German Literature Month – ‘Effi Briest’ Read-Along (Part Two)

And we’re back for the second of three posts on Theodor Fontane’s classic, Effi Briest.  While the first post was relatively general in nature, this one will start to give the game away plotwise, so if you haven’t made it to the end of Chapter 24 yet, please look away now…

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Still with me?  Excellent :)The middle section of Effi Briest picks up where Chapter Fifteen left off, with the dashing Major Crampas worming his way into Effi’s affections both in front of and behind Innstetten’s back.  On a series of rides and picnics by the coast, the two become closer, and the more Effi realises that her honour is in danger, the more she tries to pull away.  Our poor heroine tries to face down her admirer, but events (as they always seem to do in fiction – bad writers!) conspire against her, and on a cold night, alone with the Major in a sleigh, the inevitable happens…

The reader, to this point at least, is not aware of any further indiscretions, although this is implicitly hinted in Effi’s ‘walks’, but I believe Fontane is sympathetic to Effi’s struggles.  The references she makes to the poem Gottesmauer indicate her willingness to seek shelter from the storm of Crampas’ advances – ironically, when the wall of darkness does surround her, Crampas is on the wrong (or right side)…

However, the move to Berlin comes as a godsend to our young heroine, and she deliberately avoids returning to the coast, putting herself out of temptation’s way until Innstetten can join her in the capital.  It looks as if a dangerous chapter in her life may be behind her, with Crampas far away and her husband now near enough to pay her (and her daughter) more attention.  With a little effort – on the part of both husband and wife -, there’s no reason why things can’t end happily ever after.

Of course, that would make for a very boring ending, and there are indications that the final sixty pages or so will bring another dramatic turn.  The mere mention of the name Crampas (this time the village Effi hears of on her holidays), brings memories of her betrayal rushing back, and as we leave her on a sleepless night at her parents’ house, we sense that somehow or other, the marriage is fated to come crashing down around Effi’s ears…

Should we feel sorry for her?  Well, I’ve already indicated that perhaps there is reason to forgive her, both on the grounds of her youth and the amends she has tried to make in avoiding Crampas before the move to Berlin.  However, it’s not quite as simple as that.  The full extent of the relationship with Crampas has yet to be revealed, and for us to forgive her, Effi would need to be truly penitent.  Yet the final part of Chapter Twenty Four shows Effi’s thoughts to be less related to guilt and more concerned with getting away with it all.

So where do we go from here?  Will Innstetten stumble upon the truth?  Will Crampas brag and let the cat out of the bag?  Will Effi succumb to guilt and blurt everything out to her husband?  How will her parents react?  And, assuming the secret is aired, what will Innstetten do about it?  I still have the feeling that Effi’s youth and naivety may lead her to do something drastic…

…but I suppose I’ll find out what really happens next week 😉

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6 thoughts on “German Literature Month – ‘Effi Briest’ Read-Along (Part Two)

  1. I'm liking the way your post's coming across to me, I may not read the book, but if it ever becomes day time soap opera, I'll book my place on the couch. back next week unless in the meantime there's edited highlights.

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  2. I like your approach as well.
    I remembered everything to be much more explicit in my memory. Someone else who read it a while back commented on my firt post she only remembered the bodice ripping part. There is no such thing as bodice ripping.
    It's almost humurous this constant going for walks. If it wasn't for the good bye letter, I might have been in doubt still.

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  3. Gary – Thanks 🙂 I've just finished, and the ending does make for interesting reading!

    Caroline – I'm not one for sticking to questions, unfortunately; I need a looser approach to posting and reviewing (as you'll see in my reviews on 'Das Schloß' next week!).

    The 'walks' really worked for me; we suspect, but we don't know (until we read on, anyway…)

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  4. Enjoyed reading your thoughts on 'Effi Briest', Tony. When I read about Effi's 'walks' in your post, it made me smile 🙂 Fontane was really, really being discreet! I also liked the way you have described how the plot could potentially turn in different ways.

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  5. Gary – A very interesting take on Effi – and very hard to read 😉

    Vishy – I've now finished, and I like the way it turned out. The only thing… No – you'll have to wait for next week!

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