The Golem Critical Essays

Gustav Meyer


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Golem was the first of Meyrinks novels chronicling mystical and occult adventures. It sold more than 200,000 copies, turning Meyrink into a best-selling author. His next two novels, Das grüne Gesicht (1916; The Green Face, 1992) and Walpurgisnacht (1917), similarly take place in worlds that are collapsing, perhaps better to highlight their theme of spiritual upheaval. These novels, too, are enlivened by satire. Meyrink had first received notice—and notoriety—as a writer of short stories lampooning the police, the military, and other bourgeois institutions.

The iconography of Meyrinks next two novels, Der weisse Dominikaner (1921) and Der Engle vom westlichen Fenster (1927; The Angel of the West Window, 1991), became increasingly more personal and less accessible. Meyrink progressively abandoned the external story to concentrate on the idea of psychic evolution. Meyrink used fantasy in his earlier short stories mainly for purposes of social satire or literary parody. His later stories, such as those in Fledermäuse (1916), are purely devoted to symbolism and allegory.

These stories, together with his novels, bear out Meyrinks claim that he wrote not by the rules of art but by the rules of magic. His esoteric references and nightmarish atmospherics display an arbitrary logic. Meyrink, who had been a member of the inner circle of Annie Besants Adyar Theosophical...

(The entire section is 465 words.)