AUERBACH, BERTHOLD (1812-1882), German novelist, was born on the 28th of February 1812 at Nordstetten in the Württemberg Black Forest. His parents were Jews, and he was intended for the ministry; but after studying philosophy at Tübingen, Munich and Heidelberg, and becoming estranged from Jewish orthodoxy by the study of Spinoza, he devoted himself to literature. He made a fortunate beginning in a romance on the life of Spinoza (1837), so interesting in itself, and so close in its adherence to fact, that it may be read with equal advantage as a novel or as a biography. Dichter und Kaufmann followed in 1839, and a translation of Spinoza's works in 1841, when Auerbach turned to the class of fiction which has made him famous, the Schwarzwälder Dorfgeschichten (1843), stories of peasant life in the Black Forest. In these, as well as in Barfüssele (1856), Edelweiss (1861), and other novels of greater compass, he depicts the life of the south German peasant as "Jeremias Gotthelf" (Albrecht Bitzius) had painted the peasantry of Switzerland, but in a less realistic spirit. When this vein was exhausted Auerbach returned to his first phase as a philosophical novelist, producing Auf der Höhe (1865), Das Landhaus am Rhein (1869), and other romances of profound speculative tendencies, turning on plots invented by himself. With the exception of Auf der Höhe, these works did not enjoy much popularity, and suffer from lack of form and concentration. Auerbach's fame continues to rest upon his Dorfgeschichten, although the celebrity of even these has been impaired by the growing demand for a more uncompromising realism. Auerbach died at Cannes on the 8th of February 1882.
The first collected edition of Auerbach's Schriften appeared in 22 vols. in 1863-1864; the best edition is in 18 vols. (1892-1895). Auerbach's Briefe an seinen Freund J. Auerbach (with a preface by F. Spielhagen) were published in 2 vols. (1884). See E. Zabel, B. Auerbach (1882); and E. Lasker, B. Auerbach, ein Gedenkblatt (1882).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)