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Effi Briest (Penguin Classics) [Paperback]

Theodor Fontane , Helen Chambers , Hugh Rorrison
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
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Book Description

30 Nov 2000 Penguin Classics

Telling the tragic tale of a socially advantageous but emotionally ruinous match, Theodor Fontane's Effi Briest is translated from the German by Hugh Rorrison with an introduction by Helen Chambers in Penguin Classics.

Unworldly young Effi Briest is married off to Baron von Innstetten, an austere and ambitious civil servant twice her age, who has little time for his new wife. Isolated and bored, Effi finds comfort and distraction in a brief liaison with Major Crampas, a married man with a dangerous reputation. But years later, when Effi has almost forgotten her affair, the secret returns to haunt her - with fatal consequences. In taut, ironic prose Fontane depicts a world where sexuality and the will to enjoy life are stifled by vain pretences of civilization, and the obligations of circumstance. Considered to be his greatest novel, this is a humane, unsentimental portrait of a young woman torn between her duties as a wife and mother and the instincts of her heart.

Hugh Rorrison's clear, modern translation is accompanied by an introduction by Helen Chambers, which compares Effi with other literary heroines such as Emma Bovary and Anna Karenina.

Theodor Fontane (1819-98) was a German novelist and potitical reporter. Along with Effi Briest, Fontane is remembered for Frau Jenny Treibel (1892), an ironic criticism of middle-class hypocrisy and small-mindedness.

If you enjoyed Effi Briest you may like Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, also available in Penguin Classics.

'I have been haunted by it ... as I am by those novels that seem to do more than they say, to induce strong emotions that can't quite be accounted for'

Hermione Lee, Sunday Times

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (30 Nov 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140447660
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140447668
  • Product Dimensions: 19.7 x 12.8 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 131,317 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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It's very moving, and it's incredibly funny ... I wasn't prepared for the wit. Stupendous on so many levels (Matt Wolff)

A stunningly moving, beautiful, witty and urbane novel: I was blown away by it. A wonderful translation (Kate Saunders)

About the Author

Theodor Fontane (1819-98) was a German novelist and potitical reporter. Along with EFFI BRIEST, Fontane is remembered for FRAU JENNY TREIBEL (1892), 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.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
To the front of Hohen-Cremmen, country seat of the von Briest family since the time of Elector Georg Wilhelm, bright sunshine fell on the midday silence in the village street, while on the side facing the park and gardens a wing built on at right angles cast its broad shadow first on a white and green flagstone path, then out over a large roundel of flowers with a sundial at its centre and a border of canna lilies and rhubarb round the edge. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully sad. 23 Feb 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Thoughtful , sad and wonderfully expressed. A very beautiful piece of literature. Many thanks and no more words needed! Ok !
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Forgotten Clasic? 19 Feb 2014
By Geoff
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is still a set text in Germany, but perhaps is not well known here. A pity, because it is beautifully written, intriguing, and raises classic questions about societal conventions. The blurb likens it to Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary, and these are apt comparisons.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dense with Germanic references 28 Feb 2011
By Mrs. Katharine Kirby TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Fight your way through the forest of place names, ranks of civil servants intriguingly ending in Rat to find a new literary heroine in dear Effi. She is a star, bubbly, joyful, kind and loving, accepting, decent in her heart and quite adorable. Her parents learn lessons as we all must, and her husband eats the bitter fruits of being right. What a lively ride as we bounce alongside her to the end. My favourite of all was Rollo , he really was a Prince of the canine world. Other more erudite reviews give the proper reaction to this book but I came to it for fun and a taste of a time and place that I have come to love through Elizabeth Von Arnim and was not disappointed.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling & good read 23 Jan 2006
By bella
Format:Mass Market Paperback
An emotive portrayal of the damaging effects of Prussian society, where the opression of the protagonist Effi is Fontane's concern. Effi is forced to live according to society's rules and regulations, after marrying Innstetten to secure her social position. Society's rectitude limits the autonomy of Effi and also her husband Innstetten, although both characters respond to this limitation in contrasting ways. Effi resorts to adultery to escape her oppressive marriage, whereas Innstetten throws himself deeper into the social world. The consequences of both responses lead to the tragic ending of the book. Above all, a great book & well written.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant parable on marriage & responsibility 13 Jun 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Effi Briest is Theodor Fontane's magnum opus, it follows the titular girl through German high-society as she rises from a naive young girl, to a Landrat's wife then an accomplished member of the Berlin aristocracy. Packed with metaphors and symbolism, this translation has lost none of the subtext of the original. It has a comprehensive glossary and explains contemporary references and titles that Fontane makes throughout the book. Ultimately it's a tragic story, but it twists & winds through the meanderings of Effi's life beautifully written in it's archaic style spanning 216 pages.

