The literary fortunes of Adalbert Stifter (SHTIHF-tur) have risen and fallen several times in the German-speaking world, but in the United States he has remained nearly unknown outside the circle of scholars of German literature. Born October 23, 1805, in the village of Oberplan, in the Czech Republic (then a part of the Austrian Empire), he was the son of a linen trader and small-scale farmer. His mother was the daughter of a butcher. After his father died in an accident in 1817, Stifter’s maternal grandfather took him to the well-respected school of the Benedictine monastery of Kremsmünster, where he succeeded admirably. He left Kremsmünster in 1826 and entered the University of Vienna as a student of law. In Vienna, partly because he was often in financial difficulties, he experienced the sadness of being rejected as the suitor of Fanny Greipl, whose parents thought that he was beneath her. Supporting himself as a private tutor, often tutoring the children of prominent families, and occasionally selling a painting he had done, he married Amalia Mohaupt on November 15, 1837, even though he was still in love with Fanny.
In the 1840’s he began to succeed as a writer, but his gifts as a painter served him well in the moving descriptions of his native Austrian landscape found in his prose. The first novella he published, Der Condor (the condor), was well received, and it was soon followed by a number of others during a period of unusual...
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