‘The clock becomes a white skull grinning at him from the wall, its hands whirring like giant spiders . . .’
To the fretful mother of a sick child it comes in the form of the long-awaited doctor. To a feeble old man it arrives as an obliging stranger who helps him to his feet and out through the garden gate. To the hapless workers of an overtaxed factory it is an industrial disaster with a paranormal dimension. Death comes to them all, yet the stories in Anna Croissant-Rust’s cycle are charged with life. The ever-changing personification of mortality appears amid scenes of unexpected enchantment, full of light and wonder, of reverence for the mercurial passions of nature. An inventive revival of the medieval danse macabre, Death was issued in Germany on the eve of World War One. It is paired here with the author’s earlier collection Prose Poems, which fused free verse and fragmentary narrative to create something sublime and entirely original. The intense emotional register and singular style confounded critics when it was first published in 1893, and by the time other writers were producing comparable work in the early 20th century it had been forgotten. This major English-language debut confirms Anna Croissant-Rust as a hugely powerful writer well overdue for recognition.
Even within her native Germany, ANNA CROISSANT-RUST (1860-1943) remains an obscure figure. She spent most of her adult life in Munich, a highly valued contributor to the city’s literary life. In 1890 Croissant-Rust became the sole female member of the forward-looking ‘Society for Modern Life’. Her first three books, all issued in 1893, blended the Society’s house style of Naturalism with formal experiments for which there was little precedent, with an acute subjectivity that pointed ahead to Expressionism. While most of her later fiction and drama deployed more traditional story-telling modes, they were often rendered in regional dialect that lent them immediacy and authenticity. Common to all of her works is a profound engagement with natural forces and a tireless fascination for psychological motive. Poverty and illness brought Anna Croissant-Rust’s literary career to a premature halt around 1920, and she died in Munich in 1943.
Prepare yourself for Death