Theodor Fontane: Post-war Novelist

  • John Osborne
Part of the New Perspectives in German Studies book series (NPG)


Theodor Fontane, who completed his first novel at the age of 58, belongs to a group of writers who found their voice in the wake of the unification of 1871, claiming a place as the major exponents of the dominant literary form of late realism: narrative prose. Whereas his peers, Theodor Storm and Conrad Ferdinand Meyer, came from the periphery of the German-speaking world, Schleswig and Switzerland respectively, and drew on the historical past and the traditions of their own regions in their fiction, Fontane was born and grew up in Prussia, had his home as a writer in Berlin, and was to become the novelist of the new imperial capital par excellence.


Narrative Prose European Union Politics Tableau Vivants Triumphal Entry German Middle Classis 
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  1. 3.
    Theodor Fontane, Samtliche Werke, 24 vols (Miinchen 1959–74), vol. XX, pp. 23641, p. 750 (note). All further references to this edition will be given in the form (FSW, vol. no., p. no.). Cf. also Lothar Köhn: ‘Bei dem Fritzen-Denkmal stehen sie wieder. Fontanes Preuf3en-Balladen als Schlüssel zu seinem Werk’, in Dirk Jiirgens (ed.), Mutual Exchanges (Frankfurt a. M./New York 1999), pp. 342–59, p. 343.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    Theodor Fontane, Briefean Georg Friedlander (Frankfurt a. M./Leipzig 1994), p. 99. Further references will take the form BGF, p. no.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    6‘Loya1, selfless and obedient to his commanding officer […] a good, irreproachable man. […] this calm thinker of the battlefield […] has become a respected friend of the Germans, to whom the people look with heart-felt thanks and a firm faith.’ Gustav Freytag, ‘Die Heeresleitung des Grafen Moltke im letzten Kriege’, in Im neuen Reich, vol. I (1871), pp. 946–52, p. 952.Google Scholar
  4. 10.
    See David A. Jackson, Theodor Storm. The Life and Works of a Democratic Humanitarian (New York 1992), pp. 137–44.Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    Theodor Storm, Briefe, 2 vols (Berlin 1984), vol. I, pp. 467, 501, 518.Google Scholar
  6. 14.
    Theodor Mommsen, ‘Die Annexion Schleswig-Holsteins’ (1865), in Reden und Aufsatze (Berlin 1905), pp. 373–401; p. 401. For a parallel in the second unification, see Grass’s reference to ‘a brutally executed operation by the state’ in his essay, ‘Ein Schnappchen namens DDR’, dted in the essay by Butler in this volume.Google Scholar
  7. 20.
    See Gerhart Friedrich, Fontanes preufische Welt: Armee — Dynastie — Staat (Herford 1988), p. 265.Google Scholar
  8. 21.
    Theodor Fontane, Werke, Schriften und Briefe (MUnchen 1962–97), Abt. IV, Briefe, vol. IV, p. 300.Google Scholar
  9. 25.
    23 December 1870; Theodor Fontane, Briefe an den Verleger Rudolf von Decker (Heidelberg 1988), p. 179.Google Scholar
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    Fontane, Tagebiicher, 1866–1882, 1884–1898 (Berlin 1995), p. 37.Google Scholar
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    Prince Kraft zu Hohenlohe-Ingelfingen, Letters on Infantnj, translated by N. L. Walford (London 1889), p. 261.Google Scholar
  12. 29.
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  15. 33.
    Julius Rodenberg, ‘Theodor Fontanes „Vor dem Sturm”, Deutsche Rnndschau,18 (1879), pp. 317–19; Fontane, Briefe, vol. III, p. 329. See also Theodor Fontane, Briefe an Wilhelm und Hans Hertz, 1859–1898 (Stuttgart 1972), p. 210.Google Scholar
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    Quoted from Theodor Fontane, Briefe an folios RodenberQ (Berlin 1969), p.175.Google Scholar
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    For a discussion of Rodenberg’s conservative literary taste and his influence both on the selection of authors published by the journal and the editorial treatment of their texts, see Peter Sprengel, ‘Zwischen Asthetizismus und Volkstumlichkeit. Conrad Ferdinand Meyers Gedichte fur Rodenbergs “Deutsche Rundschau”, in Monika Ritzer (ed.), Die Wirklichkeit der Zeit nnd die Wahrheit der Kunst (Tubingen/Basel 2001), pp. 191–203.Google Scholar
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    Fontane, Tagebficher, 1866–82, 1884–98, p. 67.Google Scholar
  19. 38.
    Quoted from Hans-Heinrich Reuter, Fontane, 2 vols (Miinchen 1968), vol. II, p. 543.Google Scholar
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    See Martin Meisel, Realizations: Narrative, Pictorial, and Theatrical Arts in Nineteenth-Centunj England (Princeton 1983), p. 349.Google Scholar
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    See Robert Rosenblum and H.W. Janson, Art of the Nineteenth Century: Painting and Sculpture (London 1984), pp. 328–9.Google Scholar
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    See Richard Brinkmann, Theodor Fontane. Uber die Verbindlichkeit des Llnverbindlichen (Tiibingen 1977), pp. 27 and 117.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

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  • John Osborne

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