Regina Ullmann

Regina Ullmann

Regina Ullmann, considered one of the most important writers of the twentieth century, was known for her honest portrayals of rural peasant life. Ullmann was no stranger to these settings, spending much of her life in Swiss rural landscapes—supplementing her income by basket weaving, beekeeping, and making wax figurines. In 1902 she moved to Munich and became friends with notable avant-garde thinkers and writers such as Thomas Mann, Hans Carossa, and Rainer Maria Rilke. These friendships, and her conversion to Catholicism in 1911, had a significant impact on her writing. Ullmann’s early poems and prose were primarily romantic while her later pieces included more elements of stark realism and piety. While often compared to Robert Walser, Ullmann’s writing was more austere and her characters more grotesque. In 1921 she became famous when she published her collection The Country Road. Following the German occupation of Austria in 1938, Ullmann returned to Switzerland. After a difficult life (“I went by the detour instead of the way”), she died in 1961.

The Country Road

by Regina Ullmann

Translated from the German by Kurt Beals

Resonant of nineteenth-century village tales and of such authors as Adalbert Stifter and her contemporary Robert Walser, the stories in The Country Road are largely set in the Swiss countryside. In these tales, the archaic and the modern collide. In one story, a young woman on an exhausting country walk recoils at a passing bicyclist but accepts a ride from a wagon, taking her seat on a trunk with a snake coiled inside.…
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Ullmann is a one-off, an original, a really deeply peculiar writer.
—Michael Hofmann, NYRB
A triumphant translation.
Publishers Weekly
Ullman delicately balances each of her characters’ emotions on a pinpoint, presenting both the beauty and fragility of every momentary feeling.
—Jan Anspach, Words Without Borders
It’s as if Ullmann takes biblical wisdom literature, strips it of all moral judgment, and then spins it with rotating moments of natural bliss and existential fear.
—Jonathan Sturgeon, Flavorwire
Her voice is something holy.
—Thomas Mann
A pure and noble poetic talent: everything is full of mystery.
—Herman Hesse
To read your book for me is such a multiplicity of joys that I can only gradually cope with it.
—Rainer Maria Rilke (in a letter to Regina Ullmann)
Regina Ullmann has a sense of authenticity and a touch of genius.
—Robert Musil
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