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 (> Femme Fatale). Strong in erotic (> Sex) and Vampire imagery and intensely decadent (> 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.