The Lost Library

byWalter Mehring. Bobbs-Merrill, $3.50.
Mr. Mehring, a distinguished German poet, was forced to flee his country when Hitler took power. He has subtitled his volume “The Autobiography of a Culture,” and strangely enough, the work emerges as such. Mr. Mehring’s father (as the author reveals him) was one of those wonderful European liberals who believed in reason, in reasonable man, and who believed as well that the solutions to all the dilemmas of the human race were to be found in the proper books. This library that possessed all the secrets and riddles and solutions, the elder Mehring accumulated; and the younger Mehring, through the Lord knows what manipulations, had it successfully smuggled out of Germany.
It is with love and not a little bitterness that the author of this engaging book touches on the various tomes of his father’s library; through such intellectual and symbolic “touching,” the author touches, as it were, on the history of man’s ideas, on the magnificence of his cultural progress, on the illusions of the man of good will, and on the eventual destruction of the beauty and ideals that man had been able to create. Mr. Mehring has a flair for summing up a book’s meaning. In referring to Hans Christian Andersen, for example, he writes, “A Danish Francis of Assisi conversing with domestic utensils.” Though this book may be rough going for the casual reader, it is a beautifully conceived and beautifully executed job. The author, at a guess, is in these untutored days a highly unexpendable man.