PUBLISHED: Sept, 2017
Grieshuus: The Chronicle of a Family
Translated from the German by Denis Jackson; afterword by David Artiss
Angel Classics celebrates the bicentenary of the birth of one of the most deeply affecting of German writers with a new translation of a long overlooked late masterpiece. Grieshuus: The Chronicle of a Family is the sixth and final title in Denis Jackson’s definitive series of translations of Storm’s finest novellas.
Grieshuus is the story of the decline and extinction of a noble line, which arises from the enmity between two brothers. Events take place in a remote, wolf-ridden corner of the northern German duchy of Schleswig, in the midst of an international power struggle – the devastating Northern Wars of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, fought between the rulers of the expanding Swedish empire and coalitions of other European powers, from Denmark and the Low Countries to the Russia of Peter the Great.
The structural subtlety of this spacious novella, involving two separate chronicles inside an overarching narrative framework spanning several generations, foreshadows that of Storm’s celebrated masterpiece The Dykemaster (Der Schimmelreiter)
Theodor Storm (1817–1888) is one of the celebrated canonical names of nineteenth-century German literature. Romantic writers such as Tieck, Hoffmann and Novalis had been intrigued by the irrational, the exotic and the grotesque. The German writers who followed them were more inward-looking and often chose tragic themes, concerned with moral predicaments and the psychology of individuals in a community context.
By Storm’s time the heroic representation of tragedy, which had reached its zenith with Goethe and Schiller, belonged to a bygone era. In the early nineteenth century Heinrich von Kleist had departed from classical orthodoxies while retaining the dramatic form. Storm demonstrates a further progression, taking tragedy away from the public sphere of the theatre and into the privacy of the home. For him, prose fiction in the shape of the novella was a more intimate vehicle for the portrayal of tragedy. In his words, ‘The novella today is the sister of drama and the most rigorous form of prose fiction’.
For all the apparent solidity of Storm’s burgher settings, his stories of human failure and disaster movingly highlight the tragic imperfection of life. His achievement has been described as ‘the art of uncovering the seeds of death in each human endeavour’. Narrated with consummate skill, his work has a profound humanity and a universal resonance for the present-day reader. – Barbara Burns, University of Glasgow
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.