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The Expressionist Canon in 86 Volumes

  100 Years of the Literary Series "The Last Day" (Der jüngste Tag)

The Expressionist Canon in 86 VolumesIn 1913, the Liepzig publisher, Kurt Wolff, decided to establish a new series of books, in booklet form, which would contain short compositions and poems in a new spirit and in the expressionist style. It was only a year since he had opened his publishing house, Kurt Wolff Verlag. Wolff was only 25 years old, the son of a Jewish mother, when he established the publishing house, which played a large role in the modernization of European literature and the acceptance of literary Expressionism by the general public in Germany during those years.

​Wolff's new project only lasted 8 years, but by the end, he had proudly established a corpus of 86 works by modern writers, most of them German, as well as from other European countries. Among the authors represented in Wolff's project are artists like Franz Werfel, Franz Kafka, Albert Ehrenstein, Carl Sternheim, Max Brod, Oskar Kokoschka, Gottfried Benn, Ludwig Rubiner and Rudolf Kaiser.

The first edition included a composition by Franz Werfel, a very well-known writer at the time: The Seduction (Die Versuchung). Later, Franz Kafka published his first works in the series: The Stoker, The Metamorphosis, and The Verdict (Die Heizer, Die Verwandlung, Das Urteil).

In general, the classic markers of literary expressionism can be seen: criticism of the circumstances of life at that time, the expression of the author's personal impressions of life in a literary manner (thus, the term Expressionism), as well as use of modern language.  Many of the books were published in additional editions by Kurt Wolff, who in 1919 moved from Leipzig to Munich. In 1921, the last volume of the series, the story The Death of Moses by Rudolf Kaiser, was published. Despite the Nazi's attempts to erase all traces of Expressionism, many books in the style, in general, and in Wolff's series, specifically, survived in private and public libraries.  In the 70's and 80's of the 20th century facsimile editions of all the volumes were published, which is indicative of their continuing relevance.

Some of the booklets in the series "The Last Day" can be found in the National Library. In addition, some of the personal archives of a few of the authors, who donated their works to the series- Albert and Karl Ahrenstein, Oskar Baum and Rudolf Kaiser- can be found in the Archives Department of the library.

  • from Kurt Wolff to Albert Ehrenstein regarding his book.
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    A letter from Kurt Wolff Publishing to Albert
  • Ehrenstein was one of the leading poets in the Expressionist movement.
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    The title page of "Not Here, Not There" Albert Ehrenstein's book
  • which was the sixth volume in the series "The Last Day".
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    The cover of Karl Ehrenstein's book, The Complaints of a Boy,
  • This translation of his poems was published by Kurt Wolff before World War I.
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    The cover Francis Jammes' book
  • Kurt Wolff published the story "The Metamorphoses" by Franz Kafka.
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    Three years after the first book in the series was published
  • The design of the books changed.
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    The cover of Rudolf Kaizer's book, The Death of Moses, which ended in 1921
  • Oskar Kokoschka donated the drawing seen on the left, to the book.
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    The title page of Bohuslav Kokoschka's book