John Henry Mackay
Fenny Skaller, a novel, traces the growth of a love and self-knowledge through a series of flashbacks, as Skaller, a man in his forties, reflects on his passing affairs and lasting relationships with youths. Each chapter is a photograph…
Praise for the Author…
“John Henry Mackay belonged to those who first meant for me the intellectual life, the modern. In him are united for me the concept of social-philosophical daring, and a love from which many a melodious song sprang, and which may also be the source of his daring.” — Thomas Mann
“One of the most distinguished and genuine figures in German literaure since the 1880’s.”— Hermann Hesse
“Mackay broke truly new ground as a writer through his commitment to the homosexual liberation movement. His most important works are Fenny Skaller and The Hustler.” — Edward Mornin
About the Author
“The Scottish-German John Henry Mackay, who wrote in German, dedicated himself to the cause of gaining sympathetic recognition of man-boy love.
Mackay was born in Scotland on February 6, 1864, the son of a marine insurance broker who died when Mackay was only nineteen months old. His mother, of a well-to-do Hamburg family, then returned with him to Germany, where he grew up with German as his mother tongue.
He first gained recognition as a lyric poet and his novellas were early examples of naturalism, but it was his presentation of individualist anarchism in the semifictional Die Anarchisten (The Anarchists) that made him famous overnight. It was published in German and in English translation in 1891 and was later translated into eight other languages.
Mackay’s Der Schwimmer (The Swimmer), one of the first literary sports novels, appeared in1901. He was at the height of his fame, but the death of his mother the following year brought on a depression from which he recovered only by dedicating himself to the cause of gaining sympathetic recognition of man-boy love. (Mackay himself was most attracted to boys fourteen to seventeen years old.)
He planned a literary campaign, using the pseudonym Sagitta. He intended to publish six books in a variety of literary forms, but his project had hardly begun when the first books were confiscated and charges brought against Mackay’s publisher, who never revealed the identity of Sagitta. After a nineteen-month trial, the books were legally declared obscene in 1909, and the publisher was required to pay a fine and court costs.
Mackay bore all this financial burden, yet continued the project and, in 1913, published a one-volume edition of Die Buecher der namelosen Liebe von Sagitta (Sagitta’s Books of the Nameless Love), which he sold underground. Most notable in the collection is the autobiographical novel Fenny Skaller, a moving “coming-out” story of a boy-lover.
During World War I, Mackay worked on Der Freiheitsucher (The Freedom Seeker), a sequel to Die Anarchisten, which he published in 1920. Its reception was disappointing, but a real financial blow came in 1923 when the runaway inflation wiped out the value of a lifetime annuity he had purchased with his inheritance from his mother.
Despite the hardships, Mackay returned as Sagitta in 1926 with his seventh Book of the Nameless Love, Der Puppenjunge (The Hustler), a classic boy-love novel set in the contemporary milieu of boy prostitutes in Berlin. In a note to the American publisher of this book, Christopher Isherwood said, “It gives a picture of the Berlin sexual underworld early in this century which I know, from my own experience, to be authentic.” Although Der Puppenjunge could be sold in bookstores in the Weimar Republic, all writings of Sagitta were banned by the Nazis.
Although Mackay wrote about homosexuality most explicitly as Sagitta, the subject can also be found in his other writings. In an early short story and in many lyric poems, the absence of personal pronouns permits a heterosexual reading of what were undoubtedly homosexual situations. Only in 1931 did he include obvious homosexual characters in the novella Der Unschuldige (The Innocent), a work almost unique at the time for its inclusion of homosexuality as a matter of fact and not as a sickness or a symbolic evil.
By the time of Mackay’s death on May 16, 1933, it had long been an open secret that he was Sagitta, and he wrote in his will that any future publications were to bear his real name. This was done in 1979; since then, there has been a return of interest in this unique writer.” — Hubert Kennedy