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Book Title: إيفي بريست|
The author of the book: Theodor Fontane
Format files: PDF
ISBN 13: No data
The size of the: 18.52 MB
Edition: دار الآدب / بيروت-لبنان
Date of issue: 1990
ISBN: No data
Read full description of the books إيفي بريست:This is a book in which everybody gets what they wanted, whether they like it or not.
The eponymous heroine gets to marry a man of principals, her husband gets to marry somebody who he thinks (presumably) is just like her mother who he had wanted to marry twenty years earlier and Major Crampas gets to die in combat just as he always wanted.
Fontane prefers to tell simple stories and Effi Briest is no exception. The plot is very simple and loosely based on a true story, the strength of the story is in the author's craftsmanship. Every detail seems to count and becomes meaningful. A simple tale of the breakdown of a marriage illustrates a small minded and self destructive culture. As in Die Poggenpuhls members of the upper classes are like so many colourful butterflies caught in Fontane's net and pinned to the page.
Their world shifts from the secure to the claustrophobic(view spoiler)[ as indeed one might expect life to be inside the killing jar (hide spoiler)]. Effi marries the man who wanted to marry her mother, her husband in turn is is close to being twenty years older than her. Round the edges of their world lurk threats including scary Catholicism and the dragon of Revolution, luckily Prussian victories are on hand to keep them all safe, but all the same, as Doctor Hannemann tells Effi when her daughter is born, it is a pity that it's a girl on the anniversary of the battle of Königgrätz (Sadowa, or Sadova or even Hradec Králové depending on your linguistic inclination), but you can still have another and the Prussians have many victory anniversaries (Wir haben heute den Tag von Königgrätz; schade dass es ein Mädchen ist. Aber das andere kann ja nachkommen, und die Preußen haben viele Siegestage. (p116)).
There is a road map, but does it lead to anywhere that anyone would really like to go? Effi's marriage at seventeen to a much older man echoes her mother's early marriage to an older man. One life is an iteration of the other. The other cycle in the book is that of the natural year. Effi and her daughter areborn in the summer. While the October marriage and arrival in November in the new home are shrouded in autumnal atmosphere with a promise of a bleak winter to come. The news of Innstetten's promotion comes at the end of winter, so the prospect of a new life in Berlin is offers the hope of a springlike renewal to Effi's life.
A Glance over the Literary Landscape
Since Effi's travelling companion is reading Zola's Nana when the news comes of the breakdown of her marriage it seems natural to compare this failed marriage novel with some of the others that if not Fontane then his reading audience would be familiar with to bring out some of the distinctive features of Fontane's approach. The social code is far stricter in Fontane's book (this is above all a Prussian story!) than in Tolstoy's Anna Karenina while the social milieu and the author's attitude towards the social milieu distinguishes Madame Bovary from Effi.
Madame Bovary, as far as I recall aspired to a romantic vision of decadent upper class life, while Effi is stuck in the reality of an upper class existence that is intolerant and restrictive, the decadence of the Eulenburg Affair is fasr from her daily experience. Madame Bovary's reading has primed her for a life of voluptuous dissipation, while Effi (who never gets to have the full or adult version of her name, instead is forever a Katie and never a Catherine) is characterised by her lack of reading and poor education, her consistent reference point is what her old Pastor said.
While in both Tolstoy and Fontane the theme of adultery ends in the woman's death, for Tolstoy this is the result of the woman's choice. She has abandoned her role in the family, and with the aid of further emphatically non-Russian Western decadence in the form of drugs and steam trains she meets her death. Effi is, by contrast, the passive element in the story. Things happen to her and are imposed on her. Her husband's actions, governed by a principled moral code, lead to her being ostracised and the extent of her ostracism is determined by the degree to which society shares or conforms to her husband Innstetten's values. However Effi has the final word. She thought at the age of seventeen that those principles of his were manly, but comes to realise that that are simply small minded (and perhaps those two categories aren't mutually exclusive). Despite this she is able to transcend her society and forgive him, whether that is helpful or meaningful beyond establishing something about her character is another question, in a sense, as a social novel, her forgiving him is a shocking act. In this type of novel, from this type of society, we are used to expecting that the "fallen" woman is the one in need of forgiveness and isn't the one who provides the forgiveness. Little Effi is the still centre of the book and one leaves with the feeling that it is Innstetten who needed her more than Effi needed him.
