HEINE, HEINRICH


HEINE, HEINRICH
HEINE, HEINRICH (originally Ḥayyim or Harry; 1797–1856), German poet and writer. Though a celebrated romantic poet and a political writer, whose works provoked passionate discussion, Heine produced some of the greatest Jewish verse outside Hebrew or Yiddish. Heine's way of thinking was shaped by the contradictions between his Jewish origin and the intellectual tradition of the enlightenment and is characterized by a specific Jewish perspective on the significance and tradition of Scripture. During his early years his birthplace, Duesseldorf, was part of the Napoleonic Empire (1806–14). The rights of citizenship and equality before the law that the Jews enjoyed under French rule later found expression in works idealizing Napoleon and the achievements of the French Revolution. Although Heine, in childhood and later in his life, was spared the experience of direct persecution, he remained aware of the stigma of Jewishness. The disappointments that affected German liberalism and Rhenish Jewry after Napoleon's overthrow partly account for the conflicts and paradoxes that mark Heine's career. -The German Years (1797–1831) Heine's ancestors on his father's side, long settled in northern Germany, included prosperous merchants and bankers. His mother came from a respected family of bankers and scholars who had lived in Duesseldorf since the mid-17th century. Heine's father, Samson Heine, was raised traditionally, but his family life was dominated by the secularized Judaism of his wife, Betty Heine (née Peira van Geldern). Heine received a religious education from a private Jewish school and after attending the regular school (1803–7), he was sent to the first Duesseldorf lycée. The founding principal of this institution, which had been established by the French government, Aegidius Jakob Schallmeyer, was an exponent of the late enlightenment in the Rhineland. In his early years Heine experienced the benefits of the assimilated status of the Jews under the French government. Although he was impressed and stimulated by what he heard about the Jewish tradition by his mother's late uncle, the traveler and adventurer simon van geldern , who had visited the Holy Land, his knowledge of Judaism was fragmentary and superimposed on the ideas of the Enlightenment. In 1815 he left school and was sent first to Frankfurt and then later to Hamburg for training in business. In Hamburg he made further acquaintance with his father's family. His uncle salomon heine was one of the wealthiest bankers in northern Germany. Some of Heine's early poems were inspired by a frustrated passion for Salomon's daughter Amalie. Some years later when he fell in love with her sister Therese, Salomon Heine again thwarted his nephew's aspirations. In 1818, after two years in his uncle's business, Harry Heine & Co was established as a branch of his father's Duesseldorf company. The business failed one year later, when his father went into bankruptcy because of the illness that eventually caused his death in 1828. Salomon Heine felt responsible for his nephew's further development and paid for his studies at the universities of Bonn, Berlin, and Goettingen (1819–25). In one way or another he helped him remain financially solvent for many years. In Berlin Heine became a disciple of the philosopher G.W.F. Hegel , met some of the leading German writers and philosophers at the salons of Rahel (Levin) varnhagen von ense and Elise von Hohenhausen, and published a well-received first verse collection, Gedichte (1822). He also joined the reformist verein fuer cultur und wissenschaft der juden , becoming its secretary in 1822 and enjoying the friendship of such cultured German Jews as eduard gans , moses moser , leopold zunz , Immanuel Wohlwill, and ludwig markus . The wider Jewish knowledge that Heine gained in their company was later reflected in works like the fragmentary Der Rabbi von Bacharach (1840), which he began in 1824. Berlin Jewry's indifference to the cultural aims and activities   of the Verein led to its collapse, and Heine was incensed and disillusioned by the subsequent apostasy of some of the leading members. After abandoning plans for a journalistic career in Paris, he finally surrendered to the pressure of his environment. He was baptized as a Lutheran in 1825, adopting the Christian name of Johann Christian Heinrich. Heine soon became ashamed of his conversion, which was solely intended to facilitate the gaining of his doctorate of law at Goettingen and the pursuit of his career as a civil servant or academic. He was mistaken, for the doors remained closed: to Jews he was a renegade, to Christians an insincere turncoat or dangerous radical. Although Heine spoke of the baptismal certificate as an "admission ticket (entrée billet) to European culture," it gave him no advantages and for the rest of his life he suffered from the stigma of a convert. With