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The "Feudalization of the Bourgeoisie?" Part II: Heinrich Mann, The Loyal Subject [Der Untertan] (1918)

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"Hurrah!" shouted Diederich, for everyone was shouting and, caught in a great surge of shouting people, he was carried along to the Brandenburg Gate. A few steps in front of him the Emperor was riding through. Diederich could see his face, its stony seriousness and glaring eyes, but he was shouting so loudly that his sight was blurred. An intoxication, more intense and nobler than that stimulated by beer, raised his feet off the ground and carried him into the air. He waved his hat high above all heads in enthusiastic madness, in a heaven where our finest feelings move. There on the horse rode Power, through the gateway of triumphal entries, with dazzling features, but graven as in stone. The Power which transcends us and whose hooves we kiss, the Power which is beyond the reach of hunger, spite and mockery! Against which we are impotent, for we all love it! Which we have in our blood, for in our blood is submission. We are an atom of that Power, a minuscule molecule of something it has spit out. Each one of us is as nothing, but massed in ranks as Neo-Teutons, soldiers, bureaucrats, priests and scientists, as economic organizations and conglomerations of power, we taper up like a pyramid to the point at the top where Power itself stands, with features of stone and glaring eyes! In it we live and have our being, merciless towards those who are remote beneath us, and triumphing even when we ourselves are crushed, for thus does power justify our love for it!

[ . . . ] One of the policemen lined up to keep a clear passage through the gateway gave Diederich a blow in the chest that took his breath away, but his eyes were full of the tumult of victory, as if he himself were riding away over all these wretches who had been cowed into swallowing their hunger. Let us follow him! Follow the Emperor! They all felt as Diederich did. A chain of policemen was too weak to restrain so much feeling. The people broke through. Beyond the gate was another chain, so they had to make a detour, find a gap, and reach the Tiergarten by a roundabout way. Only a few succeeded, and Diederich was alone when he stumbled on to the riding path in the direction of the Emperor, who was also alone. Diederich looked like a man in a very dangerous state of fanaticism, dirty and torn, with wild eyes—from his horse the Emperor flashed his eyes in a glance which went straight through him. Diederich snatched his hat off, his mouth was wide open, but not a sound came from it. As he came to a sudden stop he slipped and sat down violently in a puddle, with his legs in the air, splashed with muddy water. Then the Emperor laughed. The fellow was a monarchist, a loyal subject! The Emperor turned to his escorts, slapped his thigh, and laughed. From the depths of his puddle, Diederich stared after him, his mouth still open.

Excerpted from THE LOYAL SUBJECT by Heinrich Mann. The German Library Volume 64 New English translation Copyright (c) 1998 by The Continuum Publishing Company by arrangement with S. Fischer Verlag GmbH Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

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