Immermann’s lifelong attempts at the studied poetizations of traditional, aristocratic, high-flown themes brought him but scant recognition even in his day, and they have since been well-nigh forgotten. But when, one year before his death, he wrote an unpretentious love story taken from the life of simple people whom he met on his daily walks, he thereby assured himself of immortality. Few works prove more convincingly than Der Oberhof that great literature is neither more nor less than an artistic visualization and faithful reflection of life. The reading of this unassuming “village story,” the first of its kind in German literature, warms the heart and stirs the springs of living fancy, simply because it relates in terse and direct language a series of incidents in the lives of very possible and very real human beings.
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KARL LEBRECHT IMMERMANN
THE OBERHOF (1839) TRANSLATED BY PAUL BERNARD THOMAS
THE JUSTICE OF THE ESTATE
With the sleeves of his shirt rolled up the old Justice of the estate was standing in the yard between the barns and the farm buildings and gazing attentively into a fire which he had kindled on the ground between stones and logs, and which was now crackling merrily. He straightened around a small anvil which was standing beside it, laid down a hammer and a pair of tongs so as to have them ready to grasp, tested the points of some large wheel-nails which he drew forth from the breast-pocket of a leather apron he had tied around him, put the nails down in the bottom of the rack-wagon, the wheel of which he was about to repair, carefully turned the rim around until the place where the tire was broken was on top, and then made the wheel fast by putting stones under it.
After he had again looked into the fire for a few moments, but not long enough to cause his bright, sharp eyes to blink, he quickly thrust the tongs into it, lifted out the red-hot piece of iron, laid it on the anvil, pounded it with the hammer so that the sparks flew in all directions, clapped the still glowing piece of iron down on the broken place in the tire, hammered and welded it fast with two heavy blows, and then drove the nails into their places, which was easily done, as the iron was still soft and pliable.
A few very sharp and powerful blows gave the inserted piece its finishing touch. The Justice kicked away the stones with which he had made the wheel fast, seized the wagon by its tongue in order to test the mended tire, and in spite of its weight hauled it without exertion diagonally across the yard, so that the hens, geese and ducks, which had been quietly sunning themselves, flew, with loud cries, before the rattling vehicle, and a couple of pigs jumped up, grunting, from their mud-holes.