Das Bilderbuch meiner Jugend

  • Country in which the text is set
  • Featured locations
    Pillau (now Baltijsk, Russia), Ostseebad Heiligendamm / Heiligendamm seaside resort
  • Impact

    Sudermann’s autobiography begins with a fairytale-like description of the region in which he was born: a “green secret”, a “wondrous forest”, a “magical land” of “mysterious rivers in whose waters the fairy washes her golden tresses”. This depiction is starkly contrasted by “Frau Sorge” (Dame Care), which rules the family home, the drastically and relentlessly described “petty bourgeois plight”, poverty, discrimination, and humiliating dependence. After frequently interrupted schooling in Heydekrug, Elbing and Tilsit, Sudermann attended university in Königsberg and Berlin, where he was compelled to take jobs as a private tutor and as a journalist. As a consequence, his account of these years presents the reader with a plethora of figures and situations from all walks of life.

    The self-disclosures—the fears and ambitions—emerging from this account of a struggle to survive are often embarrassing and are compensated for by a kind of “desperate humour” as well as the reader’s knowledge (Osterkamp) that this is the story of an ultimately successful individual. The book concludes with a scene in which the budding journalist sees his name in print for the first time.

  • Balticness
    Our selection presents two portraits of members of Sudermann’s mother’s family, a ship’s pilot and a seaman, against the backdrop of the Königsberg port city of Pillau. The second excerpt describes a typical holiday in the Heiligendamm seaside resort, to which the student Sudermann accompanies a wealthy Jewish banking family as their private tutor.
    Hans Peter Neureuter
  • Bibliographic information
    Hermann Sudermann, Das Bilderbuch meiner Jugend. With an afterword by Ernst Osterkamp, Frankfurt am Main/Berlin 1990 [Ullstein Taschenbuch] resp. München/Wien: Langen Müller 1988, S. 199-202; 304-308

    Literature (and an attempt at a re-evaluation): Walter T. Rix (ed.): Hermann Sudermann. Werk und Wirkung, Würzburg 1980

  • Translations
    Language Year Translator
    English 1923 Wyndham Harding
    Latvian 1933
    Emīls Feldmanis
    Lithuanian 2009 Juratė Guseviene  
  • Year of first publication
  • Place of first publication

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