German Winter Nights

German Winter Nights

Johann Beer

Translated by John Russell

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First English translation of a German comic novel of the late Baroque that deserves its place alongside the writings of Grimmelshausen.
Beer's German Winter Nights (1681) is one of the watermarks of German Baroque literature. Although it clearly owes much in motif and style to Grimmelshausen's picaresque novel, Simplicius Simplicissimus, its blend of outrageous student humor and unprecedented realism mark it as a uniquely readable work that has appeal even today. Beer was primarily known as a musician and composer. But in the last ten years, he has been given his due as a major prose writer of the German Baroque. In more recent criticism he has been perceived increasingly not merely as a naive, native talent but as a relatively sophisticated writer who, well read in literary theory and in the literature of the time, satirized contemporary society with a certain moralistic rigor. Increasingly the importance of Beer's moralistic message, obscured somewhat by the outlandish comic genius of German Winter Nights and its "sequel" Die kurtzweiligen Sommer-Täge (1682, translated as Summer Tales), has been seen as his prime motivation in writing the novels, and the idea of a carefree, witty, pun-loving writer has given way to a view of a young man obsessed by questions of morality, sexuality, and the emerging (threatening) role of women in society. This is the first English translation of Beer's comic novel.

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