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The Birdsong Papers

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The Birdsong Papers, which appeared in 1896 as Die Akten des Vogelsangs, was Wilhelm Raabe's next-to-last completed narrative. What might be called an anti-Bildungsroman, it is widely considered to be the work that secures Raabe's place as a precursor of German modernist fiction writers. Its tone is critical of late-nineteenth-century society, both German and American, wit The Birdsong Papers, which appeared in 1896 as Die Akten des Vogelsangs, was Wilhelm Raabe's next-to-last completed narrative. What might be called an anti-Bildungsroman, it is widely considered to be the work that secures Raabe's place as a precursor of German modernist fiction writers. Its tone is critical of late-nineteenth-century society, both German and American, with its industrial expansion, urbanization, pursuit of wealth, and erosion of conventional values; but this critical tone also produces an uneasy tension for its narrator, Karl Krumhardt, a high-ranking bureaucrat with a stake in the stability of that society. It is against that social-critical background that Krumhardt's Papers record a coming to terms with a subject—his longtime friend Velten Andres—whose life both fascinates and profoundly unsettles him. Velten is intelligent, imaginative, idealistic, and full of promise; but he cares nothing about his gifts, chooses self-imposed seclusion over conformity, and carries his individualism to what Jeffrey L. Sammons calls 'a kind of spectacular irrelevance in the conduct of life'. With this translation of Die Akten des Vogelsangs, the first into English, a major work by one of the most respected German writers of the nineteenth century is made accessible to a new, international readership.


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The Birdsong Papers, which appeared in 1896 as Die Akten des Vogelsangs, was Wilhelm Raabe's next-to-last completed narrative. What might be called an anti-Bildungsroman, it is widely considered to be the work that secures Raabe's place as a precursor of German modernist fiction writers. Its tone is critical of late-nineteenth-century society, both German and American, wit The Birdsong Papers, which appeared in 1896 as Die Akten des Vogelsangs, was Wilhelm Raabe's next-to-last completed narrative. What might be called an anti-Bildungsroman, it is widely considered to be the work that secures Raabe's place as a precursor of German modernist fiction writers. Its tone is critical of late-nineteenth-century society, both German and American, with its industrial expansion, urbanization, pursuit of wealth, and erosion of conventional values; but this critical tone also produces an uneasy tension for its narrator, Karl Krumhardt, a high-ranking bureaucrat with a stake in the stability of that society. It is against that social-critical background that Krumhardt's Papers record a coming to terms with a subject—his longtime friend Velten Andres—whose life both fascinates and profoundly unsettles him. Velten is intelligent, imaginative, idealistic, and full of promise; but he cares nothing about his gifts, chooses self-imposed seclusion over conformity, and carries his individualism to what Jeffrey L. Sammons calls 'a kind of spectacular irrelevance in the conduct of life'. With this translation of Die Akten des Vogelsangs, the first into English, a major work by one of the most respected German writers of the nineteenth century is made accessible to a new, international readership.

