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The Wish A Novel   By: (1857-1928)

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2. The diphthong oe is represented by [oe].







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Since the beginning of time men have been accustomed to regard the end of a century as a period of decadence. The waning nineteenth century is no more fortunate than its predecessors. We are continually being invited to speculate on the signs around us of decay in politics, in religion, in art, in the whole social fabric. It is not for us to inquire here concerning the truth or the ethics of that belief. But, as far as literature is concerned, it is very certain that the last years of the present century will be remembered for the extraordinary talent shown by a few young novelists and dramatists in most of the countries of Europe. In England, we can point to Mr. Rudyard Kipling and Mr. J. M. Barrie; in France, to M. Paul Margueritte and M. Marcel Prévost; in Belgium, to M. Maurice Maeterlinck; in Germany, to Gerhard Hauptmann, Ludwig Fulda, and Hermann Sudermann.

The events of Sudermann's life are few; and he has the good sense to prefer to be known through his works rather than through the medium of the professional interviewer. The facts here set down, however, we owe to the courtesy of Sudermann himself a circumstance that lends them an additional interest.

Hermann Sudermann was born September 30, 1857, in Matzicken, a poor village in Heydekrug, a district of East Prussia, situated on the Russian frontier. It is not unlikely that the following passage taken from one of his novels bears some resemblance to the place:

"The estate that my father farmed was situated on a high hill close to the Prussian frontier; an uncultivated, wild park sloping gently towards the open fields formed one side of the hill, while the other sank steeply down to a little river. On the farther side of the stream you could see a dirty little Polish frontier village.

"Standing at the edge of the precipice you looked down on the ruinous shingle roofs; the smoke came up through the rifts in them. You looked right into the midst of the miserable life of the dirty streets where half naked children wallowed in the filthy where the women squatted idly on the threshold, and where the men in torn smocks, with spade on shoulder, betook themselves to the alehouses.

"There was nothing attractive about the town, and the rabble of frontier Cossacks, who galloped here and there on their catlike, drowsy nags, did not increase the charm."

Sudermann began his education at the school of Elbing. But his parents were in poor circumstances, and at the age of fourteen he found it necessary to think about earning a living, and was apprenticed to a chemist. He continued his studies in his leisure time with such good results that he returned to school, this time at Tilsit. In 1875 he went to the university of Königsberg, and in 1877 to that of Berlin. His first intention was to become a teacher, and while still pursuing his studies undertook for a few months the duties of tutor in the house of the poet Hans Hopfen. But in 1881, after six years spent in studying history, philosophy, literature, and modern languages (Sudermann understands English perfectly), he turned to journalism, and edited the Deutsches Reichsblatt , a political weekly... Continue reading book >>

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