Drifting towards Disaster? Fontane’s Ambivalent Portrayal of Stralau Landscapes in His Literary Works1

James Bade


Stralau was a favorite destination for Berliners in the nineteenth century. Best known for the beauty of its surroundings, it was also notorious for the drunken revelry of its fishing carnival. Consequently, in Fontane, Stralau is associated with a remarkable ambivalence of emotions: it highlights the passionate involvement of characters, while also evoking connotations of danger and disaster. A. R. Robinson’s description of the protagonists in L’Adultera as being caught in a “drift towards disaster” off Stralau neatly encapsulates the situation in subsequent novels. In Die Poggenpuhls, however, Fontane goes much further. For her painting of the Great Flood for her uncle’s church, Sophie takes as her inspiration the view of Lake Rummelsburg from Stralau Station. Sophie’s artistic characterization of the diluvian catastrophe expresses her hope that a better world is to follow, reflecting Fontane’s utopian ideals in Quitt and Der Stechlin. (JB)

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