30 review for The Birdsong Papers

  1. 5 out of 5

    Liedzeit

    An old novel. And old-fashioned. But in many ways also surprisingly modern and with great power. Zu Beginn erhält der Erzähler einen Brief einer alten Freundin aus Kindertagen, in dem er erfährt, dass ihr gemeinsamer Freund Velten Andres gestorben sei. Und schon begraben. Und so beginnt er die Akten des Vogelsangs - so heißt der Stadteil, in dem die drei aufwuchsen - zu schreiben. Unser Erzähler, Karl ist von Anfang an der in einem wohlbehüteten Haushalt aufwachsende Vernünftige, der Karriere al An old novel. And old-fashioned. But in many ways also surprisingly modern and with great power. Zu Beginn erhält der Erzähler einen Brief einer alten Freundin aus Kindertagen, in dem er erfährt, dass ihr gemeinsamer Freund Velten Andres gestorben sei. Und schon begraben. Und so beginnt er die Akten des Vogelsangs - so heißt der Stadteil, in dem die drei aufwuchsen - zu schreiben. Unser Erzähler, Karl ist von Anfang an der in einem wohlbehüteten Haushalt aufwachsende Vernünftige, der Karriere als Jurist macht, Haus und Kinder vorweisen kann. Das Mädchen, Ellen (oder Helene) kommt aus Amerika mit ihrer Mutter zurück, weil Vater in finanziellen Schwierigkeiten ist, (vielleicht sogar im Knast sitzt?). Veltens Vater ist tot, und er ist ist der Nonkomformist. Aber, und das ist das Großartige an dem Buch, es wird nie richtig ausgewälzt. Er geht irgendwann nach Berlin, um Philosophie zu studieren. Ellen ist nach Amerika zurück zu ihrem inzwischen doch wieder reichen Vater. Und Velten folgt ihr, um sie zu gewinnen, dafür bricht er sein Studium ab und geht in Dienst des Vaters einees Studienfreundes, eines Schneiders. Nützt aber nichts. Was genau passiert, erhährt man nicht. In der Tat dachte ich ein paar Mal, etwas überlesen zu haben. Sie wird Frau eines vielfachen Millionärs, und kehrt irgendwann als Witwe Mungo zurück. Velten schlägt sich als Dolmetscher durch. Kam auch irgendwann in den Vogelsang zurück, um den gesamten Haushalt zu verbrennen. Schließlich stirbt er in ihren Armen, und offenbar gab es eine Liebe zwischen ihnen, die einerseits unerfüllt aber andererseits vielleicht gerade darum großartig war. Glaube ich. Über allem schwebt ein Goehte-Zitat, dass als Leitfaden sich durch die ganze Erzählung zieht. "Sei gefühllos! Ein leicht bewegtes Herz Ist ein elend Gut Auf der wankenden Erde." Und was bedeutet das? Das muss man für sich entscheiden. Und jedenfalls ist der gegensätzliche Lebensentwurf von Karl und seiner Frau weder als eindeutig besser noch schlechter hingestellt.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Anna Maria Ballester Bohn

    The overly expansive style that teases german grammer to its very last limit makes this tiresome to read at times. And there are a lot of missed opportunities for character and action that you can just see Thomas Mann or Dickens would have written so beautifully. But I can't help but fall again under the spell of the Velten, the irony, the pain, the literal burning up of all his past... just as I was when I first read this as a student. The overly expansive style that teases german grammer to its very last limit makes this tiresome to read at times. And there are a lot of missed opportunities for character and action that you can just see Thomas Mann or Dickens would have written so beautifully. But I can't help but fall again under the spell of the Velten, the irony, the pain, the literal burning up of all his past... just as I was when I first read this as a student.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Raymond Burt

    After all these years (over 35), I still remember: " Ein leichtbewegtes Herz ist ein Elend Gut auf der schwächenden Erde." Though someone might correct me, since I am working from memory. After all these years (over 35), I still remember: " Ein leichtbewegtes Herz ist ein Elend Gut auf der schwächenden Erde." Though someone might correct me, since I am working from memory.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kai

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sam Greens

  6. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

  7. 5 out of 5

    Concrete

  8. 4 out of 5

    Frank

  9. 4 out of 5

    Issie

  10. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mandy Matz

  12. 5 out of 5

    (Sonja) Die Welt in Buechern

  13. 4 out of 5

    Janet Safo

  14. 5 out of 5

    Byron Despres-Berry

  15. 4 out of 5

    Constanze

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dennis

  17. 5 out of 5

    Thorsten

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lukas

  20. 5 out of 5

    B

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nicolas

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nimew

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kay-Jay

  24. 4 out of 5

    Arisu

  25. 5 out of 5

    Honknatter

  26. 4 out of 5

    Maria de Aguilar Patriota

  27. 4 out of 5

    Claudi Be

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sascha Z

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Hoffmann

  30. 4 out of 5

    Cretchen

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