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I have been able to read just one book till now. Today, I thought I will try to do something about it. I thought I will read one of my old favourites and hope that it will bring back my reading mojo. So, I read Immensee by Theodor Storm.
Immensee is around forty pages long. So, it is closer to a long short story or a short novella. The story starts with an old man getting back from a long walk to the place that he is staying.
He goes into his room, sits on a chair and rests. His mind goes back to his younger days. The story then takes us back to the past when the old man was a boy of ten called Reinhard and his best friend and sweetheart was a girl called Elisabeth who is five. They are always together, he tells stories to her, they play at the forest near their homes, they go on picnics together with other children and pick strawberries.
Unfortunately, the time comes when the boy has to go to a bigger town to study. He promises the girl that he will write to her regularly and will come back soon. The boy writes down all the stories that he used to tell the girl — her favourite ones — and keeps sending them to her. He also keeps a notebook in which he writes poems about the girl, about all the experiences they have gone through.
The physical distance creates a barrier between a boy and the girl and they try bridging it every time they meet, but it becomes harder and harder. What happens to Reinhard and Elisabeth? Does the story have a happy ending? I can go on and tell you what happens next, but I think you should read the story to find out. So, I was a bit worried when I read it again, because I was afraid of what will happen if my re-reading experience was not as good as the original one.
The book was beautiful during my re-read too. It was beautiful in a different way though. The story was worth reading for this beautiful evocation of nature alone. Not the heartbreaking kind, but the mild, melancholic ache, which refuses to go away.
I also spotted a reference to India in the story, which made me smile. It went like this : Elisabeth : Are there no lions either? Reinhard : Lions? Are there lions? In India, yes. The heathen priests harness them to their carriages, and drive about the desert with them. One part of that dialogue is totally true. There is no winter in India.
One of my college professors used to joke that there were only three seasons in India : hot, hotter and hottest! There were many songs and poems scattered throughout the book like pearls.
They were all beautiful. I think the poems and the songs must be more beautiful in the original German. I also loved the fact that many of the important things in the story are implied but not explicitly stated.
Theodor Storm does that masterfully. Who is this Bridget? Is there something here that Storm implies? I would love to hear your thoughts on it, if you have read the story.
I will leave you with one of my favourite passages from the book. Elisabeth : And who, pray, made all these pretty songs?
Reinhard : They are not made; they grow, they drop from the clouds, they float over the land like gossamer, hither and thither, and are sung in a thousand places at the same time.
We discover in these songs our very inmost activities and sufferings : it is as if we all had helped to write them. I fell in love with it all over again, with the beautiful Elisabeth and the wonderful Reinhard and the kind Eric and the beautiful landscape that Theodor Storm creates.
I think I will be reading it again. Maybe after a few years. What do you think about it?
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Reinhardt returns to win her back, and Erich releases her, telling her that all that he wants is for her to be happy. This causes Elisabeth to realise what love really means and she tells Erich for the first time that she loves him, and remains with him. In the frame story, many years have passed, Erich is dead and Elisabeth and Reinhardt, who is now a renowned composer, meet for tea at his hotel after a performance of his Seerosen; at the end of the film, she tells him she will remain true to Erich and to Immensee, and he leaves for the last time. The Illustrierte Film-Kurier summarised: "[Elisabeth] stays at home, deeply rooted and always strong in the homely countryside, which her whole heart is attached to"; Reinhardt is pulled away by "music and the world. Additional exteriors were shot in Rome. And the girl I played was an ideal for them. She loved her husband and was faithful to him.
Gedichte und Symbole in Theodor Storms Immensee
Without Elisabeth knowing, Reinhard additionally keeps a vellum -bound book in which he composes poems about his life experiences. Despite his young age, Reinhard is sure that he wants to spend his whole life with Elisabeth. Neither a new school, nor his new male friends can change this. He reveals his childhood dream of a life together in India to Elisabeth. After a moment of hesitation, 5-year old Elisabeth agrees to his plans. At the age of seventeen, the moment of separation from Elisabeth comes inescapably closer. Although he will pursue his education in town, Reinhard promises to continue writing fairy tales for her and send them by letter to his mother.
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