With Psychology of the Rich Aunt, German author Erich Mühsam made his ironic bid for authorial immortality by announcing his discovery that immortality in fact exists—specifically in the person of the Rich Aunt. Through 25 case studies, arranged alphabetically (from Aunt Amalia to Aunt Zerlinde), Mühsam argues his case: the Rich Aunt is able to live forever provided she has a nephew waiting for her demise and for his inheritance. The corollary revealed in these tales, of course, is that a Rich Aunt’s eternal rest is directly tied to her nephew’s deprivation of said inheritance. The pathways to an immortal’s demise can thus be the result of anything from the vagrancies of sexual proclivities or the stock market to the unforeseen expenses of literary ambitions. The Rich Aunt emerges as the enduring fly in the ointment of Church, Family and State, the undoing of fate personified and the transformation of morality into mortality under the aegis of Capital.
Originally published in German in 1905, Psychology of the Rich Aunt is a caustically tongue-in-cheek portrayal of greed under capitalism in the bourgeois epoch.
Erich Mühsam (1878–1934) was a German-Jewish anarchist writer, poet, playwright, cabaret songwriter and a fierce satirist of the Nazi party. He played a key role in the short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic, championed the rights of women and homosexuals, advocated for free love and vegetarianism, and opposed capitalism and war. He was brutally murdered in the Oranienburg concentration camp.