A Doppelgänger; with Aquis submersus
Translated from the German by Denis Jackson; Introduction by Barbara Burns
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.
THEODOR STORM (1817–88) was born in the small North Sea coastal town of Husum, where he established himself as a lawyer and spent almost his entire life apart from fifteen years of political exile. His fifty or so novellas grew out of his lyric verse, which includes some of the finest in the language. His intricately wrought, subtle narratives, strongly rooted in time and place, have long made him a favourite author of his fellow countrymen, and the English-speaking world has begun to accord him a place beside better known writers of other nations whose work has long been accepted as classic.
DENIS JACKSON’s previous selections of Storm’s novellas published in Angel Classics are The Dykemaster (Der Schimmelreiter); Hans and Heinz Kirch, with ‘Immensee’ and ‘Journey to a Hallig’; Paul the Puppeteer, with ‘The Village on the Moor’ and ‘Renate’ (Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize 2005); and Carsten the Trustee, with ‘The Last Farmstead’, ‘The Swallows of St George’s’ and ‘By the Fireside’.