(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Wilhelm Raabe’s novel Tubby Schaumann: A Tale of Murder and the High Seas focuses on the life story of Heinrich (Tubby) Schaumann, called “Stopfkuchen” in German. The translator used the nickname “Tubby” to capture the feeling of the German nickname, which can be rendered as “cake eater,” although stopfen (to stuff) conveys more vividly than “to eat” the grotesque image of the young Heinrich stuffing himself with desserts to the point of obesity. The subtitle includes the word “murder” because a murder influences the lives of all the major characters, and it includes “the high seas” to refer to the narrator’s location on board ship as he tells his story.

As the novel opens, Edward, the narrator, is writing about his encounter with Tubby Schaumann during a short visit to his hometown in Germany. While there, he had intended to visit his old mentor, Storzer, a country postman who told him stories as a young boy about exotic places based on Francois Le Vaillant’s Voyage de M. Le Vaillant dans l’Interieur de l’Afrique (two volumes, 1790; Travels into the Interior Parts of Africa, 1790). Storzer’s excitement about these places fired Edward’s imagination and inspired him to seek his fortune in South Africa, where he now has property and a family. Learning of Storzer’s death, Edward decided to visit his boyhood friend Tubby Schaumann, who had dreamed of owning Red Bank Farm, situated on the site of some fortress ruins overlooking the city, just as Edward had dreamed of travel to more exciting places.

During his visit with Schaumann and his wife, Edward is told the whole story...

(The entire section is 677 words.)