On Tangled Paths

In 1870s Berlin, an aristocratic officer in a glamorous cavalry regiment and a seamstress supporting herself and her invalid foster-mother with piecework defy convention by falling seriously in love.What might have been a simple tale of conflict between love and duty becomes, in Fontane’s hands, something more sophisticated.The contrast between the lovers’ whole-hearted view of each other and the world’s trivializing view of their relationship underlies a tautly sprung narrative which is tenderly moving without being sentimental; gently ironic and full of social comedy.

Fontane’s brilliant use of dialogue creates a vigorous and loving portrait of the new German capital and its inhabitants.It has taken a long time for the greatest German 19th-century novelist to find an English-language following. Peter James Bowman’s masterly new translation of Irrungen, Wirrungen (1888) offers the English reader another unforgettable novel by Fontane to set beside Effi Briest.



On Tangled Paths has the flawless logic and beautiful design of the novella at its best.’ – Paul Binding, The Spectator, 23/30 April 2011

‘There is an undertow of sadness to this novel, yet to read it is a joy, for its humanity, subtlety and visual immediacy.’ – Ruth Pavey, The Independent, 10 December 2010

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