Hans Henny Jahnn was a German organ-builder, playwright and novelist.
In this episode, we look at the only novel of his available in English, The Ship (1949), a beguilingly dark, allegorical tale set aboard a wooden ship with blood red sails which embarks upon an unknown mission, carrying an unknown cargo, a mystery to both captain and crew. The reasons for the journey are perhaps understood only by the shady figure of the supercargo as well as the shipowner, whose presence is as uncertain as the contents of the boxes in the ship's hold. The captain, Waldemar Strunck, has a daughter, Ellena, who follows him on this voyage, while Gustave, her fiancé, takes himself aboard as a stowaway in order not to be separated from his beloved. In the middle of the ship's journey, Ellena disappears, and in the search for her, Gustave must confront the very fabric of reality.
Over the course of the episode, we discuss Jahnn's curious mixing of genres, the interplay between the hidden and the revealed, and speculate upon the possible allegorical intentions of the text.
'Apologie des Untergangs: Ästhetische Erfahrung in Hans Henny Jahnns "Fluß ohne
Ufer"' by Christoph Zeller in Poetica, Vol. 35, No. 1/2 (2003)
Hans Henny Jahnn: eine Biografie (1986) by Thomas Freeman
'The Theme of the Black Race in the Works Of Hans Henny Jahnn' by Richard Detsch in Mosaic: An Interdisciplinary Critical Journal, Vol. 7, No. 2, LITERATURE AND IDEAS (Winter, 1974)