- Expected 4 May 2021
- 89,00 kr
The first complete English translation of the nineteenth-century Austrian innovator's evocative, elemental cycle of novellas.
For Kafka he was “my fat brother”; Thomas Mann called him “one of the most peculiar, enigmatic, secretly audacious and strangely gripping storytellers in world literature.” Often misunderstood as an idyllic “poet of beetles and buttercups,” the nineteenth-century Austrian writer Adalbert Stifter has been rediscovered in recent years as a radical experimenter with narrative and a forerunner of the darker currents of nature writing.
One of his best-known and most accessible works, the novella cycle Motley Stones now appears in its first complete English translation, a rendition that respects the bracing strangeness of the original. In six thematically linked novellas, including the beloved classic “Rock Crystal,” human dramas play out amid the natural cycles of the Alps or the urban rhythms of Vienna—environments so keenly observed that they emerge as the tales’ most indomitable protagonists. Stifter’s human characters are equally haunting—children braving perils, eccentrics and loners harboring enigmatic torments. “We seek to glimpse the gentle law that guides the human race,” Stifter famously wrote. What he glimpsed, more often than not, was the abyss that lies behind the idyll. The tension between his humane sensitivity and his dark visions is what lends his writing its heartbreaking power.
This cycle of novellas by pioneering nature writer Stifter (1805 1868), offers a quiet and graceful meditation on place and history. "Granite" features a boy in trouble with his mother as he goes on a mountain stroll with his grandfather, whose tales of a historical plague dwarf the boy's own small misadventures. The fabulist "Rock Crystal" follows a village shoemaker's two children as they meander through a dangerous and snowy passage in the dark, their adventure becoming a Grimmesque tale in which the beauty of the outdoors tempts the children toward danger. No matter the subject or setting, Stifter's narrators are always cataloging the finest details of the world around them: "I saw hosts of the little white-yellow flowers on the ground, I saw the greyish turf, I saw the pitch like drops of gold on the trunks... I heard the calm rustle in the needles." Throughout, Stifter sheds light on such sweeping themes as the nature of storytelling, the legacy and drama of ancestral history and family traditions, and mankind's many connections and obligations to the natural world. His writing, freshly translated by Cole, is full of wisdom and wonder.