Recommended for a great read.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Difficult to connect with characters 10 Dec 2010
By Rachel
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm afraid that reading this immediately after Madame Bovary may have influenced my opinion on this book. It was impossible not to compare the two, and I definitely prefer Emma to Effi. While I felt sorry for Effi, pushed into marriage to a much older man when she was barely a child, I couldn't help but find her selfish and immature. Even her husband refers to her as a "spoilt young woman"! I'm sure that Effi had motivations for her actions but I never really felt like I understood them; Fontane didn't really get inside her head the way that Flaubert did with Emma. Although this novel offered a fascinating insight into late 19th century German aristocratic society I found it difficult to connect with the characters in comparison to other novels I've read from the period. I sympathised with their plight at being victims of the society in which they lived, but I never got to know them well enough to really care about them. There were, however, some wonderful descriptions of the scenery. I have the feeling that Fontane is better at describing locations than he is the emotions of his characters.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous! 27 April 2014
By anonyme
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I had been meaning to read this novel for ages, but, when I did, I read it in a completely inappropriate manner, gobbling it down in one sitting on a long-distance flight in the manner of a Dan Brown. That's not at all how it's meant to be consumed; it's a finely crafted, subtle, allusive work that deserves a much more patient reading. I went back at the end and reread the first chapter, saturated in hints and prefigurings, and I decided I should probably read the whole thing again.

One great pleasure of Fontane's novel (1896) is its thematic vicinity to "Madame Bovary" (1856) and "Anna Karenina" (1873-76). If you have read the other two, you should certainly read this, if only for the pleasures of comparison. It's far less savage than Flaubert's novel and less impassioned than Tolstoy's, and in some ways more modern than either (as you might guess from the dates). It's quite thinly textured and minimalist for a nineteenth-century novel--hence my being able to knock it off in a seven-hour flight--but it demands quite a lot of parsing from the reader. It's the kind of novel that has you rifling back through your memory after reading it, trying to work out exactly what was happening at each moment. I can see why academics love Fontane.

Here is an example of the work's ambiguity. The introduction to the edition I read (by Helen Chambers, in Penguin Classics) describes Effi as a delightful, life-force-filled creature, and her older husband Instetten as a dry, oppressive, sexless, almost Casaubon-like figure, who attempts to control her. This surprised me when I read it (retrospectively); it wasn't how I reacted to these figures. For one thing, Instetten seems as much of a victim as Effi is. It's hard to know who destroys whom in the novel.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A German Madame Bovary
Theodor Fontane’s “Effi Briest” is often linked with “Anna Karenina” and “Madame Bovary”, at least by German critics, as one of a great trilogy of 19th century “adultery... Read more
Published 3 months ago by J C E Hitchcock
4.0 out of 5 stars Literature Classic
Although on the same lines as Madame Bouvary I found this book more interesting and easier to read. A young carefree girl marries a dominating older man. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Maureen B
2.0 out of 5 stars Poor publication standards by Amazon
The product (a book), published directly by Amazon, claims to be the first paperback of the translation of 'Effi Briest', a German novel. I believe it to be 'unfit for purpose'. Read more
Published 16 months ago by philsmith44
2.0 out of 5 stars miss-prints
This is not the full version of the book and contains many miss-prints. Any time a letter 'u' is followed by an 'e' it is omitted.eg value becomes val, queer becomes qer etc. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Dido
5.0 out of 5 stars A tactfully structured novel.
Great skill shown in the gradual development of the novel. Effie's stress and tension combined with an inoffensive cunning. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Philip Edward Streeter
5.0 out of 5 stars for screen writers
This is devastatingly interesting and well written book. Not only the lay persons, the scriptwriters and writers in general need to read to study the style of the author to enrich... Read more
Published on 2 Mar 2011 by Adlerinternational
3.0 out of 5 stars Madame Bovary without Flaubert's flair
A stripped down overview of a middle class marriage and affair inside the changing norms of a shifting Prussia. Read more
Published on 28 July 2010 by Brownbear101
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