the Reisebilder, published in four volumes (1826–31), Heine, at the end of the romantic period, introduced into German literature a new and sometimes alarming style, which made him a much acclaimed but at the same time controversial writer. These travel sketches combined the characteristic tone of the German Romantic Movement with the ideas that arose from the French Revolution. He satirized religious bigotry and political reaction and pointed to the necessity of constitutions that would provide for parliamentary government and civil liberty. Their publication led to numerous discussions and a ban on the four volumes in several German states. The most incisive disputes arose with the poet August Graf von Platen (1829) and the writer and critic Wolfgang Menzel (1836), both of whom resorted to antisemitic polemics, which were to prove persistent in public opinion and literary criticism up to the first half of the 20th century. It is an irony that Heine found himself a target of massive antisemitic attacks for the first time in public after his conversion. Besides the Reisebilder, the collection of his early lyrical works, the Buch der Lieder, which was published in 1827, made him one of the most celebrated lyrical poets of the time. Failing to obtain a chair at the University of Munich in 1828, and fearing sterner police action and a boycott of his works, Heine left Germany. He settled in Paris in 1831, after the liberal July Revolution in France. Four years later, the publication of his works was temporarily suspended by the parliament of the German confederation. Except for two short visits to his family in 1843 and 1844, he never returned to his native country. -The French Years (1831–1856) In Paris, during the 1830s and 1840s a place of exile for writers and intellectuals from various European countries, Heine found a more congenial atmosphere. He admired the achievements of the 1830 revolution and praised the French capital as a "New Jerusalem." Through his journalistic contributions to the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung, the Morgenblatt fuer gebildete Staende, L'Europe littéraire, and the Revue des deux mondes during his first French decade, Heine became an intermediary between the cultural traditions of France and Germany. His writings on France (Ueber die franzoesische Buehne, Franzoesische Maler) and Germany (Die romantische Schule, Zur Geschichte der Religion und Philosophie in Deutschland) were later collected in the four volumes of the Salon (1834–40). These works show that his view of German literature and philosophy was influenced not only by the thinking of Hegel and of Jewish emancipation but also by ideas derived from the Saint-Simonian movement, with which Heine came into contact during his early Paris years. In the course of the 1830s he became the leading figure of a group of young German writers who were to be known in the history of German literature as Junges Deutschland ("Young Germany"). Yet he fell out with ludwig boerne , the other prominent liberal German writer in Paris, who regarded him as a lukewarm revolutionary. Heine's views of his fellow exile, expressed after Boerne's death in Ludwig Boerne.Eine Denkschrift (1840), provoked enraged reactions by the liberal Germans writers of the time, for whom Boerne was an exponent of the republican idea. It is one of the paradoxical characteristics of antisemitism in 19th century Germany that in the course of the controversy even the conservative and nationalistic press, while rejecting Boerne's liberal ideas, accused Hei ne of being unprincipled and unscrupulous. The spreading of antisemitic stereotypes was thus employed to play off the two exponents of Jewish-German literature in the first half of the 19th century against each other. In response, Heine satirized the younger generation of political writers in the mock epic Atta Troll. Ein Sommernachtstraum (1843). His second mock epic, Deutschland. Ein Wintermaerchen, written in 1843 after a visit to Hamburg and satirizing reactionary German monarchies, made Heine again a target for nationalistic critics who decried him as frivolous and unpatriotic. Heine's circle during his French years included numerous well-known writers and intellectuals of the time, such as Honoré Balzac, Alexandre Dumas, Théophile Gautier, ferdinand lassalle , George Sand, alexandre weill , and karl marx . Another of his acquaintances was james mayer de rothschild . In 1841 he married a non-Jewess, Augustine Crescence Mirat ("Mathilde"), an illiterate Paris shop assistant he had been living with for seven years. Following the death of Salomon Heine in 1844, the poet experienced a serious struggle for a promised annuity, and obtained it only on condition that he refrain from publishing critical memoirs on the Heine family. From 1848 up to his death in 1856 Heine was confined to his "mattress-grave." He himself believed that he suffered from a spinal disease. As no contemporary diagnosis has been handed down, recent research speculates most frequently about venereal infection. In spite of his condition he continued to work as a writer. The late works – Romanzero (1851), Gedichte 1853 und 1854 (1854), Gestaendnisse (1854), Lutezia (1854) – poems, autobiographical reflections, and a compilation of his journalistic writings once more show the characteristic features of this style: they combine irony with pathetic metaphors emphasizing the tradition of German romanticism and the necessity of political and religious emancipation.   -Heine and Jewish Tradition Heine's Judaism has been a matter of controversial discussion. From a biographical point of view, one of the questions has been to what extent he saw himself as a Jew and as an exponent of Jewish culture in Germany. The problematic nature of this issue is due mainly to Heine's technique of blending biographical information and fictitious sketches in his works. Confronted with antisemitic attacks after the short period of Jewish emancipation under the French government, he began playing in his writing a confounding though fascinating game of hide-and-seek concerning his Jewish origin, which reveals his attempt to achieve a synthesis of European culture and Jewish tradition and in retrospect exposes the impossibility of his effort to become part of a Christian-dominated society. The early tragedy Almansor (1823) is set in Grenada in medieval Spain and emphasizes the persecution of the Jews and Muslims under the reestablished reign of the Catholic kings. Within the historical setting of a drama, which refers to G.E. Lessing 's Nathan der Weise as well as to Heine's own situation in the early 1820s, the author reflected on the problem of Jewish identity within the Diaspora and the conflicts of apostasy. In the fragmentary novel Der Rabbi von Bacherach, which was drafted during his time as a member of the Verein fuer Cultur und Wissenschaft der Juden in Berlin, and published in 1840 as a reaction to the damascus affair , he identified himself quite obviously with the cynical, freethinking Don isaac abrabanel , though at the same time stressing the beauty of traditional Jewish ceremonies. He fiercely condemned both French diplomatic intrigues in Syria and the passivity of many French Jews in his "Damascus Letters" for the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung, but his articles were published anonymously. His book about Ludwig Boerne was not only a justification of his own political ideas; it was also a polyphonic attempt to show his life in Paris, his suffering abroad in the tradition of the exile of Babylon. In the late Romanzero he included the Hebraeische Melodien, a title consciously borrowed from lord byron 's Hebrew Melodies; Prinzessin Sabbat, a fairy-tale evocation of the Jew's transformation on the day of rest; Jehuda ben Halevy, in praise of the great Jewish-Spanish poet and philosopher, and the tragicomic Disputation. Romanzero also contained other poems reflecting Jewish themes, as did his earlier collections of verse. Not only the works that obviously refer to Jewish topics deal with the problem of Jewish identity. Almost every piece of Heine's prose or verse reflects in one way or another the conflict of his Jewish origin. His modernist view of Judaism is poised between identification with the history of the Jewish people, the Jewish tradition of Scripture, and a feeling of strangeness and exclusion. In some of his writings he stressed the curse of Judaism: the Flying Dutchman in the fragmentary picaresque novel Aus den Memoiren des Herrn von Schnabelewobski (1834) is but a figuration of Ahasuerus, the Wandering Jew. His early travel sketch Ideen. Das Buch Le Grand, which can be seen mainly as an attempt to rewrite romantic themes, plays with the Judaism of its author. Reflecting about the female figures in Shakespeare's dramatic works (Shakespeares Maedchen und Frauen, 1839), he gives Shylock, the Jew, a prominent position. Whereas in his early years Lessing, Shakespeare, Homer, and Cervantes became figurations of his own identity as a writer, in his last years Heine wrote a fragmentary poem, Jehuda ben Halevy, which points to the great Jewish poet as one of the ancestors of his writing. One of the most controversial issues of Heine's Judaism has been the question of whether, in the years of the "mattress-grave," he returned to Jewish belief. When he published the epilogue to the Romancero, in which he quite frankly announced his return to a personal god, the reading public and the critics were shocked. Taking into consideration that the reproach of atheism has a long tradition within German literature and philosophy (moses mendelssohn ) and furthermore that one of the main features of Heine's writing is the idea of an emancipation of thought through an ironic and provoking style, and