Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach (1830-1916) is Austria's most important nineteenth-century woman writer, but her works have remained largely unknown to English speakers, even her most important, the compelling Their Pavel, first published serially in 1887. Based on a true incident, Their Pavel investigates the troubled social relations of a Moravian village that is endowed with the right of local governance but steeped in the habits of its feudal relationship to the local barony. The novel explores the parallel fates of the children of a hanged murderer and thief. Milada, the appealing and alert daughter, is adopted on a whim by the aging baroness, while Pavel, the awkward and taciturn son, is thrown upon the uncertain mercy of the village, but both suffer the stigma of their father's crime. In her sometimes grimly humorous picture of village life, the author spares neither the Catholic Church nor the landed aristocracy nor the villagers themselves.
Lynne Tatlock is Hortense and Tobias Lewin Distinguished Professor in the Humanities in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at Washington University in St. Louis.