Saturday, October 7, 2017

Born Today October 7: Fritz Reuter


German writer Fritz Reuter was born on this day Heinrich Christian Friedrich Reuter in the village of Stavenhagen in the Duchy of Mecklenberg-Schwerin into a prominent family.  He was at first educated at home by a series of private tutors, and was eventually sent to the Gymnasien in Mecklenberg-Strelitz, before transferring to the gymnasien in Parchim.  Beginning in 1831, he began to attend legal lectures at the University of Rostock; and, in 1832, he began attending the University of Jena.  While there he became involved in the student political movement Burschenschaft; which led to his arrest in 1833.  Despite that he could only be convicted of wearing the club's colors, he was non-the-less sentenced to death.  His sentence was quickly commuted to 30 years hard labor in a Prussian fortress by King Frederick William III.  However, through the intervention of the Grand Duke of Mecklenberg, he was instead imprisoned in his home province in fortress in 1838 and released in 1840 when a general amnesty was issued under the new King Frederick William IV.  He was by this time 30 years of age. He continued his legal studies in Heidelberg, but his attention to this pursuit was only half-hearted by this time; angering his father, who--unbeknownst to Fritz--had disinherited him.  Back in Mecklenberg and living with his uncle, his father died and he realized that he had no estate coming to him, he needed to earn a living.  As a result, he turned to writing.  Like most writers of the time, he wrote in High German, but quickly found that writing instead in Low German was far more popular.  By 1850, he was well into this literary pursuit and had also become a private tutor.  He published a collection of poetry written in Low German in 1853, with a second following in 1858.  In the interim, he published a number of comedic books in verse that were quite well received.  He published his last work written in verse in 1860, which was followed by a book of tales written in Standard German.  Though not regarded as important examples of his work today, at the time, the volume gained him much greater recognition and popularity.  His works from the 1860's are considered to be his greatest contribution to literature, with almost all of his stories and tales written in Low German with one volume put out in 1866 written in the local dialect of his home region.  He was also a writer of novels, with his three volume Ut mine Stromtid standing as his greatest work.  Interest in Reuter's work only increased after his death in 1874 and continued into the early 20th century, but waned considerably (due to it's subject matter) after World War I.  Interest was greatly renewed after the end of the second World War.  Reuter died on the 12th of July in Eisenach, Germany at the age of 63, he is buried there in a public space.  In regards to cinema, four films were made utilizing his work in the silent era.  The first of these was Die Nachbarskinder, which dates from 1912.  The last was Kampf um die Scholle in 1925 (the two other films date from 1919 and 1924 respectively). In all, his work (to date) has only been used on 10 occasions to provide a basis for screenplays, one of these was a television series--Onkel Bräsig--made is West Germany that used his motifs in two episodes in 1980.  The latest use of his work came in 1981 in a made for television film Aus der Franzosenzeit, a rare collaborative effort between East and West Germany.  All of the productions that have used his work for source material have been in the German language (so far).  

Reuter's grave site in Eisenach.

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