Journey through the Island of Rügen

A Classical Journey

Non-Fiction - Historical
262 Pages
Reviewed on 08/07/2018
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Divine Zape for Readers' Favorite

Journey through the Island of Rügen: A Classical Journey by Arthur Strohmeier is a fresh rendition, a translation of the work of Johann Jacob Grümbke published in 1803, and a work of adventure with hints of sociology. In a collection of twelve letters, Grümbke describes the island, allowing readers to discover its geography and hidden pearls, providing insights and information on the people who lived there — their unique culture, livelihood, and mode of travel. He describes some of the notable people on the island and explores their religious beliefs and customs. The writing is intimate, and done in a style that unveils the narrator’s eagerness and excitement to share his experiences with his friend.

This non-fiction work takes readers to the Island of Rügen — and it honestly feels like a great place to visit — and takes them on an adventure through the unique landscape, its peculiarities, and the singular cultural expressions of the inhabitants. Here is one of the images the author captures upon arriving and it’s interesting to notice how he communicates his emotions through the narrative: “I encounter a second bay, with a similar breadth through which I even go through, but in its scenic aspect it was still eventually surpassed. Near it lies the small church village (Kirchdorf) of Landow and aside to the left, behind full-fronted trees, is the Ralow estate.”

For a work that is translated, I found Journey through the Island of Rügen: A Classical Journey to be utterly engaging. The writing flows with simplicity, and it is sprinkled with scenes and moments of wonderment. The turn of phrase is unique and it reflects — undoubtedly — the writing in the original letters. It is at times poetic, laced with powerful imagery, like when the narrator describes his arrival in Bergen, where the “ground is continuously flat and fruitful” with grain flowers, estates, clover fields, and villages. Arthur Strohmeier does an impeccable job in bringing to readers this adventure and an island they can visualize in all its aspects.

Maria Beltran

Journey through the Island of Rügen: A Classical Journey by Arthur Strohmeier is a historically delightful, 245-page translation of a travelogue originally published by Johann Jacob Gruembke in 1803. Consisting of twelve letters, it is a description of how the islanders lived, introduces us to notable island personalities, shows us the landscape, describes the island's landmarks, and how the island was governed. Rewritten by Albert Burkhardt in 1986, from Gothic to modern German, it becomes more accessible to readers. And this author brings it to a wider audience by translating it into English. As a result, reading this book is like taking a journey to the picturesque Ruegen Island in the early nineteenth century.

Arthur Strohmeier's Journey through the Island of Rügen: A Classical Journey is particularly interesting to history buffs but it should be to general readers as well. It is one of those books that help us relate to how the island residents of Ruegen - that lived in the 1800s - went about their daily lives in such a way that we can almost smell the sea breeze, taste the food, enjoy the scenery, face nature's hazards and take part in the island's festivals and celebrations. Indeed, Gruembke's narration in his letters is so vivid and descriptive that one wonders if there is nothing crucial that he misses. Indeed, it is amazing for Strohmeier to capture the essence of the letters. After reading this book, I guess I can surely say that very little is lost in this translation.

Amanda Rofe

Journey Through the Island of Rügen by Arthur Strohmeier is a translation of twelve travel letters written by Johann Jacob Grümbke about Rügen, an island situated in the Baltic Sea. A noted author, geologist, architect and historian, Grümbke was especially well known as the most famous naturalist of his time in the region. This book provides a unique and detailed documentation of life during the early 1800s on his home island, including the history, geography, farming practices, government, religion and customs of the people at that time. It is illustrated with a number of images including lithographs and water colour paintings.

Always with translations, we arrive with a merging of authors. In the case of Journey Through the Island of Rügen, the translator has made available to the English reader missives written over 200 years ago which had probably already been converted from Gothic to modern German. The translation must have been a huge challenge and it is obvious that a great deal of work has gone into making the text read smoothly. This book opens a door into a hitherto unknown world, providing detailed and interesting descriptions of life on the Island of Rügen. We are also given access to the often very poetic thoughts of the original author. I very much enjoyed reading about the farming practices and the plant life, much of which I recognised. The glossary was also particularly interesting and useful in providing an explanation for some of the rather strange terms used in the book. This is an important historical record of the island with additional notes and very helpful comments. Arthur Strohmeier should be applauded for his work.