Hans and Heinz Kirch
Journey to a Hallig
(Hans und Heinz Kirch, 1882; Immensee, 1850; Eine Halligfahrt,
Theodor Storm's fictional achievement goes well beyond the celebrated
Novelle Der Schimmelreiter (The Dykemaster in Denis
Jackson's translation published in Angel Classics). This selection
of three more of his most impressive narratives, two of them appearing
in English for the first time, represents three stages in the development
of a German writer whose best work ranks with that of Thomas Hardy.
Immensee (1850), a love-story whose powerful atmosphere
is heightened by all-pervasive symbols and folksong-like verse,
has long been a favourite of both the German- and English-speaking
Journey to a Hallig (1871) is a free-roving story of a journey
in more than one sense, both a magical evocation of the German North
Sea coast in high summer and a layered account of an inner journey
back into an old man's past.
Hans and Heinz Kirch (1882), one of Storm's masterpieces
is a tragic tale of father-son conflict set among the Kleinbürger
mercantile community of the German Baltic seaboard.
Denis Jackson's absorbing introduction and end notes, and maps
to two of the stories, will enhance the reader's enjoyment of this
poetic, eloquent fiction which is so strongly rooted in time and
ILLUSTRATION: 'Marktplatz. Alt-Heiligenhafen', etching by Ingrid
Hans and Heinz Kirch Selected
But this night, it seemed, there
was something else besides; hours had passed and still he lay awake on
his pillows. He seemed to hear a rocky coastal stretch of the Mediterranean
hundreds of miles away, which he had once sailed in his youth; and when
his eyes had at last closed he immediately forced himself to keep awake;
for he had quite clearly seen a ship, a full-rigged sailing ship with
broken masts, being tossed about among towering waves. He tried to rouse
himself fully, but his eyes closed again, and he recognised the ship once
more; clearly he saw the figurehead between the bowsprit and the stem
post, a huge white Fortuna, now plunging into the foaming sea, now rising
proudly from it again, as though wanting to hold ship and crew above the
water. Then suddenly a crash made him start, and he found himself sitting
upright in bed.
him was now quiet, he could hear nothing; he tried to remember if the
storm had still been raging a short while ago; then he had the feeling
that he was not alone in the room; he rested both hands on the sides of
the bed and opened his eyes wide. And -- there it was, there in the corner
stood his Heinz; he could not see the face, for the head was bowed, and
the hair, dripping with water, hung down over the brow; but he recognised
him just the same -- how, he did not know or ask himself. Water even dripped
from the clothes and the arms that hung down; it continued to flow and
formed a wide stream which ran towards his bed.
wanted to call out, but he sat as though paralysed with his arms braced;
at last a loud cry broke from his chest, and immediately he also heard
crashing sounds above him in the young couple's bedroom, and again he
heard the storm furiously shaking the timbers of his house.
his son-in-law entered the room with a light to find him sunk in his pillows.
'We heard you shouting,' he asked; 'what is wrong, father?'
The old man
looked straight towards the corner. 'He's dead,' he said, 'far from here.'
father? Who do mean? Do you mean your Heinz?'
The old man
nodded. 'The water,' he said, 'move away, you're standing in the middle
of the water!'
man lowered the light towards the floor. 'There's no water here, father.
You've had a bad dream.'
seaman, Christian; what do you know about it!' said the old man fiercely.
'But I know about it -- this is how our dead return.'
Translation © Denis Jackson and Anja Nauck 1999.
isbn 0 946162 60 3
Immensee Selected text:
Illustration to Immensee by Wilhelm Haseman, 1888.
Reproduced by kind permission of Verlag Boyens & Co., Heide in Holstein.