Here Effi Briest seems to me to be very close to Tess of the d'Urbervilles. Although socially the two books are in completely different worlds the sense of a dominant morally that is pre-Christian and simply vindictive is shared through the imagery of human sacrifice. Stonehenge in Hardy is the counterpoint of the sacrifice stones that Effi sees in North Germany. She assumes that they are Wendish in origin (ie Slav and not German), but, and Effi's poor education is a constant theme in the story, she is corrected towards the close of the novel Ach, gnäd'ge Frau verzeihen. Aber das waren ja keine Wenden. Das mit den Opfersteinen und mit dem Herthasee das war ja schon wieder viel, viel früher, ganz vor Christum natum; reine Germanen, von denen wir alle abstammen... (p280). The sacrifice stones are 'purely German' and the characters in the novel are the descendants of those Germans who at various foolish points in German history have been lauded as good role models - Fontane is the antidote to that kind of thinking and so is the Grand Old Man of Prussian letters.
While Nana, and Madame Bovary weigh in with leading women who are intrinsically destructive and disruptive to the social order, in Fontane it is the social order itself that is destructive with the potential to crush the joy out of life, and the life out of the individual.
The novelist as Craftsman
One can see the influence of this novel on Thomas Mann's style in Buddenbrooks. This struck me particularly in the Twenty-eighth chapter which deals with the duel between Innstetten and Crampas. Rather like some of the chapters in Buddenbrooks this could have been a free standing short story. The references to earlier events are self explanatory. Innstetten's return to Kessin in bright sunshine contrasting to his earlier arrival with Effi after their honeymoon on a gloomy November day. The efficiency of the description of the actual combat, terse, in stark contrast to the longer description of Crampas' death. The irony of his last words. The lack of emotion in the scene contrasted with the letter that closes the chapter in which Innstetten's Second describes visiting Crampas' widow and explaining to her that she is now, in fact, a widow. The dryness of the stripped down style itself a blow to any reader expecting a great denouement. This is a duel that provides no satisfaction, save to a man such as Innstetten. Every detail labours to tell part of the story, nothing is superfluous.
Towards the next reading...
Is Effi a modern version of the Virgin Mary as Dostoevsky's Prince Myshkin is meant to be a nineteeth-century Jesus? Does the positive characterisation of the catholic Roswitha and the detail of Effi's characterisation at home lead in that direction? Or should this be read in the light of the educational value of literature, had Effi read her Goethe, Heine, or Samuel Richardson might she have been better placed to survive adult life?
towards a third reading:
2nd reading notes
chapters 1-3 cycles Briest the father in his 50s, Briest the mother 38. Innstetten of a like age. Effi 17. Is cousin Dagobert being lined up to be the husband of Effi's daughter? The clergyman's wife - no surprise at the marriage. between innstetten and Effi. The sense of a road map, marriage then children, age at which the women achieve these things a/the (?) criterion of success.
The mother asking the daughter what she wants, once, twice. Daughter wants material things then worldly honour. On the reread we know this is precisely what she isn't going to get
Contrast from the fairy stories they see on stage and at polterarbend. Also "Käthchen von Heilbronn, whose heroine voluntarily endures every ill treatment and every disgrace which the loved one heaps upon her. Clothed with all the charm of the fairy-story the gracious figure had an effect like a miraculous picture"
Quite, instead the life will be like Kaethe's.
Question - red lamp as erotic signal - the mother some things better left to the dark. Difficulty of a woman's life (ie meaning an upper class woman) on public display in a small town.
Emphasis on Effi as a child. From the name (euphemia?) the climbing, the clothing
The old Herr von Borcke at the post christening reception - difficult times, slay the dragon of revolution, watch out for catholics! pp116-117
Gieshuebler as the one reasonable man in the town - what does that mean? The bourgeois is reasonable in crampas' and innstetten's view - is this a positive? The greenhouse, a positive image.
original placeholder review
Acclaimed by critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki as a great German novel Effi Briest is the story of an unequal marriage and what becomes of it. Typically of a Fontane novel its strength isn't in the plot but in the characters and particularly in how the characters are shown through speech - not just what they say, but also how they talk and how they use conversation.
As a side note I enjoyed the difference between the wet and the dry apartments in Berlin - ie whether the plaster in these newly built flats had entirely dried out or not.
Read information about the authorTheodor Fontane (30 December 1819 – 20 September 1898) was a German novelist and poet, regarded by many to be the most important 19th-century German-language realist writer.
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