Nesthäkchen and the World War: First English Translation of the German Children's Classic
A recent survey of German women revealed that 55% had read Else Ury's Nesthäkchen books. Even more had heard them read over the radio or had seen the television serialization.
Germans call a spoiled child or family pet a Nesthäkchen. Else Ury's Nesthäkchen is a Berlin doctor's daughter, Annemarie Braun, a slim, golden blond, quintessential German girl. The ten book series follows Annemarie from infancy (Nesthäkchen and Her Dolls) to old age and grandchildren (Nesthäkchen with White Hair).
Nesthäkchen and the World War, the fourth volume in the series, is the tale of a pre-adolescent girl growing up in Berlin at the outbreak of World War I. It presents a charming, skillful evocation of a long-vanished world, while Steven Lehrer's annotations put the story in historical context.
Nesthäkchen and the World War conveys a timeless lesson, for children as well as adults, about the nature of war. Wars often begin with an outpouring of patriotic sentiment. World War I started this way, and Else Ury's description of German war-euphoria in 1914 is chilling. But when the narrative ends, in mid 1916, the war could no longer be mistaken for a noble, patriotic adventure.
What people are saying - Write a review
A uniquely sentimental look at World War I through the eyes of a preteen German girl.
Though still immensely popular in Germany, Ury’s ten Nesthäkchen books are virtually unknown in the United States, an omission Lehrer looks to correct with this fine translation, complete with notes and a brief but highly informative introduction. The book is an engaging tale of two years in the life of Annemarie Braun, a Berlin doctor’s daughter most often referred to by the narrator as “Nesthäkchen,” a wonderfully appropriate sobriquet reserved for spoiled children. Separated from her parents by the war, Annemarie nonetheless lives a comfortable life with her grandmother, siblings, girlfriends and even a cook. The narrative traces her often wildly extravagant, juvenile reactions to the vicissitudes of war. Mercurial by nature, youthfully innocent and self-absorbed due to her social standing, Annemarie filters her experiences of war through her personality in ways that can rarely be deeply felt by the reader, who watches as she flits from one emotion to another, despondent on one page, exultant on the next. Her most sustained behavior proves to be the cruelty she evinces toward a new girl at her school, a long campaign of ill-treatment for which she must eventually seek redemption. Her story is ultimately one of growth through sacrifice, and, not surprisingly, Annemarie matures into a generous, likable young woman by the novel’s end and receives abundant karmic reward for her goodness. Lehrer’s infrequent annotations are precise and cogent, though concerned primarily with military matters sometimes to the exclusion of cultural subjects. With its stilted diction and narrative air of bemused didacticism resembling perhaps nothing more in the American canon than the Horatio Alger books...Nesthäkchen could, and probably deserves to, find her place in the classroom alongside Ragged Dick as an important glimpse into the spirit of a long-gone age.
A poignant, dignified tribute to Ury who, as a Jew during World War II, was murdered by her countrymen for whom she had written with so much loyalty and love.
THE WORLD WAR
Trans. by Steven Lehrer
iUniverse (164 pp.)
May 22, 2006
Kirkus Reviews, Nielsen Business Media, 770 Broadway, New York, NY 10003