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About the book
  • Published: 2 January 2001
  • ISBN: 9780140447668
  • Imprint: Penguin Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 256
  • RRP: $19.99

Effi Briest




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

  • Pub date: 2 January 2001
  • ISBN: 9780140447668
  • Imprint: Penguin Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 256
  • RRP: $19.99

About the Author

Theodor Fontane

Theodor Fontane, born in Neuruppin in 1819, was descended from French Huguenot settlers in Brandenburg, and was brought up on the Baltic Sea coast of Prussia before spending most of his life in Berlin. He trained as a pharmacist but in 1849 decided to earn his living as a writer. He spent several years as a foreign correspondent in London and his prolific non-fiction out-put includes journalism, poetry, theatre reviews, local travelogues of Berlin's hinterland, unpartisan accounts of Bismarck's wars and two autobiographical works.

He published his first novel, Before the Storm (1878), at the age of 58 and this was followed by sixteen further novels which established his reputation in the twentieth century as Germany's finest realist novelist. Fontane's sensitive portrayals of women's lives in late nineteenth-century society are unsurpassed in European literature. The Woman taken in Adultery (1882), Cécile (1886), Delusions, Confusions (1888), Jenny Teibel (1892) and Effi Briest (1895) focus on problems of love and marriage, while the late works The Poggenphul Family (1896) and The Stechlin (1898) provide humorous family portraits of Prussian society in decline. He died in 1898.

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