Moloch (novel)

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Jakob Wassermann (* 1873, † 1934)

The Moloch is a negative educational novel by Jakob Wassermann , which was published by S. Fischer in Berlin at the end of 1902 . The entire text was preprinted in the same year in S. Fischer's “ Neuer Rundschau ”.

The Moloch is Vienna - more precisely, the Viennese high society speculating on the stock exchange - the imperial era . The young Arnold Ansorge goes his way in the people-devouring Danube metropolis. However, this leads to ruin. The "justice seeker" Arnold fails because of his straightforwardness; in his unconditional love of truth.


The five-year-old half-orphan Arnold Ansorge is raised on the Ansorge farm in Podolin / Moravia by the old servant Ursula Kämmerer. Arnold's mother, the courageous Mrs. Ansorge, has the run-down farm repaired. The father owned a large coal works in Ostrau during his lifetime . After his death, the now wealthy widow had chosen that remote farm as her new place of residence. Arnold is - as he grew up - exempted from military duty through Uncle Friedrich's mediation. The approximately 45-year-old lawyer Dr. Friedrich Borromeo, a brother of Frau Ansorge, had obtained the release from service. The young Arnold is not only known to the Podolin teacher Maxim Specht. He also goes in and out of Agnes Hanka's estate. Agnes is supported by her brother Dr. jur. Alexander Hanka visited on inheritance matters. But the visitor from Vienna is mainly interested in the young Beate who lives with Agnes. Alexander had raised the girl. However, he apparently does not know about Beate's relationship to teacher Specht. Alexander corresponds from Podolin with his Viennese friend Natalie Osterburg. The 32-year-old woman - mother of two children - is married to Martin Osterburg, who was haplessly speculating on the stock exchange . Natalie spreads the news of Alexander's marriage to the much younger Beate in Vienna.

After his mother's death, Arnold was in possession of three quarters of a million guilders. In search of a suitable job, he turned his back on the village and went to Vienna. First of all, Arnold wants to free the 13-year-old Podolin Jew Jutta Elasser from the Polish monastery in Tarnobrzeg . The Felizians want to baptize as many Jewish children as possible. Arnold only marginally deals with the case at the residence. It is also not solvable, because the power of the imperial bureaucratic apparatus ricochets off the monastery walls, the ministerial asserts. So the matter is settled for Arnold. As a final gesture, he transfers Jutta's father, a peddler in Podolin, one hundred guilders by post.

Arnold is never bored. At first he settled into the Viennese circles. His peasant, clumsy behavior triggers all-round amusement at dinner parties. However, the Viennese dudes are amazed several times by the fresh young "forest man" who always names the unpleasant truth. Before he settles in comfortably, Arnold first stays with Uncle Friedrich. His wife, 30-year-old Anna Borromeo, borrows ten thousand guilders from the wealthy nephew - allegedly to settle a stock market debt. The teacher Specht, who has meanwhile advanced to become the editor of a government paper in Vienna, borrows eight hundred guilders from Arnold. The circle of acquaintances of the young forest man is constantly growing. Natalie Osterburg's sister Petra König is engaged to Emmerich Hyrtl. Hyrtl introduces Arnold to the young Russian medical student Verena Hoffmann. Verena is supported by the wealthy landowner Tetzner. A tender love affair is developing between Verena and Arnold. Not only that. When he finally owns the young woman and wants to marry her, the beautiful woman and Tetzner flee.

Alexander Hanka and Arnold have long been friends. Arnold forgets this friendship when he reports an observation to Alexander. Beate Hanka has relapsed. She is also in Vienna with teacher Specht. During this revelation, Arnold digs up a statute-barred story. Beate had had a relationship with a servant in Podolin. After Beate's relationship with the stock exchange man Armin Pottgießer became known, Alexander chased his wife out of the house. Although Alexander speculated most of his fortune on the stock exchange, he did not accept Arnold's offer of financial help. Arnold speculates more successfully than his former friend Alexander.

Natalie Osterburg loots three thousand guilders from Arnold. Allegedly she wants to pay off her husband's debts.

Arnold is serious. With the support of the later governor Ludwig Wolmut, he attained the university entrance qualification and took jurisprudence and philosophy at the University of Vienna .

The life-hungry Anna Borromeo discovers the young nephew as a man for herself. The urgent need for love is reciprocated by Arnold with verve. The new couple uses the first opportunity and is caught red-handed in Friedrich Borromeo 's shepherd's hour. Friedrich does not get over the incomprehensible. On Arnold's advice, sent to sister Agnes in Podolin, he goes mad. Arnold, however, cannot enjoy the now undisturbed togetherness with his lover Anna in Vienna, but regrets it. He lost his two best friends - Alexander and Friedrich - through his own fault. He follows his uncle to his native Podolin and shoots himself. Prior to this he decreed in writing that the heirs of his considerable fortune would be the old servant Ursula and the loyal friend Wolmut.


On the occasion of the revision in 1908 Wassermann wrote: “I am amazed every day how bad the book is ... An Augean stable of details. Very difficult to do something well. "

Form and interpretation

Jakob Wassermann is no longer a beginner in 1902, but a form weakness catches the eye. During the sixty - sometimes quite short - chapters, one new character after the other is cheerfully introduced until almost the end of the novel. The reader is thus constantly occupied with answering the question: Will the current new figure turn out to be halfway relevant? Usually the answer is no. In the face of this annoying flaw in the long run, isolated clumsiness seems almost forgivable. Aquarius sometimes doesn't leave the evaluation up to the reader. For example, he writes about those "vain people". Beate is a "little soul"; a "lying woman".

Not only the protagonist Arnold is allowed to think, but also minor characters such as Natalie.

The reader could think long and hard about some of Wassermann's statements: "Silence is often the most intrusive message."


  • The author addresses “law and justice” as well as becoming guilty after telling explosive truth, which should be kept secret.
  • The work, according to Koester “a strange narrative monster”, did not prove to be a best seller when it was published. Wassermann's appearance as a moralist had failed.



  • The Moloch. Neue Deutsche Rundschau, year 1902. 2 volumes. Pp. 342 - 372, 468 - 495, 582 - 614, 683 - 727, 793 - 831 and 929 - 956.

Used edition

Secondary literature

  • Margarita Pazi in: Gunter E. Grimm , Frank Rainer Max (Hrsg.): German poets. Life and work of German-speaking authors . Volume 7: From the beginning to the middle of the 20th century . Reclam, Stuttgart 1989, ISBN 3-15-008617-5
  • Rudolf Koester: Jakob Wassermann . Morgenbuch Verlag, Berlin 1996, ISBN 3-371-00384-1
  • Peter Sprengel : History of German-Language Literature 1900-1918. From the turn of the century to the end of the First World War. CH Beck, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-406-52178-9

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Koester, p. 26 below and p. 89, first entry in 1903
  2. ^ Sprengel, p. 383, 8. Zvo
  3. Koester, p. 27, 5. Zvo
  4. Edition used, p. 68 middle
  5. Sprengel, p. 383, 7. Zvo
  6. quoted in Koester, p. 26, 3rd Zvu
  7. Edition used, p. 79 middle
  8. Edition used, p. 117
  9. Edition used, p. 83 above and p. 111 above
  10. Edition used, p. 156 middle
  11. Pazi, p. 48 below
  12. Koester, p. 26, 5th Zvu
  13. Koester, p. 27, middle