In This Review

Before The Storm: Memoirs Of My Youth In Old Prussia

Before The Storm: Memoirs Of My Youth In Old Prussia
By Marion, Countess Dönhoff
204 pp, Knopf, 1990

A childhood on a historic East Prussian estate recalled decades later by a leading German writer-publisher, esteemed in her own country, east and west alike. The book is a picture of both privilege and austerity, depicting in exemplary detail the values and habits of this still-feudal life-a life remote from our own and close to nature and its seasons, moods and beauty. It is a portrait of a region and a society, with affection and detachment, by someone who was from the beginning anti-Nazi and who was forced to flee on a seven-week trek on horseback before an advancing Red Army that burned the ancient estate to the ground. The countess has been a foremost force in promoting a permanent reconciliation between Poles and Russians, who now inhabit her native East Prussia. Her final sentence sums up her feelings about her ancient home-about life: "Perhaps the highest form of love is loving without possessing." A book beautifully produced and illustrated and splendidly translated.