Friday, May 31, 2013

translating keyserling's waves

Eduard von Keyserling, portrait by Lovis Corinth, circa 1900

Eduard von Keyserling's masterpiece of literary Impressionism, Waves (Wellen), first published in 1911, has never been properly translated into English.

This is a great shame: the book's a great read. It's about a young, beautiful countess, Doralice Köhne-Jasky, who leaves her ageing count for a poor painter.

The novel portrays the relationship of the couple, now shunned by society, in the setting of an isolated resort on the Bay of Puck in the Baltic Sea. The gorgeous Doralice attracts much male attention as her love for the painter is slowly compromised in the mundane relaity of everyday life.

The plot's glancing concern with the cuckolding of an ineffectual aristocrat by his spirited bride foreshadows Lady's Chatterley's Lover (published in 1928) although Keyserling's style is far more impartial, subtler and more ironic than Lawrence's.

The novel is now being translated into English by Freddie Oomkens (coincidentally a descendant of the Köhn von Jaski's and a distant kinsman of Keyserling's) who reports on his work on oomkenscom.

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