Translated by Susan Bernofsky



This short novel was first published in 1842, but it is still resonant today.  Written under a pen name, the author takes up the cause of peasants’ rights against feudal dictatorship.  But this is not a treatise.  It is instead a carefully woven tale involving a wise grandfather, a bizarre request, a devilish temptation and a mysterious woman.

This is German folklore with that uneasy sense that comes along with a fairy tale — anything is fair game.  Bernofsky’s translation does a great job bringing that sense of dread and supernatural that overlays the entire genre.  There is a straight-forward tone that makes it all the more unnerving.


But a long summer lay before them, and God above, and so they summoned their courage and took up the plow and consoled their wives and children who had suffered severe hunger and now found new torment in these labors.  ~Loc 49

For readers of today, it makes one wonder just who is pulling the strings, and what would we do to disentangle ourselves from them.

About the Author:
Jeremias Gotthelf, the pen name of Albert Bitzius (1797–1854), was a Swiss pastor and the author of novels, novellas, short stories, and nonfiction, who used his writing to communicate his reformist concerns in the field of education and with regard to the plight of the poor.

About the Translator:
Susan Bernofsky, Chair of the PEN Translation Committee, teaches in the Writing Program at Columbia University and has translated Robert Walser, Jenny Erpenbeck, Yoko Tawada, Hermann Hesse, Gregor von Rezzori and others. Winner of the 2006 Helen and Kurt Wolff Prize and the 2012 Herman Hesse Prize, she blogs about translation at

Format: Paperback
Publication date: October 8, 2013
Pages: 120 ISBN: 9781590176689
Series: NYRB Classics


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