Letters from Helfenberg tells the story of a family and a house, and between the lines also of two countries, Germany and England, over a span of forty years. Starting in Berlin in 1909, when the shops were full of ‘modern hats with big brims and ostrich feathers, delicious fruit from southern lands, English jams and all kinds of fish in aspic, poultry, venison, sausages, partridge and pheasant pie’, it reaches its end again in Berlin in 1948, when survival depended on dangerous foraging for fruit or bartering with cigarettes and reels of cotton.
Between these two extremes, the correspondence records the intervening years of war and peace, when marriage had led one part of the von Lippe family from Dresden to Cambridge. From operas to zeppelins, potato harvests to elections, the letters describe events as the family experienced them, together with a rich overlay of literary allusions and philosophical reflections.
Their home in Helfenberg and its surrounding countryside are a constant theme, giving inspiration and support in times of joy and sorrow. Letters from a brother in the German navy also give a colourful picture of his voyages to the Americas in the decade before the First World War. From an age in which letters were the principal method of communication, this collection presents a vivid picture of social and family life in the shadow of great international events.