REVIEW of REVIEWS

Satirist Frankly Enjoys Germany

Author of Babbitt Finds No Glaring Instances of Annoying Officialdom, and Commendable Absence of Red Tape

SINCLAIR LEWIS August 15 1925
REVIEW of REVIEWS

Satirist Frankly Enjoys Germany

Author of Babbitt Finds No Glaring Instances of Annoying Officialdom, and Commendable Absence of Red Tape

SINCLAIR LEWIS August 15 1925

Satirist Frankly Enjoys Germany

Author of Babbitt Finds No Glaring Instances of Annoying Officialdom, and Commendable Absence of Red Tape

SINCLAIR LEWIS

THE author of “Main Street,” "Babbitt” and “Arrowsmith” has been touring Europe, and in The Nation he gets off some of his impressions of Germany and Germany’s officials and people. Mr. Lewis, as might be expected, runs to satire. He is not unconscious of the fact that he has been a successful satirist between the covers of three novels whose sale has been phenomenal. So, as a satirist of the satirists, he refuse^ to drop the style and mannerisms of his fiction workshop even in his briefer sallies into journalism.

But, in writing hig impressions of Germany, Mr. Lewis is not out to poke fun at the Germans. He would be rather ungrateful if he was, since translations of his books have found a tremendous sale in the land beyond the Rhine. Instead, he sets out to prove—by way of satire—that Germany is not over-run with bristling officialdom, suspicious of ail foreigners; nor even abounding in as much “red tape” as his own United States. Reading between the lines of Mr. Lewis’s article one gains the impression that the German people were more than kind to him and that they knew just the right kow-tow and the right manner in which to tip their hats when they met a great American author. He tells us in fact that they did tip j their hats to him and delicately infers he ¡ was not mistaken for aught else than an j author of “best sellers.”

Mr. Lewis intimates that through I written impressions by contemporary | writers he expected to encounter a lot of meddlesome and pugnacious people. He was happily disillusioned in this respect. His first experiences were with a customs official and a railway policeman. These two limbs of the law, instead of insulting Mr. Lewis, as he says he expected they would, touched their hats to him and indulged in pleasantries and complimentary remarks that quite made | Mr. Lewis feel that they had the proper I appreciation of himself and the land he came from. Obviously, both recognized Mr. Lewis as a rich American tourist with money to spend in a country that needed the money—but this possibility seems to have escaped the usually active j observation of Mr. Lewis. It was the j same wherever he went, for he continues: And so we came to Munich, and saw on the streets the grim military police who have now been forbidden by the overlords of Germany. The first time I asked a direction of one of these villainous Huns, I had a shock. Instead of saying, like any free-born American cop, “What d’yuh want, Billy?” the policeman saluted and stood at attention. Worse than that, he brought out a map and made clear the directions. By this time I realized the dangers of the military police in Germany. They were trying, by subtle propaganda, to win over the Americans.

After this early initiation into the horrors of German brutality, matters became worse and worse. In Munich I met a publisher. As a part of his propaganda he spoke English (incidentally he also spoke French, Italian, and two or i three other languages). He received my friend and myself with a shocking question as to what authors in America were most honestly expressing the spirit of the American people, so that he might have their books translated into German. He particularly asked me for the names of books by people who could not be suspected of German affiliations. Using the dangerous propaganda by which Germany won the war, he insisted that

what they wanted to-day was to understand America in its vices and virtues, its strength and weakness, its “pep” and its beauty. After that we were invited to a party at the publishing house.

Perhaps seventy people were assembled for the party, in the drawing-room of what had probably once been the house of a Duke. They were all Germans. Therefore they were all grim and fond of baby-killing. But they disguised it in the most dismaying manner. All through the evening, people whom we had never met smiled at us and said, in uncomfortably perfect English, “Are you enjoying yourselves? Is there one here whom you would like to meet?” It was another form of propaganda. Despite the fact that all of those tall, slim men, so much like English officers, had killed babies in Belgium and raped virtuous peasant wives in France, they pretended to be friendly to the two lone Americans. And when we gathered for supper my friend and I had six different invitations to join as many tables.

Then we met a typical Hun. He was not only a Hun but a Baron. And to be a Hun and a Baron is, of course, to be the lowest type of animal life—to be a cruel, humorless, vicious fellow. He said to us in his Hunnish manner, although in English, “What are you doing for lunch to-morrow? Will you be so good as to join my wife and myself?” And then began the downfall. And then began the confusion of a reporter who had been trained thoroughly to know that all Huns are sadists. The Baron was of an old Viennese family, and, worse than that, he was a banker. And it was he who accompanied us to Vienna, carrying out the propaganda. He pretended that many of the Germanic families are not rich now and that, whatever their social position, they prefer to go second-class rather than first.

The train to Vienna was two hours late and M. le Baron went out on the station platform to buy oranges. Worse than that, still carrying on the propaganda against the decent part of the Nordic races, he made us all play catch with the oranges in our second-class compartment. And when we had come to Vienna he further insisted on introducing us to his brothers and sisters and father.

By this time it was only with the greatest difficulty that a True American could keep up the hatred of the Middle European which befits any True American. To go to the Heuringen and to hear the yodeling—to go to the Redoutensaal and hear perfect chamber music—to go to the Hermes Villa and see the rooms of the ex-Emperor—to drive through the lovely hills—and most particularly, to meet peasants on the road at sunset and to have them cry “Grüss Gott” as though they meant it—these things made it difficult to keep up a respectable hatred for the Hun.

But perhaps worse than any of these shocks was the attitude of the waiters in all of the hotels and all of the restaurants. It was an unfortunate fact that 97 per cent, of them spoke English. It is a still more unfortunate fact that they recognized one as an American and, without being intrusive, tried to give their greetings. It is an unfortunate fact also that they insisted that, whatever their opinion of France, they loved England and America and wanted to join with them in a firm alliance. In fact, the whole trip through Germany was thoroughly discouraging.