and son, he yet returns willingly to “struggle at his craft.” In that he is most heroic of all.