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Arno Holz

Biographies
Arno Holz

*  1863 Rastenburg
† 1929 Berlin


Arno Holz was born on April 26, 1863, in Rastenberg, East Prussia. In his programmatic work from 1888, "Die Kunst, ihr Wesen und ihre Gesetze" ("Art: Its Essence and Laws"), Holz developed his theory of a "consistent Naturalism." The ultimate goal of this version of Naturalism was an exact portrayal of setting and environment by inclusion and elements of colloquial language. This theory finds its expression in the formula "Art = Nature - X," meaning that art should correspond to nature as closely as possible, whereby the task of the artist is to keep X as small as possible. This theory of "consistent Naturalism" finds its practical application in the works "Papa Hamlet" and "Die Familie Selicke," which Holz published under the pseudonym Bjarne P. Holmsen. His demand that art should be an exact representation of reality led Holz to a new, experimental mode of expression, the so-called "Sekundenstil," with which he described social misery by the second. A work of linguistic virtuosity is his poetry volume "Phantasus," which appeared in 1898 and is considered his main literary work. Holz experimented with a rhymeless style in his poetry, moving away from the traditional rules of form. According to another programmatic piece, "Revolution der Lyrik" ("Revolution of Poetry"), a work, free from rhyme and measure, should be identified by its "inner rhythm." A formal peculiarity of the poems in "Phantasus" is the centered printing of each verse on an imaginary axis, by which this style received the name "Mittelachsenlyrik" ("middle axis poetry"). In 1903, Holz wrote the Baroque oriented "Lieder auf einer alten Laute" ("Songs on an Old Lute"), which was later expanded as "Dafnis" and published by Reinhard Piper. This work became one of Holz' few financial successes. Arno Holz died on October 26, 1929, in Berlin.