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In a small town on the Baltic coast, in a community steeped in maritime industries and local mores, a teenager falls in love with his English professor. Christian looks older than his years, Stella younger than hers. The summer they spend together is filled with boat rides to Bird Island, secret walks on the beach, and furtive glances. The emotions that blossom between Christian and Stella are aflame with passion and innocence, and with an idealistic hope of a future. The two lovers manage to keep their mutual attraction concealed, but as the hot months comes to an end, their meetings become more difficult to conceal.
   Stella begins at the end, at Stella Petersen’s memorial service, where Christian relives the memories he shared with his first love. There is nothing salacious about their relationship, nor is it just a case of a teenager’s crush on his teacher. Their affair changes both Christian and Stella, allows them to expand their views, and pushes them out of social and familial constraints. Theirs is a tender love story of a time, and yet speaks to any time; it is actually through death that their love is transformed.
   The sparseness of Siegfried Lenz’s narrative is reminiscent of the existential stringency of Ernest Hemingway. Only a master stylist ofhis standing could compose such a story that is equally modest and powerful, a work that leaves a lasting authentic impression, and that strives to comply with W.H. Auden’s famous request, “Tell me the truth about love.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781590513354
Publisher: Other Press, LLC
Publication date: 08/03/2010
Pages: 144
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Siegfried Lenz, born in Lyck in East Prussia in 1926, is one of the most important and widely read writers in postwar and present-day literature. He has published twelve novels, including The German Lesson, and produced several collections of short stories, essays, and plays. His works have been published since 1951 by Hoffmann und Campe, and he has won numerous prizes, including the Goethe Prize and the German Booksellers’ Peace Prize.
Anthea Bell is a freelance translator from German and French, specializing in fiction. She has won a number of translation awards in the UK, the USA, and Europe.

Read an Excerpt

I couldn’t, I just could not take my eyes off her picture; while the school orchestra was playing I kept gazing at the photograph. It was as if we had made a date for this hour of remembrance in the hall, meaning to say something we didn’t yet know about each other. I had heard our orchestra rehearsing twice, the orchestra and the choir, and now, in front of your picture, the Bach cantata unexpectedly took a strong hold on me—that sense of abandonment, that desperate search,
the hope for an answer, for salvation, an appeal to the victorious power of the
Father and the Son. God’s time is the very best time, in the words of the cantata.
   How your face suddenly shone, Stella, the face I’d kissed all over, on your forehead,on your cheeks, on your mouth. Praise and glory unto the Lord, I call upon Thy names, I am resigned, glory unto Thee. And then that Amen, taken up like an echo by our orchestra, an echo dying away, growing quieter and quieter,
losing itself most wonderfully in a universe of consolation, the Actus Tragicus overcome. I stared at your face, I had never before felt a loss so powerfully, which was strange enough, because I had never before known what it was to have possessed what was lost.

Reading Group Guide

1. What sparks Christian and Stella's attraction to one another?

2. What kind of teacher is Stella? Discuss her persona in the classroom versus when she is alone with Christian.

3. Lenz tells the story of Stella in a very distinct way--having the narrator switch between second and third person, allowing for very few breaks in the narrative, and moving fluidly between the summer and school sections. How did these stylistic choices affect your reading of the novel?

4. Is Christian a boy or a man? What signs of maturity--or immaturity--did you see in him throughout the book?

5. Why do you think Lenz chose Animal Farm as the text so prominently referred to and analyzed throughout Stella?

6. Do you think anyone truly knew about Christian and Stella's love affair? If so, who?

7. Discuss the minor characters who surround the lovers, including Sonja, the old radio operator, and Georg? What does their presence add to the novel?

8. Do you think Stella and Christian's relationship is real love, first love, or just a schoolboy crush? In your opinion, what might have happened if Christian and Stella had had a chance at a future together?

9. Discuss the various regrets that follow the characters of Stella.

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