Adalbert Stifter’s Rock Crystal is a Christmas story and a story about the heart of the ice, the crystal.
The charm of this quasi-fairy tale is made even more poignant by the knowledge of the author’s eventual suicide. This seemingly simple fable of two children lost in an icy landscape is eloquent in its innocence, but is implicit with an unremitting consciousness of the fragility of life and the inevitability of death. This is a wintry story of village life in the high mountains, but also a parable of belief and faith. The Rock Crystal of the title are shards of ice of the glacier that dominates the landscape that Adalbert Stifter describes.
Translated from the German by Elizabeth Mayer and Marianne Moore, Adalbert Stifter’s Rock Crystal is published by Pushkin Press.
‘A tale of almost unendurable suspense’
— New York Review of Books
Adalbert Stifter (1805-1868) was an Austrian writer, painter and poet closely associated with the Biedermeier movement in European art. Following his studies at the University of Vienna, he was highly regarded as a tutor among aristocratic families. The success of his first story The Condor in 1840 inaugurated a steady writing career, culminating in Der Nachsommer, praised by Nietzsche as one of the two great novels of 19th century Germany.
He was especially notable for the vivid natural landscapes depicted in his writing, and has long been popular in the German-speaking world, influencing writers such as Hermann Hesse, Thomas Mann and W.G. Sebald.