Saturday, February 8, 2020

215. The Stechlin

The Stechlin
Theodor Fontane
Around 350 pages

Well, that's the lake known as The Stechlin, which is the setting of this fairly insufferable novel. While Fontane's previous novel, Effi Briest, wasn't exactly a joy to get through, at least I was somewhat invested in the story. I didn't care about anybody in The Stechlin, and I certainly didn't want to spend hours reading outdated nationalistic opinions.

Stechlin is a lake, but it is also a castle. The castle is owned by Dubslav von Stechlin, a widower with a son, who is a captain. The son falls in love with Armgard or something. Fontane is one of those writers who places women on pedestals, but also makes it clear they are beneath the male species. It is tough to juggle both offensive opinions, so hats off to you Fontane for managing that feat. Based on the odd way he handles his female character's actions, he clearly believes women's logic works on a different plane than men's and thus isn't even worth tackling. Therefore, he leaves all his female character's inner selves pretty much untapped. As an example, in one instance, a man praises a woman for being "both a woman and a lady." The "woman" refers to the inferior, the "lady" refers to the superior. I don't think equality was a concept even the enlightened were considering. Is it time for Virginia Woolf yet?

Oh, and then there was also the ridiculous anecdote about a woman in Siam having to "restore" her virginity in order to ever be considered "marriage material" again after being repeatedly raped.  Apparently, the proper ritual requires bathing in buffalo blood, otherwise you a ho. This pithy little rejoinder was related by a man (obviously) who then expressed astonishment that a country as low as Siam could have kings.  Which is the kind of statement that I suppose could be fascinating in its stupidity, but I just wasn't here for it.

Now, I realize I shouldn't start constructing my book bonfire just because these characters express opinions that don't line up exactly with my 2020 ideals. But I also found the story dull and didn't feel like any of the characters were fleshed out, so there's also that. 

Very skippable.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Last novel Theodor Fontane wrote before his death.

UP NEXT: Some Experiences of an Irish P.M. by Somerville and Ross.

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