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by Theodor Fontane
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The Times, London
This superb new translation at last enables English readers to enjoy the novel.
In 1919 Thomas Mann hailed Effi Briest (1895) as one of "the six most significant novels ever written." Set in Bismarck's Germany, Fontane's luminous tale of a socially suitable but emotionally disastrous match between the enchanting seventeen-year-old Effi and an austere, workaholic civil servant twice her age, is at once touching and unsettling. Fontane's taut, ironic narrative depicts a world where sexuality and the enjoyment of life are stifled by narrow-mindedness and circumstance. Considered by many to be the pinnacle of the nineteenth-century German novel, Effi Briest is a tale of adultery that ranks with Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina and brilliantly demonstrates the truth of the author's comment and "women's stories are generally far more interesting."
Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German
The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature
Novel by Theodor Fontane, written in 1891-93; published in installments in Deutsche Rundschau from October 1894 to March 1895 and in book form in 1895. Known for its deft characterization and accurate portrayal of Brandenburg society, the novel examines the place of women in society by following the corruption and downfall of Effi, married at age 17 to a 38-year-old bureaucrat. Considered Fontane's best novel, Effi Briest is free of didacticism, drawing no clear distinctions between good and evil in its characters while developing sympathy for its female protagonist.
About the Author
Theodor Fontane (1819-1898) was born in Neuruppin, thirty miles northwest of Berlin. Although he received recognition relatively late in life, he is now thought of as the greatest German novelist between Goethe and Thomas Mann.
Hugh Rorrison has published extensively on modern German theater and teaches German film at the University of Leeds.
Helen Chambers organized the first conference on English translations of Fontane in 1992 and teaches German at the University of St. Andrews.
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