Carsten the Trustee; with The Swallows of St George’s, The Last Farmstead, and By the Fireside

‘I value in particular,’ writes Eda Sagarra in her Introduction, ‘two features of Storm’s writing. First, his multiple perspectives, the way in which he seems to invite the reader to look over the shoulder, as it were, of the teller of the story, and judge accordingly. And secondly, his sense of place, his supreme sense that his native region, North Friesland, is as much the centre of the world as was Greece for the storyteller of The Odyssey.’

Theodor Storm (1817–88) has long been enjoyed in Germany as a supreme master of the novella, to whom later writers, from Thomas Mann to Christa Wolf, have been indebted. Denis Jackson’s translations (his third selection of Storm’s novellas, entitled Paul the Puppeteer, won the Oxford Weidenfeld Translation Prize for 2005) are gaining definitive status and doing much to get this chronicler of the North German coastal region more widely read in English.

In this selection of four further novellas, The Last Farmstead and the title-story depict reversals of fortune in previously prosperous farming and burgher families in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars; the autobiographical Carsten the Trustee is one of Storm’s most powerful tragic tales. The Swallows of St George’s is an intriguingly told love story from complementary viewpoints. The infectiously high-spirited By the Fireside, in which a teller of ghost stories finally wins over an initially sceptical audience, foreshadows Storm’s use of the supernatural in his later works.The translator’s end-notes, afterword and maps gently draw the reader into Storm’s understated but compelling world.

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‘Denis Jackson has done a great service in providing such fluent, natural translations of these four stories, two of which appear in English for the first time.’– Ben Hutchinson, Times Literary Supplement