A Doppelgänger; with Aquis submersus

This fifth selection of Denis Jackson’s definitive series of translations of the novellas of Theodor Storm includes the little-known late masterpiece A Doppelgänger, the dramatic story of an ex-prisoner’s struggle for rehabilitation, along with one of Storm’s most celebrated tales, Aquis submersus, a tragedy of passion and a powerful critique of the North German landowning Junker class.

In The Doppelgänger a reformed ex-prisoner finds himself an unemployable outcast on release from prison, his crime having been a consequence of harsh economic conditions in mid-19-century north Germany. The stark events of his life, pieced together after his death within an outer narrative, are in sharp contrast to his daughter’s tender childhood memories of him. This subtly told tragic story has much to say to the present day.

Aquis submersus, one of Storm’s most celebrated tales, is the story of a love affair between a 17th-century portrait-painter and a subject of his, a landowner’s daughter, in an environment of bitter Junker hostility to his class. It is one of Storm’s ‘chronicle novellas’, an inner narrative being the artist’s own account of events in a document discovered at a later time. The meaning of a mysterious inscription on the portrait of a dead child is gradually revealed in the course of the story.