In 1618 twelve million people lived in Germany

Sometimes one comes across a previously unfamiliar work that just blows one away.  Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s Simplicius Simplicissimus did that to me.  It’s a work written by Hartmann in 1934/5 as he watched the early years of Nazi power and the banning of “degenerate” art.  By the time it got its premier in 1949 it’s story of a Germany physically and morally ravaged by war would seem all too prescient.  It’s a simple story based on the early chapters of a novel by Grimmelshausen set during the Thirty Years War(1).  It concerns a simple shepherd boy who is drawn into the conflict.  There are three scenes.  In the first, the entirely innocent boy witnesses the brutal destruction of the farm he works on by vagrant Landsknechten.  In the second he is befriended by a hermit and undergoes a sort of moral education before once again being left abandoned by the hermit’s death.  In the thirdhe becomes jester to the drunken and corrupt Governor; the idiot who tells the truth, until all is overthrown by a Peasant’s Revolt.

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