The Info List - Theodor Fontane

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Theodor Fontane
Theodor Fontane
(German: [ˈtʰeːodoɐ̯ fɔnˈtaːnə]; 30 December 1819 – 20 September 1898) was a German novelist and poet, regarded by many as the most important 19th-century German-language
realist writer.


1 Youth 2 Newspaper writer and critic 3 London 4 Wars of German Unification 5 Later years 6 Death 7 Prose works 8 Poems 9 See also 10 Notes 11 Sources 12 External links

Youth[edit] Fontane was born in Neuruppin, a town 30 miles northwest of Berlin, into a Huguenot
family. At the age of sixteen he was apprenticed to an apothecary, his father's profession. He became an apothecary himself, and in 1839, at the age of 20, wrote his first work (Heinrichs IV. erste Liebe, now lost). His further education was in Leipzig
where he came into contact with the progressives of the Vormärz. Fontane's first published work, the novella Geschwisterliebe (Sibling Love), appeared in the Berlin
Figaro in December 1839. His biographer Gordon A. Craig
Gordon A. Craig
observes that this gave few indications of his promise as a gifted writer: "Although the theme of incest, which was to occupy Fontane on later occasions, is touched upon here, the mawkishness of the tale... is equalled by the lameness of its plot and the inertness of the style in which it is told, and [the characters] Clärchen and her brother are both so colorless that no one could have guessed that their creator had a future as a writer."[1] Fontane's first job as apothecary was in Dresden, after which he returned to his father's shop in the provincial town of Letschin
in the Oderbruch
region. Fleeing its provincial atmosphere, Fontane published articles in the Leipzig
newspaper Die Eisenbahn and translated Shakespeare. In 1843, he joined a literary club in Berlin called Tunnel über der Spree (Tunnel over the River Spree) where he came into contact with many of the most renowned German writers, including Theodor Storm, Joseph von Eichendorff
Joseph von Eichendorff
and Gottfried Keller. Newspaper writer and critic[edit]

"Modern Book Printing" from the Walk of Ideas
Walk of Ideas
in Berlin, Germany
– built in 2006 to commemorate Johannes Gutenberg's invention, c. 1445, of movable printing type.

In 1844 Fontane enlisted in the Prussian army and set out on the first of numerous journeys to England which fostered his interest in Old English ballads, a form he began to imitate. He became engaged to his future wife, Emilie Rouanet-Kummer, whom he had met when still at school. He briefly participated in the revolutionary events of 1848. In 1849 he quit his job as an apothecary and became a full-time journalist and writer. In order to support his family he took a job as a writer for the Prussian intelligence agency Zentralstelle für Presseangelegenheiten, which was intended to influence the press towards the German nationalist cause. There he specialized in British affairs, and the agency made him for several years its correspondent in London, where he was later joined by his wife and two sons. While still in London, he quit his government job, and on his return to Berlin
became editor of the conservative paper Neue Preussische Zeitung. London[edit] Fontane's books about Britain include Ein Sommer in London
(1854), Aus England, Studien und Briefe (1860) and Jenseit des Tweed, Bilder und Briefe aus Schottland (1860). The success of the historical novels of Walter Scott
Walter Scott
had helped to make British themes much en vogue on the continent. Fontane's Gedichte (1851) and ballads Männer und Helden (1860) tell of Britain's former glories.

Fontane, ca. 1860

Back in Germany, Fontane became particularly interested in his home province, the March of Brandenburg. He enjoyed rambling through its rural landscapes and small towns and delighted in the growth of its capital city, Berlin. His fascination with the countryside surrounding Berlin
may be seen in his picturesque Wanderungen durch die Mark Brandenburg
(1862–1882, 5 vols.) in which he transposed his former fascination with British historical matters to his native soil. Wars of German Unification[edit] In 1870, he quit his job at the Kreuzzeitung and became drama critic for the liberal Vossische Zeitung, a position he held until retirement. He had already written about Prussia's war against Denmark in Der schleswig-holsteinische Krieg im Jahre 1864 (1866) and the Austro-Prussian War
Austro-Prussian War
in Der deutsche Krieg von 1866 (1869). He went to the front to observe the Franco-Prussian War
Franco-Prussian War
in 1870, and, after being taken prisoner at Vaucouleurs, remained in French captivity for three months. He set down his experiences in Kriegsgefangen Erlebtes 1870 (1871) and published his observations on the campaign in Der Krieg gegen Frankreich 1870–71 (1874–1876). Later years[edit] At the age of 57 Fontane finally set to work in the genre for which he is remembered: the novel. A fine historical romance, Vor dem Sturm (Before the Storm, 1878) was followed by a series of novels of modern life, notably L'Adultera (Woman Taken in Adultery, 1882), which was considered so risqué that it took Fontane two years to find it a publisher.

Graves of Theodor and Emilie Fontane in the Französische Friedhof, Liesenstraße, Berlin.

