INTERVIEW: German author Renate Feyl uses a historical, noble divorce case in her latest novel.

Idea historian.
Published: 2020-03-01

MODERN TIMES hits Renate Feyl for an interview in restaurant Nolle, with premises under the S-Bahn just off Friedrichstrasse station in Berlin Mitte. The interior sets us to historical surroundings from the 1920s. But we go even further back - to the mid-19th century:

- The title of last year's novel The unforgettable condition of happiness ("The imperative condition of happiness ”) is taken from a letter from the later famous Ferdinand Lassalle to Countess Sophie von Hatzfeldt where he writes: "They are the alpha and omega of my thoughts. They are the first and imperative condition of my happiness. ” A book with an explosive mix of romance and politics?

- You can safely say that. Lassalle then became a revolutionary by representing the Countess in the divorce process. Lasalle was twenty years old, a poor and unknown student. The Countess had not found anyone who would take the case and fight for divorce in court: Her husband was powerful and one of the richest men in Germany. But Lassalle took the job, even though he was not a lawyer.

- In the divorce process, the courtroom became a scene that made Lassalle's courage and his speech art famous. In the year of the revolution of 1848 he gave a six-hour speech in which he showed how the man, for twenty-five years, had met his wife in this noble marriage. Count Hatzfeldt was systematically unfaithful, refusing his wife to have contact with the children and depriving her of her wealth. Lassalle painted this devilish husband so convincingly that he got people with him. He accused not only Hatzfeldt, but the power relations in society. This was the beginning of his career as an agitator. No one had ever dared to talk like that before.

- And the new love relationship was without sex?

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- Lassalle fell in love with the Countess at first sight - there was one love at first sight. But he was twenty years younger and would not confess his feelings as a confessor. Instead, he proved his love by defending the countess for seven years. Lassalle was boundless and overbearing; Sophie gave him resistance and harmony. He was like a lightning bolt and she was the lightning conductor. In the conversations they had many happy moments. Lassalle had sexual relations with other women.

Funded Social Democratic Movement

- And the divorce process led to the fight for…

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