The Poggenpuhls

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Publisher's cover of the first book edition

Die Poggenpuhls is one of Theodor Fontane's last novels .

The novel was written between 1891 and 1894 ; the preprint took place in "Vom Fels zum Meer" 15/1 in the period from October 1895 to March 1896 . In November 1896 it was published for the first time as a book by Verlag Friedrich Fontane & Co. in Berlin, 176 pp.

The position of the novel in Fontane's oeuvre

The little novel - the shortest that Fontane has written - creates a noble counterpart to the novel Frau Jenny Treibel , which is set in a middle-class milieu. The plot, set in the three emperor year of 1888, describes a family of officers whose head of the family has fallen and who lives in a tenement. One common motive is financial poverty. She turns the plot into a kind of sociological study of the impoverished officer nobility in Prussia Germany. The sympathetic self-respect with which the family members endure the constant lack is described by Fontane with a sense of involuntary comedy and compassionate irony.


Major Albertine Pogge von Poggenpuhl, who has been widowed for many years, has lived with her three daughters Therese, Sophie and Manon and the loyal old maid Friederike for several years in Großgörschenstrasse in Berlin , while her sons Wendelin and Leo are their first and second lieutenants Regiment stand in Thorn . The family's financial situation is oppressive, and so it is a problem for the mother right at the beginning of the story that the younger son Leo has signed up to visit to celebrate her birthday on January 4th: “Yes, there should I am happy now. But can I be happy? He's going to come here with the money [Wendelin has given Leo his fee, which he received for an article in the military weekly, so that his favorite son can visit his mother], but when he's here, we have to give him one Have a few good days, and even if he is modest in his demands, he still has to go back the third day, and we have to pay for that. ”In the reactions of the three daughters following this statement, each immediately shows her characteristic attitude to life: Therese , who is carried by an elation based on the family history, does not want to hear anything about the economic considerations of the mother, Sophie, an all-rounder and not just artistic, offers to get an advance on the fee for her last pictures, and Manon suggests relocating the family's sugar can once again and, if it can no longer be taken out of the pawn shop , i To have rich Jewish friends, the Bartenstein banking family, give a new one.

But in the end none of these solutions have to be resorted to: Uncle Eberhard, a richly married retired general . D. and brother of the father of the family who died at Gravelotte , also appears to celebrate Albertine's birthday and, after he has invited them to a performance of the play The Quitzows and to dinner , leaves the children with the respectable remains of the hundred-mark note that was used for the restaurant bill . But even this generous gift does not, of course, permanently solve the family's financial problems, which Leo in particular finds painful. During the visit, Leo discusses with the maid Friederike the possibilities of either going to Africa or marrying a wealthy Jewish woman - a plan that his sister Manon can warm to as well. However, she does not want to see him married to the young Esther Blumenthal, with whom he was dating in Thorn, but rather to her friend Flora Bartenstein. Basically, however, both are forbidden because it is family tradition ("The Poggenpuhls don't say goodbye." "Then they'll get it." "They won't get it either [...]", Therese said in an interview with the younger brother) and contradicts the Poggenpuhls' sense of class, and Leo himself admits that these ideas are more of a fantasy than realistic plans - just like the idea of ​​pursuing a stage career like his former regimental comrade Manfred von Klessentin.

So he leaves for Thorn again, while Uncle Eberhard takes Sophie with him to company for his wife at his Adamdorf Palace. She should make use of her artistic talents there and B. paint new heraldic plates for the general, who is married to Eberhard von Poggenpuhl for the second time. But this does not occur. During a trip with the horn sled near the Prinz-Heinrich-Baude , Sophie had an accident and broke her thigh. While she was still on the sick bed, she began with sketches for a completely different project, which particularly pleased the old uncle: she was supposed to decorate the village church with paintings based on the Bible . She was busy with this for several months and during this time kept reporting to Berlin by letter - although the family's constant financial worries play an inalienable role in this correspondence as well.

On Sedan Day , Uncle Eberhard rather reluctantly goes to Hirschberg to give the traditional speech on the Kaiser at the ceremony . He returns seriously ill and dies of typhoid a few days later . The aunt sends the relatives in Berlin one thousand marks so that they can dress up for the funeral service and pay for the trip to Adamsdorf. After the funeral, she has a conversation with Albertine von Poggenpuhl, explains her financial situation in more detail than before, and then tells her that from now on the Poggenpuhl ladies will have to reckon with the interest income from a sum she has invested, while Wendelin and Leo receive one-off monetary gifts . “The major wanted to kiss the general's hand, but she hugged her and kissed her forehead. "I am happier than you," said the general. “You are, madam. Making you happy is the ultimate happiness. It wasn't my destiny. But being able to receive gratefully is also lucky. ""

While Therese reacted to the notification of the change in the financial situation by demanding that Manon finally stop dealing with Bartensteins, Manon remains more realistic: “So everything is the same?” “Yes. And now even get married! We mustn't have such stupid thoughts; we stay poor girls. But mom will be better fed and Leo doesn't need to go to the equator . Because I think to myself that his debts can now be paid without Blumenthals and even without Flora. Flora herself remains my friend. This is what I want. And so we live happily ever after, until Wendelin and Leo have become something decent [...] ”.


In this story-poor novel, like in the much more extensive Stechlin , Fontane succeeds brilliantly in capturing the atmosphere of aristocratic society in Prussia and in allowing the people to be characterized mainly by their own expressions in conversations and letters. A mixture of cheerfulness, e.g. Partly portrayed by the main characters themselves, especially by Leo, and the melancholy of the portrayed slow decline of a social class and epoch lies over the whole novel.


The novel was often assigned to naturalism rather than poetic realism , which is probably due to its socio-critical attitude. The contemporary critics initially responded with rather restrained praise. Paul Heyse even complained in 1897 that the caterpillar “did not want to develop a butterfly at all ” and that the story goes like the Hornberg shooting . The layout of the novel, however, permits no other outcome; It becomes clear from beginning to end that the basically survived form of society cannot and will not be abandoned by the protagonists - with which the Poggenpuhls, representing the entire Prussian aristocracy, are, however, put on the list of extinctions .



Web links

supporting documents

  1. ^ Nürnberger, Helmuth: Fontane's world. Berlin: WJ Siedler 1997, p. 363