On a late autumn afternoon a well-dressed old man walked slowly down the
street. He appeared to be returning home from a walk; for his buckle-shoes,
of outdated fashion, were dusty. He carried a long gold-headed cane under
his arm; his dark eyes, in which his whole lost youth appeared to have
taken refuge and which contrasted strangely with the snow-white hair,
gazed quietly about him or down into the town which lay before him in
the soft evening sunlight. -- He appeared almost a stranger; for few passers-by
acknowledged him, although many were instinctively drawn to look into
those serious eyes. At length he stopped and stood before a tall gabled
house, looked once more towards the town, then went into the entrance
hall. At the sound of the doorbell, the green curtain at the small living-room
window which looked out onto the hall was drawn aside, revealing behind
it the face of an old woman. The man beckoned to her with his cane. 'Still
no light!' he said with a somewhat southern accent; and the housekeeper
let the curtain fall back again. The old man now crossed the spacious
hall, then went through a parlour where large oak cupboards filled with
china vases stood against the walls, and through a far door entered a
small corridor from which a narrow staircase led to upper rooms at the
rear of the house. He slowly climbed the stairs, unlocked a door and entered
a moderately large room. Here it was peaceful and quiet; one of the walls
was almost covered with bookcases and repositories; on the other hung
pictures of people and places; before a green-covered table, upon which
several opened books lay strewn, stood a heavy armchair with a red velvet
cushion. -- After the old man had put away his hat and cane in the corner
he settled himself in the armchair, and with folded hands appeared to
be resting after his walk. -- As he sat there, it gradually grew darker;
eventually a moonbeam streamed through the window-panes and fell on the
oil paintings on the wall, and as the bright band crept slowly onward
the old man's eyes instinctively followed it. Now it passed over a small
painting in a plain dark frame. 'Elisabeth!' said the old man softly;
and as soon as he uttered the name the time changed; he was back in his
Translation © Denis Jackson and Anja Nauck 1999.
isbn 0 946162 60 3
A Journey to a Hallig*
And the sails billowed gently and the boat drifted quietly on; the water
could be heard at the bow rippling against the keel. After an hour we
had left the large neighbouring island behind us and now drifted on the
broad tide. Close by us a gull glided over the water; I saw its yellow
eyes peering down into the depths. 'Rungholt!' cried the boatman, who
had just shifted the sails to tack . . .
. . . 'In
King Abel's time, and also much later, it stood above the sea in the sunshine
with its splendid gabled houses, its steeples and mills. The ships from
Rungholt sailed over all the seas of the world and carried home treasures
from every part of it. When the bells rang for mass, the market and the
streets filled with fair-haired women and girls hurrying to church in
silk garments, and at the time of the equinoctial storms the men, especially
when they had come home from their feasts, would clamber up onto their
high dykes again, stick their hands in their pockets, and shout mockingly
down at the roaring sea: "You can't touch us now, Wild Hans!"
. . .
. . . The
men of Rungholt -- at least, according to the religious chroniclers --
summoned a priest one day and ordered him to give Communion to a sick
pig. This angered God and he made his waters rise as in Noah's time; and
they rose over the dykes, mills and steeples. And Rungholt with its fair-haired
women and its defiant men' -- and I pointed behind us where the water
swirled in the sun from the keel of our boat -- 'lies down there, lost
and invisible on the floor of the sea. Only occasionally in fine weather
when the pennant hangs limply from the mast in the stillness of midday
and the sailors are snoring in the cabin, then -- as people say -- "it
rises up." -- Then anyone with keen eyes who looks overboard into
the water can see the steeples with golden weathercocks rising up out
of the green gloom; he or she might perhaps even recognise the roofs of
the old houses and see strange slow-moving creatures crawling in the seaweed
that has grown over them, or might look down between the jagged gables
into the narrow lanes where shellfish and amber have obscured the gateways
to the houses and the never-resting ebb and flow of the tide plays with
the treasures of sunken ships. -- Even the sailors below decks wake and
sit up, for they hear the sound of ringing beneath them from the deep
-- it is the bells of Rungholt.
* (Hallig: a small un-dyked island on the North Sea tidal flats)
Translation © Denis Jackson and Anja
Nauck 1999. isbn 0 946162 60 3