‘Kalendergeschichten’ have a long and varied history in German literature. Their origins lie in the seventeenth century when they first appeared in almanacs and other types of calendar. Similar in form to short parables, they were written in plain, often colloquial language, with content that was intended to instruct and amuse.
Apart from the Bible, almanacs were the main or only books in many households at the time, serving as compendia of knowledge, with calendar stories featured alongside tables and texts on husbandry and the weather. By the nineteenth century the genre was no longer tied to the almanac, and calendar stories gained credibility as literary works. One writer in particular – Johann Peter Hebel – is associated with this change. The tales of his ‘Schatzkästlein’ are masterpieces of compression, sometimes no more than a paragraph in length. You can read a selection in English under the title The Treasure Chest.
Of course, the old tradition of pairing pithy texts and anecdotes with days of the year continues in wall planners, desk calendars and diaries of all kinds. In the spirit of literary calendars as well as calendar stories, we will be offering our own set of regular reading recommendations over the coming year. Our focus is on books that have travelled between German and English and we will be looking back at some NZ-German literary connections as well as forwards to new works.
Text: Sally-Ann Spencer
Copyright: Goethe-Institut New Zealand, 2016
Sally-Ann SpencerSally-Ann Spencer is a literary translator and translation researcher. She is currently writing a book about contemporary German-English translation to be published later this year.
Her translations range from children’s literature to thrillers, fantasy novels and literary fiction. She lives in Wellington, New Zealand.