Caravaners, by Elizabeth von Arnim

Caravaners by Elizabeth von Arnim

Caravaners is the story of a real-life journey that Elizabeth von Arnim (1866-1941) made with the novelist E. M. Forster in 1906.

The novel is the fictional diary of the character Otto von Ottringen. It tells of a burlesque ride in horse-drawn wagons through Kent and Sussex with his wife and a group of eccentric English people.

The narrator, Otto von Ottringen, is a Prussian officer in his late 40s. This character is full of himself, stupid, lecturing, misogynistic. He is convinced that he is irresistible, both to high-ranking noble men, the only ones whose company he can bear, the others are not good enough for him, and especially to women, the youngest and prettiest, that goes without saying! He is so blinded by his own magnificence, which he is the only one to imagine, that he does not realize that his fellow caravaners see him for what he is: unbearable, pretentious, boring.

Elizabeth von Arnim's art is to have made of this character's diary a fine joke with English humor, which made me laugh out loud, even in the doctor's waiting room! If one laughs a lot at the narrator's setbacks, one always has in mind the pathos and tragedy of the situation that will lead not only to such wits in the First World War, but above all to the dramatic and obligatory submission of women to such husbands to whom the law gives reason.

This book is both a wonderful introduction to England and Germany at the turn of the century and Elizabeth von Arnim's funniest, liveliest, most feminist novel.

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