Motley Stones

Adalbert Stifter, trans. from the German by Isabel Fargo Cole. New York Review Books, $17.95 trade paper (296p) ISBN 978-1-68137-520-5
This cycle of novellas by pioneering nature writer Stifter (1805–1868), offers a quiet and graceful meditation on place and history. “Granite” features a boy in trouble with his mother as he goes on a mountain stroll with his grandfather, whose tales of a historical plague dwarf the boy’s own small misadventures. The fabulist “Rock Crystal” follows a village shoemaker’s two children as they meander through a dangerous and snowy passage in the dark, their adventure becoming a Grimmesque tale in which the beauty of the outdoors tempts the children toward danger. No matter the subject or setting, Stifter’s narrators are always cataloging the finest details of the world around them: “I saw hosts of the little white-yellow flowers on the ground, I saw the greyish turf, I saw the pitch like drops of gold on the trunks... I heard the calm rustle in the needles.” Throughout, Stifter sheds light on such sweeping themes as the nature of storytelling, the legacy and drama of ancestral history and family traditions, and mankind’s many connections and obligations to the natural world. His writing, freshly translated by Cole, is full of wisdom and wonder. (May)
Reviewed on : 02/19/2021
Release date: 05/04/2021
Genre: Fiction
Book - 978-1-68137-521-2
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