In his novels Irrungen, Wirrungen (Trials and Tribulations, 1888), Frau Jenny Treibel
Frau Jenny Treibel
(1892) and Effi Briest
Effi Briest
(1894–95), he found his own tone, yielding insights into the lives of the nobility and of the common man. His achievement there was later described as poetic realism. In Der Stechlin
Der Stechlin
(written 1895–97), his last completed novel, Fontane adapted the realistic methods and social criticism of contemporary French fiction to the conditions of Prussian life. Death[edit] Fontane died on 20 September 1898, in Berlin. As a member of the French Protestant Church of Berlin, he was buried in the congregation's cemetery on the Liesenstraße. His wife, Emilie, was buried beside him four years later. Their graves were damaged in World War II but later restored. Prose works[edit]

Geschwisterliebe, 1839 Zwei Post-Stationen, 1845 James Monmouth, 1854 Tuch und Locke, 1854 Goldene Hochzeit, 1854 Ein Sommer in London, 1854 Aus England. Studien und Briefe über Londoner Theater, Kunst und Presse, 1860 Jenseit des Tweed. Bilder und Briefe aus Schottland, 1861 Wanderungen durch die Mark Brandenburg, 1862–89 Der Schleswig-Holtsteinsche Krieg im Jahre 1864, 1866 Kriegsgefangen. Erlebnis, 1870 Der deutsche Krieg von 1866, 1870–71 Vor dem Sturm, 1878 (Full text in German; translated as Before the Storm) Grete Minde, 1880 Ellernklipp, 1881 L'Adultera, 1882 (translated as Woman Taken in Adultery) Schach von Wuthenow, 1882 (translated as A Man of Honor) Graf Petöfy, 1884 Unterm Birnbaum, 1885 (translated as Under the Pear Tree) Cécile, 1887 Irrungen, Wirrungen. Berliner Roman 1888 (translated as On Tangled Paths, 2010, A Suitable Match, 1968, and Trials and Tribulations, 1917) Fünf Schlösser. Altes und Neues aus Mark Brandenburg, 1889 Stine, 1890 Quitt, 1891 Unwiederbringlich, 1891 (translated as Irretrievable, Beyond Recall and No Way Back) Frau Jenny Treibel, 1892 (translated as Jenny Treibel) Meine Kinderjahre, 1894 Effi Briest, 1894–95 (serialized in Deutsche Rundschau); 1895 (in book form) Die Poggenpuhls, 1896 (translated as The Poggenpuhl Family) Der Stechlin, 1898 (translated as The Stechlin) Mathilde Möhring, 1906


Balladen, 1861 Archibald Douglas Die Brück' am Tay (English translation, Wikisource
(German)) John Maynard Herr von Ribbeck auf Ribbeck im Havelland (translated as Nick Ribbeck at Ribbeck in Havelland) Aber es bleibt auf dem alten Fleck Ausgang Gorm Grymme Das Trauerspiel von Afghanistan (English translation) Wo Bismarck Liegen Soll Kaiser Friedrich III Jung-Bismarck Jakobitenlieder Märkische Reime

See also[edit]

Statue of Theodor Fontane, Tiergarten, Berlin


^ Theodor Fontane: Literature and History in the Bismarck Reich (Oxford University Press, 1999), Theodor Fontane


Craig, Gordon Theodor Fontane: Literature and History in the Bismarck Reich, NY: Oxford University Press, 1999 ISBN 0-19-512837-0. Thomas Mann, "The Old Fontane," in Essays of Three Decades (Knopf, 1947), 1910 essay.

External links[edit]

German Wikisource
has original text related to this article: Theodor Fontane

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Theodor Fontane.

Works by Theodor Fontane
Theodor Fontane
at Project Gutenberg Works by or about Theodor Fontane
Theodor Fontane
at Internet Archive Works by Theodor Fontane
Theodor Fontane
at LibriVox
(public domain audiobooks) Trials and Tribulations, by Fontane (English) Schach von Wuthenow, by Fontane (English)  "Fontane, Theodor". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911.  "Works by Theodor Fontane". Zeno.org (in German). 

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19th century

Bettina von Arnim Ludwig Achim von Arnim Clemens Brentano Georg Büchner Adelbert von Chamisso Annette von Droste-Hülshoff Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach Joseph von Eichendorff Theodor Fontane Gustav Freytag Jeremias Gotthelf Franz Grillparzer Jacob Grimm Wilhelm Grimm Gerhart Hauptmann Christian Friedrich Hebbel Johann Peter Hebel Heinrich Heine Georg Herwegh Paul Heyse E. T. A. Hoffmann Friedrich Hölderlin Gottfried Keller Heinrich von Kleist Nikolaus Lenau Karl May Conrad Ferdinand Meyer Eduard Mörike Johann Nestroy Wilhelm Raabe Adalbert Stifter Theodor Storm Ludwig Tieck Ludwig Uhland

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WorldCat Identities VIAF: 41840061 LCCN: n79018924 ISNI: 0000 0001 2129 6195 GND: 118534262 SELIBR: 187147 SUDOC: 027320812 BNF: cb11903061s (data) ULAN: 500317800 MusicBrainz: 3230c408-15b3-4399-a6f0-a35e9378fa93 NDL: 00439803 NKC: jn19990002341 BNE: XX870419 RKD: 306