Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Ewers, Hanns Heinz

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(1871-1943) German novelist and essayist. Although a member of the Nazi Party, HHE was later accused of being a Jewish sympathizer and his work was banned. His writing career began in 1901 with a set of satirical rhymes, but not until the appearance of Der Zauberlehring (1907; trans Ludwig Lewisohn as The Sorcerer's Apprentice 1927 US) – the first of the Frank Braun trilogy – did he became established. Braun becomes involved with a religious cult, and hypnotizes his mistress into believing she is a saint. The mistress willingly becomes a martyr, with Braun delivering the final blow. The second volume, Alraune (1911; trans Guy Endore 1929 US) surrounds the first: chronologically, the first third of Alraune is followed by the whole of The Sorcerer's Apprentice, which is followed by the remainder of Alraune. By the end, Braun has become a dissolute and debtor. He encourages his uncle to experiment in the creation of a degenerate form of humanity. The result is a woman who has a fatal effect on any whom she contacts (see Femme Fatale). Strong in erotic (see Sex) and Vampire imagery and intensely decadent (see Decadence), the novel was immensely popular and was five times filmed (in 1918 twice, 1928, 1930, 1952). The final volume, Vampir (1921; trans as Vampire 1934 US), depicts Braun as a nonsupernatural vampire; the novel is an excuse for further erotic and sadistic episodes. All three volumes propound the inferiority of non-Teutonic races. HHE's short fiction is often sadistic with a preference for the Conte Cruel. His work was influenced by Edgar Allan Poe, though he also shows the effect of Théophile Gautier, Charles Baudelaire and J.-K. Huysmans. Although HHE's stories were collected in three volumes in Germany – Das Grauen ["The Gruesome"] (coll 1908), Die Besessenen ["Obsessions"] (coll 1909) and Nachtmahr ["Nightmares"] (coll 1922) – few have been translated into English; a limited selection has been issued as Blood (coll trans Erich Posselt and Sinclair Dombrow 1930 chap US). His best-known story, "The Spider" (1915 International Magazine), is a genuinely atmospheric tale of Witchcraft and Magic.

HHE appears as a character in The Bloody Red Baron (1995) by Kim Newman, where he gets a comeuppance many will cheer. However, HHE's works were a product of their time, and in due course he came to his senses, leaving Germany before WWII. He died in the USA. [MA]

Hanns Heinz Ewers


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.