Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681375205
Pages: 296
Publication Date: April 13, 2021

Motley Stones

by Adalbert Stifter, translated from the German by Isabel Fargo Cole

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An NYRB Classics Original

For Kafka he was "my fat brother"; Thomas Mann called him "one of the most peculiar, enigmatic, secretly audacious and strangely gripping storytellers in world literature." Often misunderstood as an idyllic "poet of beetles and buttercups," the nineteenth-century Austrian writer Adalbert Stifter has been rediscovered in recent years as a radical experimenter with narrative and a forerunner of nature writing's darker currents. One of his best-known and most accessible works, the novella cycle Motley Stones now appears in its first complete English translation, a rendition that respects the bracing strangeness of the original. In six thematically linked novellas, including the beloved classic "Rock Crystal," human dramas play out amid the natural cycles of the Alps or the urban rhythms of Vienna—environments so keenly observed that they emerge as the tales' most indomitable protagonists. Stifter's human characters are equally haunting—children braving perils, eccentrics and loners harboring enigmatic torments. "We seek to glimpse the gentle law that guides the human race," Stifter famously wrote. What he glimpsed, more often than not, was the abyss that lies behind the idyll. The tension between his humane sensitivity and his dark visions is what lends his writing its heartbreaking power.

Praise

The work of Adalbert Stifter, who was one of the very few great novelists in German literature, can be compared to no other writer of the nineteenth century in pure happiness, wisdom, and beauty. . . . Stifter became the greatest landscape-painter in literature . . . someone who possesses the magic wand to transform all visible things into words and all visible movements—into sentences.
—Hannah Arendt