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The New International Encyclopædia/Auerbach, Berthold

AUERBACH, ou'ẽr-bäG, Berthold (1812-82). A German novelist, born at Nordstetten. He was the founder of the contemporary German ‘tendency novel,’ in which fiction is used as a means of influencing public opinion on social, political, moral, and religious questions. Auerbach was of humble, Jewish parentage, but had a liberal education at Tübingen, Munich, and Heidelberg, and was a close student of Spinoza, whose complete works he translated (1841). Spinoza's philosophy can be traced in the ethics of his novels of the higher social life. His life was uneventful, though embittered at the close by the growth of German anti-Semitism. His best-known works are Das Judentum und die neueste Litteratur (1836); a semi-biographical novel, Spinoza (1837); Dichter und Kaufmann (1839); Der gebildete Bürger, an attempt to popularize philosophical subjects (1842); Schwarzwälder Dorfgeschichten (1843) — his first great success, widely translated, and expressing with a sympathetic realism the memories and scenes of youth. This was followed in the same field by the hardly less charming second series of Village Tales (1846), Barfüssele (1856); Joseph im Schnee (1861); Edelweiss (1861); a third series of tales, Nach dreissig Jahren (1876), Der Forstmeister (1879), and Brigitta (1880). Meantime he had written a mass of now insignificant journalistic work, and, among other novels, Auf der Höhe (1865), a philosophic romance, blending peasant life and character with that of the higher circles in a royal capital and country-seat. This was an attractive exhibition of doctrinaire ethics, and established his reputation in spite of errors in construction and style. Das Landhaus am Rhein (1869) was similar but less successful, and Waldfried (1874) sought vainly to draw literary inspiration from German unity and the French war. The rest of his forty volumes are negligible. All Auerbach's longer work is overweighted with philosophy and a leaden humor. He is best in emotional situations and the sentiments of simple natures; excellent in description, but weak in the management of plot. Still, Auf der Höhe has enough inherent reality to triumph over its faults, is still read and worth reading. Auerbach's talent appears to best advantage in the Dorfgeschichten and in such modest stories as Barfüssele, Edelweiss, and Brigitta. Consult Zabel, Berthold Auerbach (Berlin, 1882).