Theodor Fontane (1819-98), widely regarded as Germany's most significant novelist between Goethe and Thomas Mann, pioneered the German novel of manners and upper-class society, following a trend in European fiction of the period. The Stechlin is Fontane's last book and his political testament. Like Effi Briest, his great work on the place of women in Bismarck's empire, it is set at the apex of the Wilhelmine era, both in Berlin and on the estate of a Prussian Junker on the shores of Lake Stechlin. It is a significant historical and cultural document, probably the finest chronicle of the lifestyle of the German upper classes in the late nineteenth century; Fontane portrays the best in the life and ways of the passing Prussian aristocracy, while describing his hopes for the future of Germany and its nobility, which were never to be fully realized. Although this novel has been translated into many languages, it has never before been available in English; this edition thus fills an important gap in the significant works of European literature accessible to English readers.
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