Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Bemmann, Hans

(1922-2003) German writer, journalist and academic who taught at Bonn University 1971-1983. After some pseudonymous works in the 1960s, he became a full-time writer with the publication of Stein und Flöte (1983; trans Anthea Bell as The Stone and the Flute 1986 US), a long fantasy novel set in a Land of Fable resembling Northern Europe that depicts the life of its protagonist from childhood to old age and death. There are element of the Bildungsroman in the narrative, which is illuminated throughout by exemplary stirrings from fantasy's Cauldron of Story. These half-lit, half-told stories – at times abbreviated to the concision of the motif – generate a sense of folkloric wisdom in a long tale that some critics found tediously lacking in event. In fact, the eventfulness in the book lies inward. Moreover, befitting HB's Catholicism, the novel is a drama of the maturing of the protagonist's Soul, which evolves in a linear fashion beyond the compass of the text, and which sloughs off the world, joyously, at the end of things.

HB's second fantasy novel, as The Broken Goddess (1990; trans under that title Anthea Bell 1993 UK), similarly conveys its protagonist through a fantasy realm whose main function seems to be to impart lessons; but this is a more complex work of fiction, despite its comparative brevity. A callow young scholar of Folklore, arriving at a conference, catches sight of a mutilated statue of a goddess – in fact, it proves, the Goddess – and identifies her with the woman (never fully named) to whom he addresses his confessional narrative. He soon finds himself slipping across a Threshold into an Otherworld that resembles Faerie. Here a ferryman takes him (for a fee he should not have paid) across a river to an Island, in the centre of which a Dark Tower beckons. On the island he is subjected to constant Transformations. Moreover, the island is Little Big: the Tower recedes indefinitely, opening to him various adventures in the lands that lie between it and him. It is only on his third immersion into this otherworld that he finally behaves with sufficient decorum and maturity to reach his destination, where the Godgame to which he has been subjected comes to a climax. Within the Tower – which is also a Labyrinth, a Library, and a Recognition of passage, "the point where two Realities intersected, one of them forcing stored memories of my past into the other, which until now I had thought was imaginary" – he finally learns how properly to address the lioness in whom he recognizes both the Goddess and the woman within whom the Goddess resides in the mortal world. When he comes to maturity, the Tower dissolves (HB, it should be remembered, is a Christian), and the protagonist – grown, ready to Love – returns irrevocably to the world. [JC]

Hans Bemmann


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.