Alfred narrates the story of his relationship with Jenni, the mixed-race daughter of a plantation owner and a local woman who was brought from her native St Croix to Germany and lived with Alfred’s family when they were children. Alfred in love with his former playmate, and claims to be blind to her race, but she insists it is an impediment to their getting married. Only after she returns to meet the mother for whom she yearns, and discovers that she is even more of a foreigner in the West Indies than in Germany, is the barrier to their relationship resolved.

Storm’s Novelle paradoxically operates with racial and colonial (and gender) stereotypes at the same time as it ostensibly overcomes them. Eichendorff’s Das Marmorbild and Sealsfield’s Lebensbilder aus der westlichen Hemisphäre are significant presences in the text.

Text

Theodor Storm, Sämtliche Werke in vier Bänden, vol. 1 (Frankfurt a.M.: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag, 1987), pp. 649-693 (+ commentary, pp. 1189-1204)

Further reading

Axel Dunker, Kontrapunktische Lektüren. Koloniale Strukturen in der deutschsprachigen Literatur des 19. Jahrhunderts (Paderborn: Fink, 2008), pp. 97-109

Storm-Handbuch. Leben – Werk – Wirkung, ed. by Christian Demandt and Philipp Theisohn (Stuttgart: Metzler, 2017)

David A. Jackson, Theodor Storm: The Life and Works of a Democratic Humanitarian (New York: Berg, 1992), pp. 134-37

(Steffan Davies)

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