Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1028
Councillor Georg von Geyrenhoff
Councillor Georg von Geyrenhoff (GAY-ohrg GI-rehn-hohf), a retired civil servant who assumes the roles of narrator, editor, and chronicler of the story of “Our Crowd” and other people during 1926-1927 in Vienna. He revises and edits the story again in 1955, when he feels he can be more objective. He requests others to aid him in writing about events that he cannot personally witness, accepts unsolicited manuscripts for inclusion in edited form, and directs a team of assistants who are unaware that they are spies, reporters, and collaborators for him. His major concern in 1955 is to examine the events of twenty-eight years before, including the burning of the Palace of Justice in 1927 by an angry mob of demonstrating workers. Geyrenhoff sees this event as leading to the takeover of Austria by the Nazis and its destruction in World War II.
Kajetan von Schlaggenberg
Kajetan von Schlaggenberg (KAY-yeh-tahn fon SCHLAHG-gehn-behrg), a professional writer, major collaborator on the chronicle, and modern ideologue. Kajetan is enraged by the popular notion that the ideal of feminine beauty is the extremely thin woman. He develops “Kajetan’s Theory of the Necessity of Fat Females to the Sex Life of the Superior Man Today.” Geyrenhoff extensively censors this “Chronique Scandaleuse” of fat women because he considers it one of the foolish and dangerous ideologies that imperil society. Kajetan is the greatest provider of information on the second life of the people from all segments of society in Vienna. In 1927, he ends his flirtations with ideologies and becomes a serious novelist.
Anna Kapsreiter (KAPS-ri-tehr), an elderly widow and author of “Kap’s Night Book.” This book is a diary of thirteen dreams that Anna has during the early months of 1927. Geyrenhoff includes them in the chronicle without editing because they disclose an unusual perspicacity of the times. She actually predicts the future, although no one knows that until 1955.
Ruodlieb von der Vlantsch
Ruodlieb von der Vlantsch (REWOHD-leeb fon dehr vlayntsh), the author of a manuscript about sorceresses. Like Kajetan’s “Chronique Scandaleuse,” Geyrenhoff includes this story to offer another example of an absurd and ominous ideology.
René von Strangeler
René von Strangeler (reh-NAY fon STAN-geh-lehr), a brilliant young historian. He secures his professional future when Jan Herzka, the owner of the Ruodlieb von der Vlantsch manuscript and a medieval castle, engages René to read and interpret the manuscript and to direct the modernization of the castle. Professor Bullogg, a medievalist at Harvard, visits René in Vienna in June, 1927, and guides him in the preparation of a critical edition of the manuscript. With all this good fortune in his professional life, he is able to marry Grete Siebenschein, his fiancée of long standing.
Financial Counselor Levielle
Financial Counselor Levielle (leh-VEEL), the villain. As longtime adviser to the Ruthmayr family, Levielle tries to embezzle the substantial inheritance that the late Captain Ruthmayr had designated for his illegitimate daughter, Charlotte von Schlaggenberg. Geyrenhoff enlists the help of a group of boys to recover the will. This act leads to Levielle’s discovery, and the charlatan is forced to flee to Paris.
Charlotte von Schlaggenberg
Charlotte von Schlaggenberg (shahr-LOHT-teh), often called Quapp, Kajetan’s sister. Charlotte wants to become a virtuoso violinist but realizes that even with hard work she will not be successful because she lacks the necessary musical gift. She is frequently seen in “Our Crowd” in the company of Imre von Gyurkicz. Although there are moments of great passion, the tempestuous relationship soon ends. When she inherits a significant sum of money, she settles down and marries Géza von Orkay.
Leonhard Kakabsa (LAY-ohn-hahrt kah-KAHB-zah), a self-educated young factory worker. One day, quite by accident, Leonhard finds a Latin grammar book and starts to learn Latin. Although he has no thought of changing his lifestyle, he notices that he has attained a considerable degree of linguistic freedom that his fellow workers do not possess. He meets Mary K. only a short while after beginning his self-help educational program. Through Mary K., Leonhard is introduced to Prince Alfons Croix, who not only offers to pay for his further education but also hires him as a librarian for his distinguished and vast private library. At the same time, Leonhard falls in love with Mary K., and they plan to marry as soon as he is established professionally.
Mary K., a widow who lost a leg in a streetcar accident. Everyone is astonished at the way Mary K. has recovered from the trauma of her accident. She is now a beautiful and poised woman. Although there is a considerable age difference between Mary K. and Leonhard, their rare and exquisite love for each other will lead to a perfect marriage.
