Otto Michael Knab's Fox-Fables

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Knab, Otto Joseph Michael
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This book has introduced me to the writing of Otto Knab. Chapters cover his history, an introduction to his fables commentary, the fables themselves, notes on each fable, and two appendices. Knab was a Catholic who fled Nazi Germany in 1934 and spent the next four years in Switzerland writing as a journalist against Nazism for Catholics in Germany. His healthy reaction to the surprising turnabout of the Catholic hierarchy when Hitler came to power gives a sense of his values. One of the things he wrote was a series of twenty-one Fuchsenfabeln, which he published in the newspaper Deutsche Briefe. The fables are heavy on parody, satire, and irony, as his son Bernard, the translator, points out in the second chapter. Otto Knab planned to show by means of his fables how the Third Reich began and secured its power base, and how the various levels of society reacted to the totalitarian thrust (8). I find the fables well done. They are more from La Fontaine than from Aesop; they can at times also remind one of Reynard and of Krylov. The first fable is an excellent parody, a long speech by the Hitleresque Fox. I am your leader! I am your future! I am you! (21). The second does a fine job of satirizing von Papen as an ostrich, whom the fox uses and then discards. One of my favorites is Stewings and Doings among the Feathered-Folk (24), which comes perilously close to home against pacifists who let the ranks of the sane be divided and so only promote the insane. Fable 4's satire on Monsignor Kaas and the clergy is bitter and very effective! The next establishes that feeding comes from chirping Zeeg! First 'Zeeg!' then feed; first bow, then chow (27). The Weasel (28) is about Hitler's treatment of the Church in terms of the Concordat of 1933; for now the weasel may only suck the eggs dry, but later he will slit throats. It is not hard to see Goebbels in Jako, the parrot, who starts parrot schools everywhere (31). How the Fishes Were Rewarded (33) is an excellent comment on the silent majority. The Wise Owls displays ferociously the caving-in of the intellectuals (36). A first appendix gives a translation of Knab's article written July 14, 1934, the night before Knab escaped Germany. A second appendix gives the two fables that antedated the Fuchsenfabeln, with brief comments by Bernard Knab. This book has been an educational experience for me.
Washington State University Press
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