'I loathe what I did, but what I loathe even more is your virtue.' Seventeen-year-old Effi Briest is steered by her parents into marriage with an ambitious bureaucrat, twenty years her senior. He takes her from her home to a remote provincial town on the Baltic coast of Prussia where she is isolated, bored, and prey to superstitious fears. She drifts into a half-hearted affair with a manipulative, womanizing officer, which ends when her husband is transferred to Berlin. Years later, events are triggered that will have ...
'I loathe what I did, but what I loathe even more is your virtue.' Seventeen-year-old Effi Briest is steered by her parents into marriage with an ambitious bureaucrat, twenty years her senior. He takes her from her home to a remote provincial town on the Baltic coast of Prussia where she is isolated, bored, and prey to superstitious fears. She drifts into a half-hearted affair with a manipulative, womanizing officer, which ends when her husband is transferred to Berlin. Years later, events are triggered that will have profound consequences for Effi and her family. Effi Briest (1895) is recognized as one of the masterpieces by Theodor Fontane, Germany's premier realist novelist, and one of the great novels of marital relations together with Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina. It presents life among the conservative Prussian aristocracy with irony and gentle humour, and opposes the rigid and antiquated morality of the time by treating its heroine with sympathy and keen psychological insight. ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.
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I reached my 73rd year before hearing of this book, and discovering that it's considered to be a high point in the 19th century German novel. That got me to thinking, "What are the others?" And I realized that there are very few. While Russian, French, and English writers of that century poured out countless novels, German writers were much more involved in short fiction, poetry, and drama. That in itself--the fact that Effi Briest is something of an historical anomaly--strikes me as a compelling reason to read it. It's a novel of infidelity, sometimes compared to Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina, but with an entirely different narrative strategy, as the author doesn't take the reader into his confidence until quite late in the book. Fontane makes little effort to endear his heroine to us, yet her rather pathetic fate is quite moving at the end. As a study of the pychology of marriage, the book has much to offer. Is it up to the standards of the greatest European novels of its time? Possibly not, yet it is a book well worth knowing.
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