Friederike Ruthmayr (free-deh-REE-keh REWT-mi-ehr), a wealthy widow. The most elegant social events take place at the Palais Ruthmayr during the 1926-1927 social season. There is one unexplainable flaw in this otherwise perfectly respectable person: The story is told by reliable sources that “Our Crowd,” while on one of their wild nighttime carouses, stopped at the Palais Ruthmayr, and Friederike joined them by drinking cognac right out of the bottle. She and Geyrenhoff marry, but Friederike dies during the war.
Grete Siebenschein (GREH-teh ZEE-behn-shin), René von Strangeler’s fiancée and Mary K.’s upstairs neighbor. As the daughter of a typical middle-class family, Grete experiences the usual problems in persuading her parents to approve of René as a suitable husband.
Imre von Gyurkicz
Imre von Gyurkicz (IHM-reh fon GYUHR-kits), a painter and newspaper cartoonist. A Hungarian and member of “Our Crowd,” Imre has created a questionable genealogy for himself that he uses to enhance his social position. Politically very active, he is killed during the riots of 1927.
Géza von Orkay
Géza von Orkay (GAY-tsah fon OHR-ki), Geyrenhoff’s cousin. Géza is an important diplomat at the Hungarian embassy in Vienna. Through Geyrenhoff, he meets Charlotte von Schlaggenberg, whom he marries prior to his transfer to a more important post in Basel. The last meeting of “Our Crowd” takes place at the railway station when they gather to say farewell to the newlyweds.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 455
When Geyrenhoff sets out to write the diary of “Our Crowd,” he is dealing for the most part with characters from similar social and economic backgrounds, that is, the upper-middle class in Vienna. The group is occasionally brought together by Captain von Eulenfeld for a night of drunken carousing, wild automobile chasing through the various districts in Vienna, and generally debauched disturbances of the peace. The membership of “Our Crowd” includes the narrator; Kajetan and Quapp von Schlaggenberg; Rene von Stangeler and Grete Siebenschein; the history student Dr. Neuberg and his fiancee, Angelika Trapp; the newspaper cartoonist Imre von Gyurkicz, who is a friend of Quapp; and the Hungarian diplomat Geza von Orkay. They seem to believe that they have to play the role of the younger generation, since they have experienced World War I and the subsequent change from the monarchy to the republic. In reality, however, they were no longer part of that generation; they were living in a “second reality.”
Leonhard Kakabsa belongs to a very different part of Viennese society. He is a young factory worker who is satisfied with his position in life and seeks no change in his occupation. Quite by accident and out of curiosity, he begins to teach himself Latin one day. He works hard and diligently on this task, but without a particular goal or change in life-style in mind. In time, he realizes that he has acquired the ability of intellectual freedom, since he can now use language in any social setting in an appropriate and productive manner (Doderer refers to this as the “crossing of the dialect barrier”). Through his studies, Leonhard also learns of Pico della Mirandola’s essay “On the Dignity of Man,” which gives him a philosophical and theological basis for his life. Through his acquaintance with Mary K., a woman who has come to terms with her life after she lost a leg in a streetcar accident, Leonhard meets Prince Alfons Croix and finds a new vocation as his librarian. In his relationship with Mary K., he never takes an aggressively active role, and in time they enjoy a mature, loving, and sensitive life together.
Leonhard is the most fully developed character in the novel. Unlike the members of “Our Crowd,” he is capable of always apperceiving his own level of development and consequently lives in a constant “first reality.”
Other characters in the novel include representatives of all sections of the Viennese world of 1926 to 1927. They range from the elegant world of the now-immensely wealthy widow Friederike Ruthmayr to the underworld of the barmaid Anna Diwald, the prostitute Anny Graven, and the murderer Meisgeier. Doderer has painted a great panorama of Vienna in its “ecstasy, despair, boredom, or triumph.”
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 75
Bachem, Michael. Heimito von Doderer, 1981.
Books Abroad. XLII, no. 3 (1968). Special Doderer issue.
Falk, Thomas H. Heimito von Doderer’s Concept of the Novel: Theory and Practice, 1970.
Hamburger, Michael. From Prophecy to Exorcism, 1965.
Hesson, Elizabeth C. Twentieth Century Odyssey: A Study of Heimito von Doderer’s “Die Damonen,” 1983.
Politzer, Heinz. “Heimito von Doderer’s Demons and the Modern Kakanian Novel,” in The Contemporary Novel in German, 1967. Edited by Robert R. Heitner.
Weber, Dietrich. Heimito von Doderer, 1987.
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