I recently read Eugenie Marlitt's 1867 novel, Goldelse. It was popular in its day, possibly the first ever world's bestseller, originally released in 1866 in serialized form by the popular German magazine, "Die Gardenlaube." I was attracted to the book because of its title. My mom's name was 'Else' which is derived from Elizabeth, and I was curious about her literary namesake.
Could this book have been read by my grandmother? Considering its popularity, it's quite possible. The romantic storyline is rather predictable, but the book moves along quickly with lots of intrigue amongst its aristocratic characters. It reminds me of Daphne duMaurier's Rebecca—although the books are written seventy years apart.( Mind you, I read Rebecca many years ago and perhaps it's not a fair comparison.)
What drew me to Goldelse, like I mentioned, was the name. And then I was thrilled to find all three names of my grandmother's daughters (ie. my mom and her two sisters) mentioned as characters in this novel. So there is an Else, a Bertha and a Helene. There's even an Emil (one of my mom's brothers). The very same names my grandmother chose to name her children. Coincidence? It seems like a good possibility that grandmother Mathilde really did read Goldelse by Eugenie Marlitt. And knowing this, makes me feel a bit closer to this grandmother I never knew.
Goldelse is not just the name of a nineteenth century novel, it's also the popular name of a Berlin statue. Completed in 1873, it's a monument featuring the winged Roman goddess, Victoria, symbolizing victory over death and success in war. Due to a move in 1939 by the Nazis as they were redesigning Berlin into 'World Capital Germania' the statue missed the Allied bombings that destroyed its previous location in front of the Reichstag.
Goldelse the monument, weighs 35 tons. Hmm. How much does Winnipeg's Golden Boy weigh? Less than 2 tons. Wow. That puts things into perspective. How about height? Goldelse is 8.3 meters tall. The Golden Boy? Just over 5 meters. I guess our Golden Boy is a mere child next to her. Goldelse is considered one of Berlin's major tourist attractions.
No matter, we're still pretty proud of our Golden Boy, even if he's not as big and strong as Goldelse. He did survive the First World War cruising about in a ship (after he'd been sculpted in France, the ship delivering him back to Canada was forced into combat) so perhaps he's a Victor. Golden Boy meet Goldelse. You both survived war. You're both victory statues, unlike the mere mortals beneath you.
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