Accueil > Stories > "Clothes Make People (Kleider machen Leute)" by Gottfried Keller (1874) - (…)

"Clothes Make People (Kleider machen Leute)" by Gottfried Keller (1874) - one of the most famous German-language stories now available in English

dimanche 15 avril 2018, par Gottfried Keller

This famous story by the Swiss writer Gottfried Keller (1819-1890) was first published in 1874 in the second volume of his collection of stories The People of Seldwyla about the mores and adventures of the people of the mythical but somehow very typical Swiss town of that name.

It recounts – brilliantly – in a very humorous vein the adventures of a penniless, unemployed tailor whose only possession in the world is a set of rather nice clothes that he has fabricated for himself, thanks to which he is mistaken for a visiting young lord when, after hitching a ride from a passing four-horse coach, he stops off in the neighbouring town of Goldach, where he is plied with fine food and wines and spare clothes and accessories of all sorts by the good people of that wealthy town. And where he is presented in a very favourable light to a most memorable person indeed, the lovely and very forceful daughter of one of the town’s leading citizens, a certain Nettchen who sort of takes over the story and the reader’s interest too as soon as she enters the scene.

In addition to its quite hilarious comical aspects, Kleider machen Leute (aka Clothes Make the Man) is a fascinating portrayal and a subtle parody of the mores and foibles of the wealthy Swiss merchants and business men who had already in the earliest parts of the century – we are in the thirties or forties of that momentous century, during the period of the author’s youth – risen to prominence throughout that peaceful land in the wake of the Industrial Revolution and the explosion of world trade.

One of the best-known stories in the whole of German literature, this novelette is quite unknown outside of the German-language cultural sphere, where it is almost universally unobtainable in translation.

(16,000 words)

The new translation presented here has been done specially for this site [1].

An e-book of this quite wonderful story, with illustrations and the original German-language text in an annex, is available for downloading below.

The original German-language text can also be seen here.

Clothes Make People (e-book)

[1by Ray.