Theodor Fontane (1819-1898)
- Born in Neuruppin, near Berlin on December 30, 1819 to a French Huguenot family.
- His grandfather, a Gascon drawing-master at the court of Prussia; his father, an
apothecary with a passion for gambling; his mother, though able and practical, unable to
manage under these circumstances; the marriage finally dissolved..
- Apprenticed at sixteen to an apothecary in Berlin; prepared himself for four years for
the profession; passed the state examination for chemists, but soon after turned to poetry
as his calling.
- Took a position in the press department of the Prussian Ministry in 1850. Traveled to
England in 1852 and several times afterwards to write reports on conditions there for
- Acted as war correspondent in the campaigns of 1864, 1866, and 1870. Taken prisoner by
the French at one point.
- Married Emilie Rouanet-Kummer in 1850; had seven children.
- Died in Berlin on September 20, 1898, honored as one of the leading men of letters of
- Wrote verse and prose "on the side," even during his apprenticeship; published
verses and a story before he was twenty; did not begin writing novels until he was nearly
- Earliest literary efforts were poetry, the best of which was ballad poetry, heavily
influenced by his interest in Scottish history.
- Earned his living for most of his life as a journalist and correspondent, publishing
countless newspaper articles and theater reviews.
- Published a well-known four-volume account of his travels through the Mark of
- During his last two decades, wrote realistic social novels depicting Berlin society and
the Brandenburg aristocracy that assured him a significant place in German literature.
- Effi Briest made into a film in 1973 by well-known director Rainer Werner
Fassbinder; the novel, translated into English in 1976.
Major Writings (all novels, except as indicated)
Gedichte (1851, poems)
Balladen (1861, poems)
Wanderrungen durch die Mark Brandenburg (1861, travel account)
Vor dem Sturm (1858), tr. as Before the Storm
Grete Minde (1858, short story)
Schach von Wuthenow (1883), tr. as A Man of Honor
Irrungen, Wirrungen (1888), tr. as Trials and Tribulations,
Frau Jenny Treibel (1892)
Meine Kinderjahre (1894, autobiography), tr. as My Childhood Days, 1913-1915
Effi Briest (1895), tr. 1976
The Poggenpuhls (1896)
Biographical and Critical Information
- Fontane online
Brandenburg website on the Centenary
of Fontane's Death
Fontane Misjudged, Mocked and Rediscovered
The film version of Effi
Briest; also, Sundance Film
- Selected print resources
New Approaches to Theodor Fontane: Cultural Codes in Flux, ed. Marion
Theodor Fontane: Literature and History in the Bismarck Reich, Gordon Alexander
Female Victims and Oppressors in Novels by Theodore Fontane and Francois Mauriac,
Susan Wansink, 1998.
The Changing Image of Theodor Fontane, Helen Chambers, 1997.
The Berlin Novels of Theodor Fontane, Henry Garland
Theodor Fontane: The Major Novels, Alan Bance
Retired Discussion Series