Friday, 18 June 2010

The Adventures of Elizabeth in Rugen (Von Arnim)

I was very excited to get a copy of The adventures of Elizabeth in Rugen from ebay as I am really enjoying reading my way through Von Arnim's books at the moment. Her work falls into two types - the novels, and the more autobiographical material, the latter including Elizabeth's German Garden and The solitary summer. This book falls into that category, as

It's a book for the armchair traveller - Elizabeth makes a trip to Rugen, Germany's largest island, a popular holiday destination, and sets out to write a travel guide to it.

This doesn't quite happen:

"My itention when I began this book was to write a useful Guide to Rugen, one that should point out its best parts and least uncomfortable inns to any English or American traveller whose energy lands him on its shores. With every page I write it grows more plain that I shall not fulfil that intention. What, for instance have Charlotte and the bishop's wife of illuminating for the tourist who wants to be shown the way? As I cannot conscientiously praise the inns [Elizabeth's experiences of the inns are of constant discomfort] I will not give their names and what is the use of that to a tourist who wishes to know where to sleep and dine? I meant to describe the Jagdschloss, and find I only repeated a ghost story"...

Rather it turns into a description of her adventures with her usual characteristic wit and self-depracating humour. Although there are smatterings of advice along the way:

"A ripe experience of German pillows in country places leads me to urge the intending traveller to be sure to take his own. The native pillows are mere bags, in which feathers may have been once. There is no substance in them at all. They are of a horrid flabbiness"

Whilst I didn't enjoy this as much as her other two "autobiographical" books, it was entertaining and I think it would make a good holiday read.

It's been published three times by Virago, although the original green and italicised green editions use the same cover image. I own the original green, but rather like the new edition.


  1. I think I'll read the novels before moving onto the autobiographical works when I have no other Von Arnim remaining (although I already own one, Elizabeth and her German Garden).