One summer before World War I, a young couple escapes on a romantic weekend getaway to the small German town of Rheinsberg, north of Berlin, in the midst of a rural landscape filled with country houses and castles, cobble-stone streets, lush forests, and dreamy lakes. The story of Wolfie and Claire, told with a fresh, new style of ironic humor, became Kurt Tucholsky’s first literary success and the blueprint for love for an entire generation. This edition features an afterword by Dr. Peter Boethig, the director of the Kurt Tucholsky Museum in Rheinsberg.
About the Author
Kurt Tucholsky was a brilliant satirist, poet, storyteller, lyricist, pacifist, and democrat; a fighter, ladies' man, reporter, and early warner against the Nazis who hated and loathed him and drove him out of Germany after his books were burned in 1933. The New York Times hailed him as "one of the most brilliant writers of republican Germany. He was a poet as well as a critic and was so versatile that he used five or six pen names. As Peter Panter, he was an outstanding essayist who at one time wrote topical sketches in the Vossische Zeitung, which ceased to appear under the Nazi regime; as Theobald Tiger, he wrote satirical poems that were frequently interpreted by popular actors in vaudeville and cabartes, and as Ignatz Wrobel, he contributed regularly to the Weltbühne, an independent weekly that was one of the first publications prohibited by the Hitler government." Tucholsky, who occupied the center stage in the tumultuous political and cultural world of 1920s Berlin, still emerges as an astonishingly contemporary figure. Cindy Opitz is a translator and art historian who has translated numerous works by Kurt Tucholsky, including Berlin! Berlin! Dispatches From the Weimar Republic, and other authors. She is the collections manager at the Museum of Natural History in Iowa City. She lives in Iowa City, Iowa.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Fragile Charm of a Lost World, July 14, 2014 By Elenad - See all my reviews This review is from: Rheinsberg: A Storybook for Lovers (Paperback) The original German book from 1912 is almost exactly the size and shape of a modern iphone. It fits neatly in a man’s pocket or a woman’s purse. Less than a hundred pages, you can read it easily between dinner and bedtime. The young Kurt Tucholsky’s first book, it was an instant hit, selling tens of thousands of copies from the start. Special editions with leather and Japanese silk bindings became collectors’ items. It has been reissued many times in Germany. Now it is available in a fine English translation by Cindy Opitz, a mere 102 years later. I mean, why rush? The new English edition, somewhat larger in format with a bright decorative cover, comes with lots of vintage photographs of the Rheinsberg area, and a few extra writings by the author, Ogden Nash-like lyrics and a short magical realism piece, as a bonus. Also a brief historical note to put things in context. You can still read the entire new Berlinica edition, even at a leisurely pace, in one sitting. But it is a book with both literary and artifactual value, something to take out over and over in quiet moments. Preferably by the fire with a glass of port. The perfect gift for a loved one, -- well, a loved one with taste. The prose, in both the original German and in the English translation, is rather unassuming. Why was it such a success in 1912 and why do readers still love it today? The plot line, such as it is, is based on a real weekend outing by the young author and his girlfriend Elsa Weil. Renamed Wolfgang and Claire, they banter and squabble incessantly as they leave congested Berlin by train for a quiet three-day retreat in the park-like countryside around the small castle town of Rheinsberg. We are alerted gently that they are not married, not even engaged. Claire is amused that her parents think she’s visiting a girlfriend. Wolfie assures her that he’ll be her chaperone. They argue about how to identify a tree, acacia, no it’s a magnolia. And a bird, a woodpecker, no it’s a barn owl. Her grammar is atrocious, but she’s smart, studied medicine. He forgets things, but is good company, takes her to tour the castle and go boating on the lake. Their relationship is a bit like the comedy team of George Burns and Gracie Allen. She’s ditzy but entertaining, he gets it. Occasionally Claire’s hair comes down, the lights go out and the story resumes later. In 1912 love affairs were common enough, but talking about it wasn’t. In England at this time, honest novels were shot through with tension and anxiety, think D. H. Lawrence. So Tucholsky’s light touch, celebrating a young couple’s fling without a lot of fuss and angst, was refreshing, somehow liberating. There is just enough of an edge to keep it from descending into sentimental kitsch. No wonder it was a treasured gift. The well-worn 1912 edition I found in the library has a handwritten note in old German handwriting “von deinem Hasen,” from your rabbit….A century later, when honest novels are weighted down with all too much information, Tucholsky’s style is again something to appreciate. The gentle sensibility that marks Tucholsky’s "Rheinsberg" was short-lived, and soon brutalized by World War I and its terrifying aftermath. Tucholsky’s books were burned in 1933. He died in exile, possibly suicide, in Sweden a few years later, physically safe, but mentally destroyed. Elsa Weil, a successful medical doctor, was sent to Auschwitz and perished. The world that had nurtured their special talents was lost