Hugh Rorrison and Helen Chambers follow their breakthrough version of Effi Briest with a new translation of another fine novel by Fontane, Unwiederbringlich – No Way Back (1891), set in Copenhagen and Schleswig-Holstein on the eve of the Prussian takeover of the territory in 1864.
Affable but unsophisticated Count Holk, of an ancient German Schleswig family, is inspired by a Romantic ballad to leave the modest but comfortable ancestral Schloss where he and his wife Christine have spent an idyllic early married life and build a new, architecturally ambitious ‘castle by the sea’. He is unaware of how the ballad ends … As a gentleman-in-waiting to a Danish royal princess, he is summoned to a six-month spell of duty in Copenhagen. At the princess’s lively, fun-loving court, the rural count falls into beguiling company, and his life begins to spiral out of control.
This multi-layered portrayal of a problematic marriage and a little-known corner of Danish-German history has all Fontane’s celebrated qualities: virtuosity of dialogue, elegance and irony, a tragicomic edge, and a distinctly modern sensibility.
‘No Way Back has the amplitude, the social and personal varieties, we expect of the major social novel; it surely ranks among the most imaginatively challenging and intellectually satisfying attainments in that dominant 19th-century form.’ –Paul Binding, The Spectator, 23/30 April 2011
‘Helen Chambers and Hugh Rorrison have improved on the previous English version by Douglas Parmée, especially in the handling of conversation. While Parmée’s translation sometimes felt stilted, they compose natural, idiomatic conversations.’– Ritchie Robertson, Times Literary Supplement, 25 March 2011