The Corner

Derb’s Germanophilia Gets Out of Control (Again)

A few columns ago I mentioned Effi Briest, Germany’s entry in the great 19th-century

female-adultery novel stakes. France gave us Madame Bovary, from Russia

we got Anna Karenina, and Germany brought forth poor little Effi Briest.


Well, after I’d mentioned that, a reader emailed in to tell me that

Fassbinder made a movie of the novel, a thing I didn’t know. So naturally

that was our order from Netflix for last weekend.

Interesting to see such a faithful adaptation. Faithful? Half the time

there’s a voice-over just reading the darn book. On the whole, though, I

thought it was nicely done–dry & understated, but then so was the book.

That’s kind of the point. And seeing the movie made me realise, what I

don’t think I did when reading the book, that the pre-duel scene between

Instetten and his friend is the real nerve center of the whole thing.


Swoon moment for Germanophiles: Instetten, near the end, reflecting on the

whole sorry business, says: “My life is a mess.” That’s how the English

subtitle translates it, anyway. What he actually says on-screen is: “Mein

Leben ist verpfuscht.”


Verpfuscht! (Pronounced “fair-PFOOSHT.”) Is that a splendid word, or what?

Does any language in the world have a more apt way to express this

particular sentiment? Verpfuscht! It

would almost be worth messing up your life just to be able to say: “Mein

Leben ist verpfuscht.”


Spanish is, according to Bobby Dylan, the loving tongue; but for sheer vigor

of expression, German is hard to beat.


Dear NRO readers: May your lives never be verpfuscht.


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