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By Paul Heyse
New York: and Del Mar, California: Nobel Prize Library, 1971
75 pages

Bob Corbett
January 2015

In working on my project to read and comment on all 111 people who have won the Nobel Prize for literature, I was unable to find any full works of Paul Heyse that have been translated into English. However, there is a series called the Nobel Prize Library which does have various selections of all winners of the Nobel Prize for literature. I have had to use the two selections in the volume which includes Heyse.

There were two stories, L’Arrabiata and The Wine Guard. I comment on those below.


“L’Arrabiata” (The Angry Woman) is a beautiful very short story of a young woman who is fairly terrified of men because of how her own father treated her mother. However, a young boat man loves her and she him, but she’s convinced love can’t really happen.

The situation of the story is a short boat ride from Naples to the Isle of Capri. The boy is transporting a local priest and the girl. He has been secretly in love with her for some time, but she is very shy and they have never had any sort of relationship before.

On the way back the priest is not with them and the boy pours out his heart to her of his love. She is seemingly horrified by his advances and it ends up in a physical struggle in which he cuts him badly. He isn’t as worried about his injury but is devastated that she has rejected him and he has treated her so horribly.

However, that evening she comes to his home to tend his wound and to tell him that she does actually care for him very much, but has struggled with the whole notion of an intimate relationship.

This is a very touching and believable tale. It is also quite well written. The reader simply isn’t sure what will happen until the last few sentences of the tale.


This story has a complex plot. It is set in the southwest mountains of Austria and centers on “the wine guard,” Andree. He is 23 as the story opens and has a job as a wine guard. It is near harvest time and there was a great danger of both thefts of grapes from the vineyards as well as vandalism. Thus each vintner would have a group of guards who lived in the fields for 24 hours a day during the end of the growing season until all grapes were safely harvested.

The young guard has had a very hard life. First of all, his mother simply straight out dislikes him. They have had a terrible fight in the past and he moved out of his home, living where he can, and earning his keep as a wine guard.

He does has a sister, Lassie, four years his junior, whom he loves very much and she him. She comes to visit him often, and it is very clear that she is mentally handicapped having the mind of a younger child. She simply adores Andree.

They both have a dear friend in a local priest, a rather strange fellow who is an assistant in the village and is known widely as the “ten o’clock Masser” for the mass time he has each Sunday. As the story advances at every stage the two of them are in consultation with Fr. Ten o’clock, and to the very end he fills his role with grace, honesty and helpfulness.

There is a problem with a troop of Italian soldiers who are stationed near-by and often raid the grapes at night and doing vandalism as well. One of them is very attracted to Lassie and Andree is quite worried he will take advantage of her simple mindedness state. He warns the Italian and even threatens him. His sister just laughs it all off.

That same evening if there is an encounter with some of the Italians who come to raid the grape orchard and Andree shoots, and he believes, kills the Italian who was wooing his sister. When the morning comes he realizes that he is in no way sorry he killed the man and is deeply worried that he actually tried to kill him to save his sister from his advances.

He has some very rich grandparents who live in a huge near-by estate. He goes there to seek the advice of his Aunt, a legendary holy woman. She does counsel him to leave immediately and take refuge in a near-by monastery. Andree has all but given up on a meaningful life and decides he will just become a monk.

His sister, on the other hand, is simply devastated by his departure and after her mother dies she is quite alone. A cousin takes Lassie to visit Andree at the monastery and Andree realizes that she can’t survive on her own, so he takes her and they run off from the monastery to seek some sort of life.

However, things get very complex because Andree is actually deeply in love with his retarded sister, and he is feeling terrible guilt about it. She happens to tell him that he isn’t really her brother that her mother told her that she actually took Andree from a local woman who couldn’t keep him. Andree is beside himself not knowing if the story is true or only something she concocted, but he is deeply hopeful that this is true and that he could take his “sister” as wife.

The ending of the story is marvelously drawn out and filled with surprises where it turns out that so much that seeming “was” turns out not to be so. It’s a gripping last dozen or so pages! A very fine tale indeed.

Genevieve Bianquis, a commentator on Paul Heyse’s works, says of his writing and career:

“Today Paul Heyse is a writer who has been forgotten. Literary historians label him an imitator and dismiss him in a lone sentence or two. Nevertheless, he had his moment of celebrity and even of glory, climaxed by the Nobel Prize. His prolific work appealed to a large audience with a taste for pretty stories charmingly told. But, perhaps because he was never a ground-breaking writer he was soon passed by.”

Bob Corbett


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