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The Michigan-born novelist and short story writer John Herrmann (1900-1959) wrote in a spare, colloquial style that recalls the early work of Ernest Hemingway. Herrmann studied art in Munich and then met his first wife, writer Josephine Herbst, in the literary circles of 1920s expatriate Paris. The couple returned to the United States in the fall of 1924, and in 1926 Herrmann's first novel, What Happens, was published in Paris by Robert McAlmon's Contact Editions. The novel, which details the jazz age experiences of a Midwestern jewelry salesman, was deemed obscene by American customs officials and was banned for import into the country, despite testimonials from fellow writers and a legal defense by famed attorney Morris L. Ernst. Throughout his career, Herrmann contributed numerous pieces to Scribner's, including "The Big Short Trip," which won the magazine's Short Novel Contest in 1932.
An annotated typescript of John Herrmann's "In Munich When the Mark Was Falling," undated
Herrmann's short story depicts the expatriate scene in Germany circa 1921. Its narrator haltingly tells of an incident involving "some young American writer, you would know him if I said his name." Rather than titillate, the story's allusions to prostitution and venereal disease offer a critique of the sometimes careless attitudes of American expatriates in the face of post-war German poverty.