Wilhelm Raabe, The Birdsong Papers

Translated by Michael Ritterson

New Translations 4

Modern Humanities Research Association

1 October 2013  •  156pp

ISBN: 978-1-781880-36-4 (paperback)  •  RRP £10.99, $17.50, €13.99

ISBN: 978-1-781881-10-1 (JSTOR ebook)

ISBN: 978-1-781881-46-0 (EBSCO ebook)

Sample: Google Books  •  Access online: Books@JSTOR


The Birdsong Papers, which appeared in 1896 as Die Akten des Vogelsangs, was Wilhelm Raabe’s next-to-last completed narrative. What might be called an anti-Bildungsroman, it is widely considered to be the work that secures Raabe’s place as a precursor of German modernist fiction writers.

Its tone is critical of late-nineteenth-century society, both German and American, with its industrial expansion, urbanization, pursuit of wealth, and erosion of conventional values; but this critical tone also produces an uneasy tension for its narrator, Karl Krumhardt, a high-ranking bureaucrat with a stake in the stability of that society.

It is against that social-critical background that Krumhardt’s Papers record a coming to terms with a subject – his longtime friend Velten Andres – whose life both fascinates and profoundly unsettles him. Velten is intelligent, imaginative, idealistic, and full of promise; but he cares nothing about his gifts, chooses self-imposed seclusion over conformity, and carries his individualism to what Jeffrey L. Sammons calls ‘a kind of spectacular irrelevance in the conduct of life’.

With this translation of Die Akten des Vogelsangs, the first into English, a major work by one of the most respected German writers of the nineteenth century is made accessible to a new, international readership.

Michael Ritterson is Professor of German Emeritus at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Ritchie Robertson is Taylor Professor of German at the University of Oxford.


  • ‘A major accomplishment. Raabe’s is a voice which deserves to be heard, and an oeuvre which deserves to be appreciated across linguistic boundaries. These translations allow the reader with no knowledge of German and little appreciation of the context of the originals to hear an authentic version of that voice, to understand something of the world it can open up, and so to appreciate the writer’s achievement. They merit an enthusiastic response.’ — William Webster, Translation and Literature 24, 2015, 121


Front Matter
Michael Ritterson
Table of Contents
Michael Ritterson
Ritchie Robertson
Translator’s Note
M. R.
The Birdsong Papers
Wilhelm Raabe
Explanatory Notes
Michael Ritterson

Bibliography entry:

Ritterson, Michael (trans.), Wilhelm Raabe, The Birdsong Papers, New Translations, 4 (Cambridge: MHRA, 2013)

First footnote reference: 35 Wilhelm Raabe, The Birdsong Papers, trans. by Michael Ritterson, New Translations, 4 (Cambridge: MHRA, 2013), p. 21.

Subsequent footnote reference: 37 Ritterson, p. 47.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

Bibliography entry:

Ritterson, Michael (trans.). 2013. Wilhelm Raabe, The Birdsong Papers, New Translations, 4 (Cambridge: MHRA)

Example citation: ‘A quotation occurring on page 21 of this work’ (Ritterson 2013: 21).

Example footnote reference: 35 Ritterson 2013: 21.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

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