Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ Free Shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
Rock Crystal (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – September 16, 2008
|New from||Used from|
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
"Two children, Conrad and Sanna, walk from their village in the Alps to visit their grandparents the day before Christmas. On their journey home, they take a wrong turn and are feared lost in a snowstorm. Lyrical and descriptive, this brief tale by Austrian writer, poet, and painter Stifter (1805–68) will do well where literary fiction is appreciated." --Library Journal
"On one level it can appear as timeless and simple as a folktale. Yet Thomas Mann came closer to the true experience of reading Rock Crystal when he praised Stifter as 'one of the most extraordinary, the most enigmatic, the most secretly daring and the most strangely gripping narrators in world literature.' In Rock Crystal, as in a Mann story, plot and description are never 'innocent,' no matter how lovingly they are elaborated. Rather, as the novella unfolds, succinctly but without hurry, it evolves into a parable of frightening depth. It is no more than 25,000 words, if that, but in this short space Stifter transports the reader to the heart of the world's mystery, before returning him to a comfortable dailiness that henceforth cannot help but feel haunted." --The New York Sun
“A miracle of quiet beauty.” –The New Yorker
“W. H. Auden in The Times called this ingenuous, mystical tale ‘a quiet and beautiful parable about the relation of people to places, of man to nature.’ …Beyond its leisurely beginning lies a painstakingly polished and fashioned gem, an ageless, mystical folktale whose return deserves a 12 month celebration.” –The New York Times, 1965
“[Rock Crystal] has remained dear to the hearts of lovers of German literature. A beautiful new translation by Elizabeth Mayer and Marianne Moore…It’s account of the courage and faith of little children and its reverent feeling for the beauty of nature and for the sacred symbolism of Christmas have a value that has little to do with literature. It is one of pure feeling.” –The New York Times, 1945
“Adalbert Stifter is ranked by critics among the best prose writers of Austria. We do not think the praise is too high.” –The Christian Examiner
“The work of Adalbert Stifter, who was one of the very few great novelists in German literature, can be compared to no other writer of the nineteenth century in pure happiness, wisdom, and beauty… Stifter became the greatest landscape-painter in literature…someone who possesses the magic wand to transform all visible things into words and all visible movements–into sentences.” –Hannah Arendt
“Whereas romances are rarely fearsome, even when teeming with dragons, tales quite often are. The fear that must underlie even our most cordial relation with the elements has an established place in them. I think of Rock Crystal (Bergkristalle) in the wonderful collection Colored Stones (Bunte Steine, 1853) of the Austrian Adalbert Stifter; it tells of two children, brother and sister, lost in a mountain snowstorm at Christmas-time while returning from a custom-honored three-hour walk to their grandmother's house down the valley. The quite ordinary and familiar two-horned alp traversed by the shoemaker's children is a mountain more magic than any of Thomas Mann's imagining.” –Mary McCarthy, The New York Review of Books
About the Author
Adalbert Stifter (1805–1868), the Austrian writer, poet, and painter, grew up in Bohemia and was educated at the University of Vienna. Among his most famous works are the novel Indian Summer and a collection of stories, Colored Stones.
Fanny Howe, the author of more than twenty books of poetry and prose, was the recipient of the 2001 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for her Selected Poems. She was short-listed for the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2001 and 2005.
Marianne Moore (1887–1972) is universally recognized as one of America’s finest poets.
Elizabeth Mayer (1884–1970) was a German-born American translator and editor.
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top Customer Reviews
It was a great relief for me to read this classic novella, recommended to me by my trans-Pacific amazonian book sharer. I had just read three long, grotesque novels of thorny Christian symbolism -- Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor, Christ Versus Arizona by Camilo Cela, and Voss by Patrick White. All three 'celebrate' the contemptible insignificance of humanity except in abject submission to an angry God. What a relief to find Stifter celebrating humanism and the sublimity of human life, even in a remote cleft of traditional decency in a valley surrounded by titanic peaks and glacial eternities. Stifter is often lumped with German Romanticism, but on the basis of "Rock Crystal", he seems to me to belong with his predecessors of the Aufklärung, the Enlightenment. Read this book when you need a lift, a burst of adrenalin, a glimpse of starlight and a sense of your own worth,
The story is simple, much like a folk tale. However underlying the tale are two themes; the theme of what makes a person an outsider or insider to a social grouping and the theme of the power, beauty, grandeur, and threat of the natural world to humanity.
The book is beautifully written. It is masterful with not a word out of place or ill chosen. The descriptions of all characters were sufficient and belabored. The descriptions of the mountains, glaciers, snow storms, and northern lights are firmly grounded in the realistic style with no fantasy or over-statement. Thus the simple story, the simple characters, the threat of nature's unexpected turns, all come together to produce a tiny miniature jewel of a short novel. Only the most skillful of writers could produce so much with so little. Stifter certainly produced a small diamond in his short novel Rock Crystal.
One word of warning, however: do not read W.H. Auden's foreword before reading the story. Inexplicably, it informs the reader of the outcome. Granted, this isn't a thriller in which the removal of suspense eliminates all enjoyment, but it still would have been preferable not to know beforehand.
Two young children, a brother and his younger sister named Conrad and Sanna, take a trip on foot early Christmas Eve morning. They're traveling from their parents' village to their grandparents' in a neighboring valley. When a snowstorm strikes while the siblings are returning home, it's look-out-Hansel-and-Gretel time as they get lost and wind up on a glacier.
The glacier scenes are the key. Here Stifter (through Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Mayer's translation) engages in beautiful descriptions of the ice, the snowstorm, the cave on the glacier, and the nighttime sky. Meantime, he relates what's going on down in the valleys where children are receiving gifts from the Christ child (not Santa Claus in this case). The contrast between the stark beauty (and frightening power) of nature and "civilization" leads to a quiet moral of sorts, as does the ensuing rescue effort.
If you've a taste for tales of simple folk that contain not-so-simple conclusions, this is worth reading. Minor quirks might be as much ascribed to the times as anything else. For instance, the game older brother constantly advises the helpless younger sister who replies, "Yes, Conrad," to his every word. Not like any little sister you or me may know, but that's not the point in this case. The suspension of disbelief is necessary for the Christmas Eve mystery to work its magic. Suspend, then, and appreciate the tale on its own level.