Jürg Jenatsch (1596-1638) was one of the most controversial figures of the Thirty Years War (1618–1648), preacher, soldier, statesman, a traitor and heretic to some, a patriot and saviour to others. In Swiss history he became the man who pitted his wits against the mighty Richelieu and the Crown of Spain, playing one against the other and rescuing his country from foreignJürg Jenatsch (1596-1638) was one of the most controversial figures of the Thirty Years War (1618–1648), preacher, soldier, statesman, a traitor and heretic to some, a patriot and saviour to others. In Swiss history he became the man who pitted his wits against the mighty Richelieu and the Crown of Spain, playing one against the other and rescuing his country from foreign occupation.C.F. Meyer's historical but timeless novel of 1897 tells his story with unique insights into the man and the turbulent times he lived in.The story of the axe is found in chronicles written within weeks of his death. Jenatsch's body was exhumed in 1959, his skull split and remnants of his bloodied clothes still on him. Only recently have official protocols of the incident come to light, naming Bartolomi Wirtsch as the murderer, a member of the Haltenstein brotherhood, closely associated with the Von Plantas....
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Jürg Jenatsch Reviews
Many histories of the Thirty Years War note the importance of a ‘Swiss-controlled’ valley known as the Valtellina, which formed a crucial passage allowing Spanish-Austrian troops to cross from Italy to the Empire. I put ‘Swiss-controlled’ in inverted commas because it's anachronistic: Graubünden, the area within which the Valtellina fell, is now a Swiss canton but was then an independent state of considerable historical interest known as the Three Leagues.The Three Leagues were allied with the Swiss confederacy, but independent from it. Their leaders (in Chur, Davos and Ilanz) were under enormous pressure from France and Spain to close the Alpine passes to one or other of the great powers, and during the war there were periodic uprisings in both directions.This politico-religious upheaval has become associated in Switzerland above all with one name – Jürg Jenatsch. A Protestant preacher – and therefore inherently anti-Empire – he murdered the leader of the local Austro-Spanish party and helped the French to gain local control in hopes of winning regional independence in return. But, realising that Richelieu had no intention of relinquishing his own hold on the Valtellina, Jenatsch converted to Catholicism, betrayed his French partners, and led secret negotiations with the Spanish and Austrians which ultimately succeeded in restoring the Valtellina to the Three Leagues (greatly aiding the Imperial war effort in the process).He was murdered in 1639 by someone dressed as a bear. That's the sort of thing that happened to you in those days.Jenatsch's name is known in its current form primarily thanks to this novel, which in its time was extremely popular. (Meyer plumped for the north German form ‘Jürg’, though Jenatsch was actually more usually known as Georg or Giorgio, and in his native language Romansh he called himself Zoartz.) Despite the historical context, which is fascinating, the novel has not aged well, and it reads now like a typical sub-Walter Scott stodgy historical romance, with the irritating habit of contriving for all its most dramatic moments to happen off-stage and be related to us at second hand.There is no English translation available from a serious publisher – I tracked down this self-published version which, sadly, never rises above the mediocre and is often frankly dreadful. The punctuation is random and inconsistent, apostrophes are poorly understood, and the translators have an unfortunate tendency to be misled by homophones (so that, for instance, we hear of two people meeting in the ‘central isle’ of a church). Even worse is the ignorance of standard English idioms for many of the historical details: German Pfalzgraf (I assume) is translated as ‘count of Pfalz’ when it should be ‘count palatine’; the Three Leagues is given as the ‘three confederacies’ or the ‘three Bünden’; and while it might perhaps be just barely defensible to call the head of the Holy Roman Empire the Kaiser, instead of the Emperor as is normal, to give the name of the King of France as ‘Ludwig XIII’ shows a total departure from any common sense.It's a shame because I very much respect the efforts of individual people to put translations like this out on their own account, and without this father-and-son team I would never have been able to engage with the text at all. But I can't lie, it's not great. Still, I suspect that even in the most fluent translation, this novel's interest is primarily historical rather than artistic.
Jürg Jenatsch spielt während dem 30-jährigen Krieg und ist eine fiktionale Nacherzählung des Lebens des historischen Jörg Jenatsch, eines Bündner Partisanenführers. Die Geschichte wird allerdings nie aus der Sicht des letzteren erzählt, sondern vor durch die Augen seiner Jugendfreunde, politischer Gegner oder Alliierter erzählt. Die zwei Hauptkonflikte des Buches sind Macht im Konflikt mit dem moralisch Richtigen sowie Lukretias (Jürgs Jugendflamme) innerer Kampf zwischen ihren Rachegelüsten und Liebe für Jürg.Das Buch leidet etwas unter den langen Strategiegesprächen deren Resultate nicht besonders überraschend sind, sowie unter C.F. Meyers Schreibstil, der zwar nicht schlecht aber ab und zu etwas unstrukturiert ist. Die Handlung ist aber grundsätzlich spannend und die Beschreibung der Bündner Berglandschaften ist treffend und ansprechend.