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In his will, Edmond de Goncourt (1822-1896) left a bequest in honor of his brother Jules de Goncourt (1830-1870) to establish and support a French literary salon, the Academie Goncourt, and later the famous Prix Goncourt, an award that to this day remains France's most significant literary prize. --- The Goncourt brothers, who co-authored a series of novels on social themes, were among the founders of literary "Naturalism" in France. Emile Zola would emerge as this movement's most important representative in his cycle of novels "Les Rougon- Macquart". --- Among the novels co-written by the Goncourt brothers, "Germinie Lacerteux" (1865) is especially noteworthy. The double-live of the novel's Parisian domestic servant, who is ground down and destroyed by the conditions she lives in, but who for decades keeps these conditions hidden from her employer, continues to captivate book-lovers in France and the rest of the world to this day.
From the cycle "Zurich Novellas" by Gottfried Keller: In 1877 Gottfried Keller published his "Zurich Novellas" (Z├╝richer Novellen), a series of short novels dealing with the history of Zurich and Switzerland. "Ursula" is a love story between a Swiss soldier and the daughter of a farmer during the time of the Swiss Reformation lead by Ulrich Zwingli and at the beginning of the Anabaptist movement in Europe in the 16th century. --- "Gottfried Keller was one of the foremost Swiss novelists and one of the most original figures of German literature since Goethe, a master of style worthy to be classed with the great names of all ages." (John Albrecht Walz)
"The Last Mistress" is the story of Richard Brown, who leaves an English boarding school at the end of World War II to find his way in the world. Believing that he might have a vocation to take Holy Orders, he decided to travel to Jerusalem and then onto Rome. A brief stay in Paris opens a new world to him. On arrival in Palestine, he gets caught up in the war between Jews and Arabs and is conscripted into the Palestine Police. Posted on the border between Palestine and Lebanon, he gets the opportunity to visit Beirut and enjoy its pleasures before being demobilized and sent back to London. --- His journey through life does not stop there. Graduating from Imperial College, London University, he enters the business world, and as a high-flying investment banker he decides that the sky's the limit. He travels around the world, continuing with his lighthearted erotic romp through life before a tragic event brings him back to earth and allows him to find his true vocation. --- Though by no means an autobiography, much of the background, especially the events in Palestine, are factual and well authenticated. However, as with his previous novels, the author draws on his personal experiences and titillates us with descriptions of gastronomic delights and seductive and sensual pleasures of love.
Love is necessarily an important element in all imaginative literature, but with Gottfried Keller it does not overshadow all other aspects of life. Great passion we do not find in his works. In "A Village Romeo and Juliet", it is not ill-consuming love that makes the two young people seek death, but the bitter realization of life's law, as they understood it, which made it impossible for them ever to be united. The story is a fine illustration of what a great artist may make out of his raw material. Keller had read in a newspaper a report of the suicide of two young people, the sort of tragedy that we may read almost daily in newspapers; he seized upon the possibilities of the situation and the result was this story, perhaps the best he ever wrote. --- Gottfried Keller (1819-1890) was one of the foremost Swiss novelists and one of the most original figures of German literature since Goethe, a master of style worthy to be classed with the great names of all ages. (John Albrecht Walz)
"Michael Kohlhaas" is a novella written by famed writer Heinrich von Kleist (1777-1811). The story is based upon the historical figure of Hans Kohlhase, a 16th century merchant who turned violent after being attacked and victimized by the authorities. As a result, he gathered around him a band of criminals and spread terror throughout the whole of Saxony. --- "The novella is a good example of Kleist's excellent narrative art: The action can be summed up in a few words, such as the formula for this story, given expressly on its first page: 'His sense of justice made him a robber and a murderer.' There is no leisurely exposition of time, place, or situation; all the necessary elements are given concisely in the first sentences. The action develops logically, with effective use of retardation and climax, but without disturbing episodes; and the reader is never permitted to forget the central theme. The descriptive element is realistic, with only pertinent details swiftly presented, often in parentheses, while the action moves on. The characterization is skilfully indirect, through unconscious action and speech. The author does not shun the trivial or even the repulsive in detail, nor does he fear the most tragic catastrophes ... The whole work in all its parts is firmly and finely forged by a master workman. --- Kleist has remained a solitary figure in German literature. Owing little to the dominant literary influences of his day, he has also found few imitators. Two generations passed before he began to come into his heritage of legitimate fame. Now ... his place is well assured among the greatest dramatic and narrative authors of Germany." (John S. Nollen)

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