Sunday, January 16, 2011

Wilhelm Raabe, Hastenbeck (1898), a Novel

Wilhelm Raabe was a popular German novelist, who lived from 1831-1910. He was from Brunswick, but lived in Stuttgart for a while when he first married and his writing career began to take off.

I've been reading his novel Hastenbeck lately and since  the 18th Century Sojourn blog published a battle report yesterday about a Hastenbeck game, I was inspired to put it up on the blog, since their game makes the topic start to heat up, and maybe this will make it even hotter.

There is a bio on Wilhelm Raabe from the English Wikipedia here

And then the German Wikipedia, worth a look because it has a photo with him, from 1890, and another picture not seen in the English one here

Another little piece is about a tower that was constructed on a hill near where he came from, where a tourist could have something to eat and climb up for a view up to 75 km away, with a short piece and photo with the text in English and that is here

Hastenbeck, the Novel
Unfortunately it doesn't look like this was ever put in English before, but it's a novel that follows a young man who is recruited into the Hannoverian army in time for the disaster of Hastenbeck and the Convention of Kloster-Zeven, in which George II's son, the Duke of Cumberland was compelled to, to put it delicately, sign a convention with the French marshal to prevent the further effusion of blood, under the particular situation of the army at that time. Ahem.

The young man deserts, from the Hannoverian army, and goes into hiding in a village, where he meets a young lady, and they fall in love, and then also meets an older lady who was an experienced camp follower, called the Wackerhahnsche. Now if this novel were a movie, which it one day might be, this second lady will turn out to be the character who steals the show,with her interesting personality, helping the couple out. There is also some help from a Swiss captain from the French service who was billeted in the town while on convalescence, as there is danger from the French and his own sides' authorities.

How it all plays out I won't say; this is enough to flesh out the story. For the 18th century enthusiast the small details and atmosphere will as always bring the scenes to life in the imagination during the reading, and maybe better than the movie anyway as old timers remember from the times before films were so ubiquitous.

Literary critics nowadays love to see a man who is less than a hero to put it mildly and have to some extent glommed on to this young man Pold, short for Leopold. They'll use words like anti-hero, etc. Looking over what they have to say they also like a strong female character in the Wackerhahnsche, which name means something like 'funny chicken-ish.'

 There are several ways to get the book in different forms and prices. All the ones I've found are in German, with the older ones from 1898-1910 or so in Fraktur and running around 240 pages, and the more modern editions around 168 pages, with more words on a single page. That means that outside of the language problem, it's actually a relatively quick read.

But there is a language problem for many because these are all in German. I am reading the free online version and feeding parts through the translate machine the hard and slow way, but that is still rewarding, just harder than most books. The text itself is smooth enough that it should otherwise be an easy read.

NOTE: These next five links are to purchase (Sorry, it's US) with various options, then further down is a free online version only available for the US--which is also in German and Fraktur:

There is a hardcover of the old Fraktur edition Hastenbeck: Eine Erzahlung (German Edition)

This one is also hardcover Hastenbeck - Eine Erzahlung

There is a collected works edition which has other Raabe stories incorporated in it Hastenbeck - Altershausen - Gedichte (RAABE,SAMTLICHE WERKE) (German Edition)

And editions suitable for reading with a reader device such as the Kindle Hastenbeck (E-Book-Sammlung (German Edition)

or this oneHastenbeck (Gold Collection) (German Edition)

It is also possible to find e-editions for those who have a different device from a different manufacturer.
If you are in or near Germany there should be reasonable editions in the market stalls, and if you are in the US, you are lucky enough to have an online scan of the 100-year-old Fraktur edition this is marked for USA Only Access

It is also marked as an unstable, uncurated link so you (US) may need to try here and click through where it says full text. Turn the page a few times since they are showing you the hard cover at first, which looks dark for a couple pages so that is here

Personally my favorite method is to have a lucky find at a used bookpile somewhere or those tiny paperbacks popular in Germany would be next best for ease of transport and low price. Whatever method works for you, I think this would be a good piece of fiction for the 18th Century enthusiast and packed with details with which our authors today may well have lost touch.
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  1. Sounds like a good story and a story to read it.

  2. It was actually kind of fun to type it in the translate machine and watch the words change to English, but it's doubtful a lot of people will go to that effort. You'd have to be able to type in German, and copy-paste doesn't work on this version either.

    What we need is somebody to make comic books like those old Illustrated Classics.

  3. thanks mate, wish my 40 year old schoolboy German was up to it..

  4. I just learned today what a curate's egg is.