by D. L. Pughe
A century and more ago…in 1845, Adelbert Stifter wrote the most amazing short story, Bergkristall, translated as Rock Crystal and in a wonderful new edition by the New York Review of Books.
The story is deceptively simple, a tale of two children who live in the high Alps and who walk over the crest of a mountain to visit their grandparents on the morning of Christmas Eve and then are caught in a blizzard on their return at dusk. Yet it is one of the most moving, beautifully described books about nature and how one can experience it, about snow and ice and mountains, about the sanctuary of forests, and about the wakefulness that keeps us alive.
in Reflections on Culture and Literature), Hannah Arendt writes of Stifter’s talents and
“overwhelming, neverending gratitude for everything that is. Out of this grateful devotion, Stifter became the greatest landscape-painter in literature…: someone who possesses the magic wand to transform all visible things into words and all visible movements—the movement of the horse as well as that of the river or of the road—into sentences…. For Stifter, reality actually means nature and, for him, man is but one of its most perfect products. Again and again, he describes the slow, steady, and blessed process of the growth of a human being as it lives and blossoms and dies together with the trees and flowers of which it takes care during its lifetime.”
And so, with heartfelt anticipation, I take down Rock Crystal, as I do each year, to experience the whirl of snow and ice in all its glory.