Motley Stones by Adalbert Stifter (Translated from German by Isabel Fargo Cole) - review by George Prochnik

George Prochnik

Human, All Too Human

Motley Stones


New York Review of Books 296pp £14.99

The Austrian writer Adalbert Stifter was an apostle of humanity’s moral, biological and geographical interconnectedness. When a person aids the weak and oppressed, a balance is restored and the helped individual is able to rejoin the social fold, Stifter explained in the preface to his mid-19th-century novella cycle Motley Stones, now available in its first complete English translation. Concomitantly, the person who provides compassionate aid feels more exaltation than is available to the isolated self.

In these tales, people generally founder when they become detached. In ‘Granite’, a family of pitch-burners who flee their community to hide from a plague forgo the possibilities for mutual care and perish one by one, until no one is left to bury the bodies but a boy

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

RLF - March

Follow Literary Review on Twitter