elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

Bruno Vogel (September 29, 1898 - April 5, 1987)

Bruno Vogel's experiences as a soldier during World War I and as a homosexual in a society hostile to any open expression of same-sex love shaped his political and aesthetic vision.

Shortly after the war, he co-founded the "Gemeinschaft Wir" ("We, the Community"), a local chapter of the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee in Leipzig, his hometown. This Committee was the largest group working for homosexual emancipation in Germany from 1896 to 1933. Its founder, Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, arranged a job for Vogel at the Committee's Berlin headquarters in the Institute for Sexual Research. In November 1929, Vogel was elected to the Committee's board of directors.

By that time, Vogel had made a name for himself as a writer. In 1924, he published the antiwar Es lebe der Krieg! (Long Live War!), which caused him to be tried (and later acquitted) for blasphemy.

A passionate socialist and pacifist, Vogel recognized early the danger of National Socialism. From 1931 to 1937, he lived in various European cities. As was the case with many of Germany's left-wing intellectuals, writers, and artists, the exile became permanent.

For the next sixteen years, Vogel lived in Capetown, South Africa, where his involvement with the black community eventually led to difficulties with the white government. In late 1952, he moved to London, where he remained until his death in 1983.

Vogel's two chief prose works deal with the themes of antimilitarism and anti-imperialism. Three of the seven stories that make up Ein Gulasch und andere Skizzen (A Gulash and Other Sketches, 1928) delineate male homosexual characters as the voices of humanity, reason, and love. They point the way out of the economic hardship and moral decay around them by refusing to be separated from their fellow-sufferers, who are all nongay.

A striking example of this expression of solidarity is a man's explanation of why he and his friends must work against the new wave of militarism in Germany: "I love a young man."

That love of a young man forms the center of Vogel's best known work, the novel Alf (1929). Told in Vogel's spare, ironic style, the novel focuses on two high-school-age boys, Alf and Felix, who fall in love, innocently, naively. When Felix learns that male homosexual acts are forbidden by law (the infamous Paragraph 175, Germany's sodomy law), he breaks off their relationship. He does not tell Alf the reason, wanting to preserve his beloved's innocence.

Felix volunteers for the trenches of World War I. Soon, the boys renew their friendship through letters, and the truth comes out. Each discovers the ways in which society has lied to them about sexuality, patriotism, and religion. Felix plans to rejoin Alf, but is killed in battle. The novel ends with Alf's pledge to his lover to "fight against evil and stupidity . . . so that no one will have to go through what we did."

Bruno Vogel's novel develops a central theme in gay and lesbian literature (as in gay and lesbian life): the challenge of creating an identity from sexual difference in a society bent on erasing difference.

Vogel's gift as an author lies in his ability to state, simply and directly, the bond between private emotion and public life. He makes clear that no separation can exist between these two, or the so-called private life will fall victim to the forces seeking to dominate the public arena. Other authors who described the lives of homosexual characters had recognized this dilemma, but none defined it as sharply and immediately as Vogel did.

Citation Information
Author: Jones, James W.
Entry Title: Vogel, Bruno
General Editor: Claude J. Summers
Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture
Publication Date: 2002
Date Last Updated March 1, 2004
Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/vogel_b.html
Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL 60607
Today's Date April 5, 2013
Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.
Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates

Further Readings:

Alf (Gay Modern Classics) by Bruno Vogel
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Gay Men's Press (August 2003)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0854491554
ISBN-13: 978-085449155
Amazon: Alf

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Tags: author: bruno vogel, gay classics, literary heritage

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