looking at his writings, which paradoxically stress the ideas of continuity and tradition rather than change, it seems as if Heine was always a man of faith – but faith without confession. -Reception Up to the second half of the 20th century Heine remained one of the best-known and most controversial writers in German literature. In the first decades following his death the reading public, the critics, and the scholars emphasized the romantic tone of his early lyrical works and ignored his attempts to renew German romanticism by superimposing the poetical ideas of the romantics on the enlightened conceptions of political and religious emancipation. More than 13,000 recognized musical settings of his poetry supported this attempt. In the course of the decline of nationalism and chauvinism in the late 19th century, Heine's critics emphasized his Jewish descent and his sympathy for the achievements of the French revolution. Resorting to antisemitic stereotypes, critics like Heinrich von Treitschke and Adolf Bartels reviled him as a "Vaterlandsverraeter" (betrayer of his native country), both unprincipled and frivolous. One of the most influential voices in the early reception of his works was karl kraus . In his essay Heine und die Folgen (1910) he pointed to the contrast between the depth of German thought and the frivolous French style, which in his view was introduced into German literature by Heine. It is one of the ironies of the reception of Heine's works that another Jewish writer perpetuated the stereotypes of earlier antisemitic judgments. Nevertheless Heine became one of the most influential German poets and writers. His works influenced Richard Wagner's Flying Dutchman and Tannhaeuser and inspired countless writers, including Matthew Arnold, george eliot , George B. Shaw, Charles Baudelaire, friedrich nietzsche , thomas mann , giorgio bassani , Jorge Luis Borges, and paul celan . Heine's influence has been traced in practically all of Western literature, and his poems have been translated into most languages, including English (by humbert wolfe , louis untermeyer , Hal Draper, and Terence   J. Reed) and Hebrew (by david frishman and Yiẓḥak Katznelson ). Much of Heine's prose work has been translated into Hebrew by S. Perlman . Outstanding among the works based on Heine's life is israel zangwill 's sketch "From a Mattress Grave" (in Dreamers of the Ghetto, 1898). During the era of National Socialism in Germany (1933–45) Heine's writings were excluded from anthologies and schoolbooks, the publication of his works was suppressed, and on May 10, 1933, his works were burned together with the writings of many other Jewish-German writers and liberal thinkers. After the liberation of Germany in 1945 the East Germans proclaimed Heine an early socialist writer, whereas the West German reception stressed his works as part of the heritage of German culture that had not been abused for the ideological purposes of the Hitler regime. As numerous editions and translations of his works, congresses, exhibitions, and monuments in Germany and many other countries throughout the world show, Heine has, 150 years after his death, been acknowledged not only as an outstanding poet and writer, but as the founding father of Jewish-German literature. -ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: K. Briegleb, Bei den Wassern Babels (1997); K. Briegleb and I. Shedletzky (eds.), Das Jerusalemer Heine-Symposium (2001); R.F. Cook, By the Rivers of Babylon (1998); L. Feuchtwanger, Heinrich Heine's Rabbi von Bacherach (1907); M.H. Gelber (ed.), The Jewish Reception of Heinrich Heine (1992); W. Goetschel and N. Roemer (eds.), The Germanic Review: Heine's Judaism and Its Reception, 74:4 (1999); J. Hessing, Der Traum und der Tod (2005); G. Hoehn, Heine-Handbuch (2004); R.C. Holub, "Heine and the Dialectic of Jewish Emancipation," in: B. Kortlaender and S. Singh (eds.), Heinrich Heines dialektisches Denken (2004); H. Kircher, Heinrich Heine und das Judentum (1973); J.A. Kruse, Heines Hamburger Zeit (1972); E. Lutz, Der Verein fuer Cultur und Wissenschaft der Juden (1997); M. Perraudin, "Irrationalismus und juedisches Schicksal," in: J.A. Kruse (ed.), Aufklaerung und Skepsis (1999); P. Peters (ed.), Prinzessin Sabbat. Ueber Juden und Judentum (1997); P. Peters, Heinrich Heine "Dichterjude" (1990); S.S. Prawer, Heine's Jewish Comedy (1983); I. Shedletzky (ed.), Heinrich Heine in Jerusalem (2005); S. Singh, Heinrich Heines Werk im Urteil seiner Zeitgenossen (2006); M. Werner and J.C. Hauschild, "Der Zweck des Lebens ist das Leben selbst" (1997); B. Witte, "Der Ursprung der deutsch-juedischen Literatur in Heinrich Heines Der Rabbi von Bacherach," in: E.G.L. Schrijver and F. Wiesemann (eds.), Die von Geldern Haggadah (1997). (Godfrey Edmond Silverman / Sikander Singh (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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