By Sid Prise
Key Themes: schizophrenia, politics, socialism,
This novel takes place in the thrilling years of the Weimar Republic in Germany, a time when the first modern queer movements and feminist movements were converging with radical political movements of various stripes–from monarchism and fascism to socialism, communism, and anarchism. This story centers round two lovers, a working class young man named Theodor Priser who at first espouses Communism as a way to fight against the reaction of his times, and Katharina Von Rosen, a rich, beautiful flapper girl who answers with Anarchy, and embraces sexual freedom as essential to any social and political liberation. Katharina, who comes to have the nickname “Katya,” leads Theodor (whom she names “Theo”) through his inhibitions to embrace anarchy, with all its sexual and spiritual freedom, and the two go on to form a nucleus of radicalism amongst their friends and comrades in the turbulent world of Weimar Berlin. They suffer many trials and tribulations over the years between 1922 and 1933, but come together at the end to deal a blow to the rising Nazi regime of Germany, one which erased and buried the glory of Weimar–though not for all time. In this novel, all the perverse and darkly celebratory beauty of the Lost Generation comes through, and a story is told that gives light to all that has been forgotten–the daring, the freedom, the craziness of the years between the First World War and the rise of Fascism in what was the most liberated city in all the world at that time–Weimar Berlin.
About the Author
Sid Prise is a writer and activist born in 1972 in Chicago. Sid was diagnosed with Undifferentiated Schizophrenia in 1997, following a prolonged mental and emotional crisis culminating in hearing voices, which he deals with to this day. He has been writing seriously since 1994, and published his first novel, True Faith, in 2003. More of his writings are published online at www.smallaxebooks.com. He resides with his partner, Kathy, and their friends in a collective house in Chicago.
It was a crisp autumn morning in the year of 1922, a strange day which seemed to feature every season in its passing. The earliest morning, before the dawn, had seen a frost come over the Berlin streets and alleyways, an icy dew that hinted of the coming winter; but by the time the demonstration formed fully on the streets outside the Reichstag Presidium, and the chanting took the throats of the leaders of the various factions within the Left in that young and already endangered republic’s city, a wave of warm air, unseasonable and almost jarring in its sudden mildness, wafted over the crowd of thousands from the east, making everyone feel they’d dressed too heavily. People kept their greatcoats on, or, in the case they had no greatcoat (which was many, many), they found even their threadbare jackets, sweaters, dresses and skirts uncomfortable. Had this been another era, or another place, the mob of demonstrators might have proceeded into brazen nakedness on the strasse, right there before God and country, and turned their angry urge to storm the Reichstag into a carnal panic of Dionysian proportions. But, as it was, most people were content to be discontented, their leaders shouting their slogans, their ranks cheering and roaring approval or disapproval for what was said, and the hope among them all was that somehow, all this marching and roaring might amount to something more in line with their general feeling of rage.
Hope, and rage. One fed off the other. This time, this place. It was fairly bursting with both, just a few years after the Great War had finally ended, after claiming the lives of millions, and the regency of more than one government. To the east, Russia was fighting to save its revolution, and in the streets of this city, men were battling either for its honor, or against it. Skulls were being cracked, bones broken, blood spilt. And yet, there was hope in it all. Somehow, some new phoenix was struggling to emerge from the ash; just no one knew what name that phoenix would take, what hue its feathers would have, what banner it would carry in its sharp and certain talons. And not everyone could even agree that the ash would not just stay ash, that German, European, even World Civilization itself, would not just sink into ruin, now, and forever.
But most hoped for that phoenix. Most concluded that ruin was not the fate of humanity. After all, the war had ended, and life had gone on. What was incumbent upon everybody was to figure out exactly how to rebuild, in what direction, and the feeling of that uncertainty was as damning and exhilarating as any people could remember in their lifetimes.
Theodor Priser was one who hoped that phoenix had already arisen, in that land to the east, the direction of the warming wind. Strong and lean in his grey overalls and black leather hat, affixed with the red star he’d worn since he was barely more than a boy, he was of the tendency they’d named after Spartacus, a group still forming, still struggling to extricate itself from the great Social Democracy that had been workers’ advocates since back in the nineteenth century, but had betrayed those workers (said many; said Theodor) by supporting the recent monstrous war, in which the workers of France and England were pitted against their comrades in Germany and Austria, leaving fields of mud and death where once flowers bloomed, all over Europe. No revolutionary worker could stand with the SPD anymore, Theodor concluded, and though he was young, nineteen years, just turned, he’d pledged his life to the newly forming KPD, the Communists, and stood with the new Third International, instead of the bankrupt, “yellow” Second. But unlike his comrades, he saw no great need to shun the Social Democrats, those who for their own reasons still held up the three spears of its banner instead of his own hammer and sickle, and he’d been among those who had organized this demonstration, a kind of united front with them, the Independent Socialists, the Communist Workers’ Party, and some of the anarchist groups, to stand against the government and the fascists. For they, he thought, were greater threats to Germany, to German workers, and all working people round the world, than any misguided brethren could ever be.
In this, young Theodor was not in the majority, on either side of the divide. SPD and KPD were fighting in the streets, and the anarchists, ever disruptive, were fighting them both. Meanwhile, the remnants of the disbanded Frei Korps and the new National Socialists (who were “socialist” only in their ironic nomenclature) were literally killing people, of all of these persuasions, and the Weimar government was doing very little to stop them. Indeed, this was one of the points of unity among the different sects of the Left, and the purported reason for today’s gathering. Theodor had high hopes for the demonstration, and the march to follow, which was sufficiently strong to deter the Bullen and the Nazis from doing anything to harm them.