Der Schimmelreiter (1888), here translated as The Dykemaster, is one of the most celebrated works of classic German fiction. Denis Jackson’s new translation, the first for many years, sets out to recreate the full impact of Theodor Storm’s masterpiece – a task in which no previous English version has succeeded. The Dykemaster is the tale of a visionary young north Frisian Deichgraf of the eighteenth century, creator of a new form of dyke. The short-sighted and self-seeking community with which he is at odds turns him into a phantom, seen riding his grey along the dyke whenever the sea threatens to break through. The rationalistic storyteller, in a sophisticated narrative structure, belongs to a later age, and what he relates is a veiled critique of the dyke officials of his own day.
The eerie west Schleswig-Holstein coast, with its vast hallucinatory tidal flats, hushed polders and terrifying North Sea, is the setting for a tale which grips from first page to last with its dynamic tensions and shifts of focus, mood and pace. Storm’s dense narrative further invites the reader to ask whether progress is possible, how the historical record is established, what parts are played by the rational and the irrational in human existence.
‘this tremendous tale, with which Storm took his conception of the Novelle, as epic sister of drama, to unprecedented heights …’ – Thomas Mann
‘This is a marvellous work … There is nothing better in German fiction prior to the work of Thomas Mann.’ –Kirkus Reviews
‘Translations of the high standard of this one are more than ever in demand.’ – Mary Garland, editor of The Oxford Companion to German Literature