Taylor Caldwell's " Time No Longer" published in 1941

Michael Fried

Early in her publication career, Taylor Caldwell turned herself into a pursuer of evil intentions. Sometimes her vision of evil was ahead of the curve. Almost always it was original; even as here when she had considerable competition for the territory. 

Horrific as Nazi Germany was, and as brilliant as Hannah Erandt was, her famous description of Himmler failed to capture the disgust and helplessness that overwhelmed many ethnic Germans as Hitler and his Gestapo climbed to power. TC succeeds in doing just that within the confines of a particular German family. 

The abstract for the novel would have you believe that the academically accomplished twin brothers, Karl and Kurt, are the center of the family's anguish. Not only is that incorrect, but TC sends Therese, the wife of Karl, on a path through madness that touches on characters that we have rarely seen before in descriptions of the effect of the holocaust. Therese's foreign counterpart is an English woman – at first called Frau Müller, and then, as the relation between the two women softens, Elizabeth – whose motivations to marry a German adds a subtle relation between the two countries. That is one based on their common concerns for perpetuating class distinctions. TC traces the psychological antagonisms between the two women, and then their recognition of what they share, as a central event of the novel.

It is Nazi Germany, in the early 1930s, likely around 1933. So there are quasi-historic public actions that announce the cruel new regime. Still, those events are prior to kristallnacht. Nor do they directly interpret Hitler; just his concept of a New Germany. 

For Taylor Caldwell this, her 3rd, is an exceptionally short novel. A reader can recognize a 3-part divide, typical of her, though here not explicit as separate sections. 

The opening 3rd establishes the characters boldly and swiftly. Some examples: 

  • A descripton of Karl as austere, but undeceptive in his simplicity; so less intimidating than Therese. Her personal ambition was to merge his conscious and his all-seeing unconscious. 

  • Frau Müller did not like Therese, for Therese saw things she was not intended to see.

One 'character' is so striking – a shrunken voodoo doll head, called Gilu, that Erik, the Jewish adopted brother living with Karl has brought back with him from Africa – we marvel that TC relies so much on it as a symbol of evil unattached to explicit action. It remains a character throughout the novel.

The battle between the religion of National socialism and the Protestant philosophy of justice and enlightenment appears early. The contest will be the undoing of Dr. (Hermann) Müller. Hermann who has had the temerity to pronounce the evil of Hitler at an elite dinner soiree.

This is TC, so the epiphany for Müller is that his liberal leanings have been empty. He will go to his doom a TC hero. Therese's actions start with her attempt to save both he and her husband Karl. Karl's overwhelming madness is a response to his brother Kurt's betrayal of their foster brother, and their sister. The phrase Time No longer, echoes over Therese, as she sinks into desparation and Elizabeth (Frau Müller) accuses Therese of being disloyal to Germany. 

The events that coordinate scenes of the madness enveloping them all go quickly, though coherently. Ms. Caldwell's story telling skills, unraveling a social web, work well here, despite the considerable number of characters to whom Therese appeals. Dr. Müller, a very popular teacher, vows he felt he had lit the ''lanterns'' of his best students. Alas, he now saw the lanterns had gone out, one-by-one. Approaching his class, he has an epiphony. This has driven from his connection to Therese the night when she signaled to him the danger he faced in his confrontation with the two Gestapo personages.

To his class: ''I have taught you there is no such thing as good or evil.''

He referred to himself as throwing ridicule on the old and 'narrow' concepts of theologians. He continued … ''but I had forgotten, good and evil exist in the narrowest and most rigid of concepts.'' To his class, the next morning, he spoke of the darkness that had spread over Germany, spreading over the whole world. Therese knows Hermann Müller is doomed. She seeks Kurt first to undo the damage he started. He though is powerless: afflicted by a pin through a voodoo doll Karl has attached to him. She goes next to the house of the imposing General Müller, an uncle to Hermann, with Elizabeth – who, though composed, finally recognizes the danger for Hermann. They beseech the general, all 6'7" of him, to go to the prosecutor for the release of Hermann. The initial acceptance of the general's authority disappears once it is clear he comes to insist on the release of Hermann. 

 

The prosecutor dismisses the general with these words: Your day is done in Germany. Seeing Therese's beauty, the prosecutor wants her to believe he has some justice on his side. So, he recounts the events following Hermann's class. The Nazis apparently believe that even clumsy lies should work to take down their enemies.   

 

In the novel's last 3rd, there are those who will save themselves any way they can. There are those who convince themselves that Jews are the problem. There are those who recognize the simplicity of the evil that is Nazism.
 

These problems of early 20th century remain with us. You can use an Uber app and find yourself with a driver who has personally had an epiphany on how genes of inferior, defective people are dragging down our society. If you have had some training, and if you are speaking to someone willing to listen, for example, who knows what is a gene, you could explain that genes don't work like that. That, though is a big IF.



Similarly, without solid support is the idea that social changes follow a pattern that is akin to genetic traits. Even more so, there is a belief for some, they would – if not thwarted by liberal tendencies – follow an arc of progress. Again, the complication of TC: progress is her most favored bete noire after liberals. The rise of Nazi Germany, an evil so recognized by the world, even if not uniformly, was expected to never return. Not then, and not now.

Aldous Huxley in ''Evolution and Ethics'' (1893) – applied natural selection to show it separated from social Darwinism. If any kind of Darwinian process did operate in society, it would be value-free with an outcome not predictable prehand.

For example, Fascism's return today would not be out of the question, anymore than it was in the 1930s. It was, though, horrific, even without a full understanding of the holocaust. 

Modern times have seen huge donor groups bolster unfettered trickle down theories of CEO management, dictators, and grotesquely reconfigured racism. These creepy ideas are so simple, you can find an uber driver who holds any one of them vehemently, loaded with phrases from their online reading. 

TC shows us the horrors of fascism. In Time No longer you can feel how it drove a group of Germans conceived within high, but not extraordinary Germany society, to madness. 

Return to fascism will upend our lives in ways beyond our endurance. That subject repeatedly arises, with unique takes on it. TC's, from almost 80 years ago, is among the most affecting. 

© 2016 by Descendants of Taylor Caldwell LLC