Welcome, one and all, to November – and to the latest edition of German Literature Month! As has been the case every year since 2011, Caroline and Lizzy are inviting everyone to read and write about their favourite books from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and beyond, and I’m on board once more to introduce you all to some more excellent books. This year, though, my participation will be a little different. While I’ll still have room for a few of the usual reviews, I’ll also be doing something a little special. What, exactly? Well, read on, and you’ll find out 😉
The first book I’m looking at this month is Schwüle Tage (Sultry Days), a novella by early-twentieth-century writer Eduard Graf von Keyserling. Having enjoyed his most famous novel Wellen (Waves) a few years back, I’d always intended to try more of his work, and this one turned out to be another interesting story. While it only runs to around sixty pages, it’s a fascinating tale of a hot summer spent in the country, a story that shows appearances can be deceiving.
The narrator of the tale is Bill, the eighteen-year-old son of a Prussian nobleman. Our unfortunate hero has managed to bomb out in his final exam at school, so while his mother and siblings have fun at the beach, he must accompany his stern father to their property in Fernow, where he is to knuckle down to some serious studies in order to do better next time around.
However, his dull holiday in the country is to prove far more interesting than he could have imagined. Although his dreams of romance with his beautiful cousin get off to a rocky start, she’s not the only attractive young woman in the vicinity, and while the days are hot, the nights prove to be even hotter when love is in the air. Young Bill is also about to learn that when it comes to romance, women usually have the upper hand.
Yet the main attraction of this unwanted holiday is, surprisingly, the time spent with his dad. Having grown up rather apart from the distant figure of his travelling father, Bill will see a rather different side to him during the time spent together on their property. In fact, he’s about to be let into a secret that will not only change the course of his summer, but also have an effect on the rest of his life…
Sadly, Keyserling is a writer whose work has failed to capture the imagination of English-language readers (or publishers), and virtually none of his work is available in translation, with this one being no exception. That is, until now… You see, I found myself with a little spare time on my hands a couple of months back, and I decided that it might be a good idea to have a go at translating the story myself. And so I did 🙂
To start off German Literature Month, then, I’ll be serialising the book over the next couple of weeks. While the original text had no real chapters, I’ve divided the novella into thirteen bite-sized parts, and I’ll be publishing one section each day for the next couple of weeks, before finishing off with a translator’s afterword dealing with the text and some of the issues I had in bringing it across into English. While I can’t promise that I’ve done a wonderful job (I’m an amateur, and I did my own editing…), I hope you’ll enjoy the story just the same.
For anyone who wants to check my work and shame me, the copyright-free digital text I used as a starting point can be found here, at the German equivalent of Project Gutenberg. For those of you whose German isn’t quite up to that task, stay tuned over the next couple of weeks, and come back each day for the latest installment of the story. It may be autumn already in the northern hemisphere (and only spring down here in Melbourne), but in my story, it’s still summer. If you like the sound of spending a couple of weeks in the sun, feel free to read along 🙂