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.

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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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