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Fontane's enchanting seventeen-year-old heroine, Effi is married off to Geert von Innstetten, an austere, workaholic civil servant twice her age. Set in Bismarck's Germany, this luminous and moving tale of a socially suitable but emotionally disastrous match, shifts from childhood idyll in Brandenburg, to a remote Baltic port and back to Imperial Berlin. With Effi Briest, Fontane brilliantly demonstrates the truth of his comment "That women's stories are generally far more interesting". His taut, ironic narrative depicts a world where sexuality and the will to enjoy life are stifled by narrowmindedness and circumstance. And in his humane unsentimental portrait of Effi, who refuses to bow to convention, he offers us a reading experience that is at once touching and unsettling.
In 1919 Thomas Mann hailed Effi Briest (1895) as one of "the six most significant novels ever written." Set in Bismarck's Germany, Fontane's luminous tale of a socially suitable but emotionally disastrous match between the enchanting seventeen-year-old Effi and an austere, workaholic civil servant twice her age, is at once touching and unsettling. Fontane's taut, ironic narrative depicts a world where sexuality and the enjoyment of life are stifled by narrow-mindedness and circumstance. Considered by many to be the pinnacle of the nineteenth-century German novel, Effi Briest is a tale of adultery that ranks with Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina and brilliantly demonstrates the truth of the author's comment and "women's stories are generally far more interesting."
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
Theodor Fontane (1819-98) was a German novelist and political reporter. Along with Effi Briest, Fontane is remembered for Frau Jenny Treibel, an ironic criticism of middle-class hypocrisy and small-mindedness.
Hugh Rorrison has published extensively on modern German theatre and teaches German film at the University of Leeds.
Helen Chambers organised the first conference on English translations of Fontane in 1992 and teaches German at the University of St Andrews.