Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Rider on the White Horse by Theodor Strom - 1888 - translated from the German by James Wright

Read so far during 
German Literature Month Eight 

  1. Once a Jailbird by Hans Fallada - 1947

 2.    The Loser by Thomas Bernhard - 1988

  1. Doctor Fausus by Thomas Mann - 1948

  1. The Rider on the White Horse by Theodor Strom - 1888

Theodor Strom

1817 - Born  Schleswig -Holstein. Then an independent state 

1846 - Marries a cousin

1853- moves to Potsdam in Prussian when Schleswig -Holstein is incorporated into Denmark, being very Germanic in orientation.  Becomes a circuit judge- he had a law degree

1864 - when Schleswig -Holstein is conquered by Prussia, he moves back

1888 - dies

The Rider on the White Horse is considered the masterwork of Theodor Strom.  (It is the only one of his works available in translation as a Kindle.)  The setting is the low lying coastal area bordering on The North Sea.  The area is under continual threat from flooding.  In the past floods have caused great damage and loss of life.  Strom focuses on the impact of a dyke built to protect the area.  

The start has a bad omen.  The son of the dyke master maliciously kills the cat of an old woman.  She issues a curse on him even though he tries to mollify her.  A mysterious rider on a white horse is observed racing on the top of the dark.

There are five main characters.

  1. The Dyke Master, in charge of maintaining the dyke
  2. His wife, she is the daughter of the prior Dyke Master
  3. Their mentally challenged daughter 
  4. The Prior Dyke Master
  5. The old dyke masters top employee, who had expected to become dyke master and is now very critical of how the dyke is maintained 

The dyke is owned by a few local shareholders, with the Dyke Master and his father in law the major owners.  Strom did not really make it clear how the dyke functions as a business, how it makes money but it does.  In the local pub there is a lot of worried talk about whether or not the Dyke will hold.

Sure enough the sea rises up.  I will leave the ending untold 

This is classified as a novella.  I see it as for sure worth reading for those wanting to expand their knowledge of 19th century German Literature.  I enjoyed the depiction of the importance of the dyke and the community.



Andrew Blackman said...

Hi Mel,
You've been busy for German Literature Month! I was sorry to see in an earlier post that you said your mental state was low, and I hope you're feeling better now. This sounds like a good read. I like the premise of man's battle with nature, with the extra element of the curse and the mysterious rider on a white horse. I don't know Strom's work, so perhaps I'll try this one for next year's German Literature Month (I think I'm too far behind to make it for this year!).

Amateur Reader (Tom) said...

Mel, I think (hope) you can find Storm's earlier novella "Immensee" online as well. For some reason the public domain translation keeps the German title. It's a beautiful work.

That will give you the beginning and end of Storm's career. He was a wonderful writer who like many 19th century Germans does not quite fit into the usual English-language categories. Unfortunately, he has not been translated much until recently. Andrew, if you come across any of Denis Jackson's translations of Storm, and they are not too expensive - the price for new copies is crazy - get them, any of them.