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Berthold Auerbach: Preface to Village Tales from the Black Forest (1844)

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I have, without aversion, named one specific village, my birthplace. It was from reports from my hometown that I based the story "The Pipes of War" [„Die Kriegspfeife"], previously published in the journal Der Schwarzwälder-Bote. The peasants are now utterly upset with me and say that it is all a lie and that I wanted to make them appear ridiculous. One sees why both high and low circles call for a fictitious setting when contemporary life is represented. I, however, consider it a duty that we do not hesitate to choose a real setting and to call it by its real name, if we want to really approach life. Authors of historical novels seek an authentic foundation and do not shy away from naming the actual locations where their stories take place. This should be the case as well when the setting is contemporary; in this way, a picture of contemporary life becomes historical. By shrouding specific places with images, modern folk literature can thus consciously take up and continue what, in earlier times, legends had done in a naïve way.

I have attempted to portray an entire village from the first house down to the last. The customs and mores are taken from real life. The songs do not come from any printed work, they have not to my knowledge previously been published.

It has been nineteen years since I have left you, you quiet hometown, in order to wander along paths which led far from your peaceful boundaries. The silent pull of childhood love has steered my spirit back to you and with wordless movements I let the tones resound again which had almost faded away. In front of my window the mighty Rhine rushes, Germany's artery, a shining band of light rolls through from beyond like silver, the waves ripple and shimmer in the moonlight. The waves of the Neckar which rolled past by hometown – the great German river peacefully absorbed them and carried them off to the sea. So, too, may these images, which I now send out to my fatherland, so, too, may they take their place in the great stream of German life as a modest wave which issued forth from native mountains.
Mainz. Berthold Auerbach

Original German text reprinted in Max Bucher, Werner Hal, Georg Jäger, and Reinhard Wittmann, eds., Realismus und Gründerzeit: Manifeste und Dokumente zur deutschen Literatur 1848-1880 [Realism and the Founding Era: Manifestos and Documents on German Literature 1848-1880], 2 vols. Stuttgart: J.B. Metzlersche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1975, vol. 2, pp. 149-50.

Translation: Jonathan Skolnik

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