A Suggestive Fantasia

THE MAN WHO WAS BORN AGAIN. By Paul Busson. (John Day Co.)

THERE are reasons for suspecting that the number of people who are interested in so-called small subjects is on the increase. [ ? ] is spite of the growing tyranny of the materialistic conception of the world, but because of it. It is only the highly intellectualized personality that can bear the painful rationalities of life without groping for mysterious avenues of escape. Intellectual attempts at [ ? ] generally take the form of [ ? ] negation — a fact that even from the pragmatic viewpoint of the intellectual is hardly in his favor, since men must continue to [ ? ].

It is easy to see why Paul Busson’s fantastic novel, “The Man Who Was Born Again,” should have taken hold in Germany as it is said to have done. It first appeared five years ago when the horrors of war were still vivid and the worldy hope must have seemed futile to the vast majority. Busson’s novel is compounded of the two ingredients most likely to be affective — the apparently insane brutalism of life in certain conspicuous phases and the alluring hope of a literal spiritual escape into a better world.

The curious tale concerns one Sennon Vorauf, a German of our century who has come to remember all the details of his former life as Baron Melchier von Dronte who lived in the eighteenth century. The greater portion of the story is told in the person of the eighteenth century Baron, and it is a tale of life lived largely under the spell of brutal illusions with occasional gleams of a super-brutal vision that triumphs at last. It is a picturesque tale, ranging from the sordid to the horrible, but curiously shot through with flashes of tenderness and beauty, prophetic of the change that is to be. Von Dronte, a spoiled young aristocrat, goes to the devil, is disinherited by his father and having murdered a companion in a drunken brawl, by way of saving his neck enlists as a private in the Prussian army. Reaching the lowest depths of misery and degradation; he deserts and becomes a wandering outcast. The spirit of a youthful sweetheart, long dead, and a mysterious presence, that appears at critical mo-ments, lead the broken wastrel slowly to a realization of his blindness; and by the time he finds himself about to be guillotined in Paris during the Reign of Terror, he is spiritually cleansed and ready for the great change.

As the knife falls, a wonderful thing happens. “Then it was night — a rush of air — the noise of wind — a painful rending asunder ⁸ a thread cut in twain — I was outside my body. Nothing was concealed from me, neither below nor above. The wind blew through me, the rain fell through me. I had none of the qualities that are inherent in the things of space. I was large and small, inside and outside, far and near.”

A passionate quest begins. The spirit that had been called Von Dronte is seeking a new father and mother; and at last in a lightning flash of ecstacy the divine miracle of a new incarnation occurs.

Von Dronte re-awakens to life in the flesh as Sennon Vorauf.

As will have been noted, “The Man Who Was Born Again” is a highly original tale, and, though fantastic to the point of madness at times, there are moments of vision in it that make one wonder.

Paul Busson was born in 1873. After studying medicine for four years he entered the Austrian army, serving four years as Lieutenant. For some years thereafter he lived in Asia Minor. He died in 1924.

It is probable that many who will be attracted by the occult theme of “The Man Who Was Born Again” may be unable to endure the brutalities and horrors of the earlier portion of the tale, since there are relatively few who are able to conceive a possible continuous scale of reality from the bestial to the spiritual. It is usual to scorn either the one or the other. Busson’s fantastic yarn may have its value if it should serve to suggest that perhaps the chain of relations from the lowest that we know to the highest that we feel may be unbroken.