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THE SIX by Rudolf Rocker


German anarchist Rudolf Rocker’s (1873-1958) little-known novel, Die Sechs (1938: The Six) is a philosophical allegory about a great and mysterious black marble Sphinx that stands in a desert. Six roads from widely separated lands converge on the desert sands; along these roads travel six well-known characters from world literature: Faust, Don Juan, Hamlet, Don Quixote, Medardus the Monk (from E.T.A. Hoffmann), and the bard Heinrich von Ofterdingen. The character of each is described individually (in the words of their creators) before meeting at the end to solve the ancient riddle of the Sphinx.


In The Six Rocker explores the mysteries of the mind or soul of man. In three pairs or contrasted types of men he has found the apparent contradictions of life capable of solution: that Faust and Don Juan may at last join hands in “a realm where intelligence and impulse are at one; that the gloomy reasonings of Hamlet may be dispelled and the madness of Don Quixote may be cleared away when deed is linked with understanding ; that there is harmony when the introvert soul of Medardus the monk and the extrovert spirit of Heinrich the poet, so futile when separated, may come together in the merging of the ego and the other, the “I” finding itself in the “We”. In the story these followed six several roads to the self-same goal. It teaches that these, each pursued alone, exhaust the spirit of man, but happiness and life will spring anew from the union of intellect and impulse, of act and understanding of inner and outer self. Together, Rocker believes, they solve the riddle of the Sphinx, the pains and sorrows of man’s inquiring nature that seems so hopelessly lost in doubt in the intellect of a Hamlet or Faust, or so madly alluring in the lust of Don Juan or the imagination of Don Quixote, in the frenzy of the poet or the dark stirrings of religious zeal trying to save its own soul.