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The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr

4.01  ·  Rating Details  ·  888 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews
It was E. T. A. Hoffmann (1776-1822) who first explored many of the themes and techniques which were later used by writers from Dickens to Dostoyevsky, Poe to Kafka, Baudelaire to Marquez. His career reached a glorious climax in The Tomcat Murr, perhaps the strangest novel of the nineteenth century.. "Hoffmann was a follower of Cervantes and Sterne, a pioneering 'magic rea ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published April 29th 1999 by Penguin Classics (first published 1819)
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The Metamorphosis by Franz KafkaThe Man Without Qualities by Robert MusilSteppenwolf by Hermann HesseThe Trial by Franz KafkaFaust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Best German/Austrian Literature
144th out of 605 books — 730 voters
Dewey by Vicki MyronThe Cat in the Hat by Dr. SeussOld Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T.S. EliotAlice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis CarrollThe Complete Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
Great "Cat" Books
65th out of 1,047 books — 590 voters

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Community Reviews

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Dec 30, 2014 Edward rated it it was amazing
Further Reading
Note on the Illustrations

--The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr

Editor's Postscript
Jan 24, 2015 Petra rated it really liked it
What a fun book! Told in two parts (Tomcat Murr & Kappellmeister Kreisler's stories) this book is funny and intriguing.
Murr's segments are a staid, city life...a more "ordinary" life of social customs, education, society, rank, etc. Murr educates himself by learning to read & write. He has polish, civility, class.....but always the cat in him comes out: a fried herring head is too hard to resist, the claws come out at fright and anger, he arches his back. There's no getting away from on
aPriL does feral sometimes
E.T.A. Hoffman, the author of this odd, unfinished book, was born in 1776 and died in 1822. Experts in Literature describe ‘The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr’, of which Part One was first published in 1819 and Part Two was published in 1821, as proto-postmodernism because it shares many of the characteristics that define such novels. The link below describes those characteristics.

I am not a Literature expert of any kind, but I have been reading some
Feb 25, 2013 dely rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 0-germany, cats

Murr è un gatto colto e intelligente che ama la lettura e si dedica con impegno anche alla scrittura. Il libro, infatti, è un'autobiografia in cui Murr non solo parla della sua vita ma esprime anche le sue considerazioni sulla società. Murr, però, per scrivere la sua biografia, usa dei fogli che contenevano la biografia di Kreisler, un altro personaggio di Hoffmann. Le due biografie in questo modo si sovrappongono e l'editore stampa un libro che contiene le due biografie che s'intrecciano e s
J.T. Wilson
Feb 15, 2013 J.T. Wilson rated it really liked it
It's always rewarding when you read a book like this - two hundred years old and full of references to bourgeois German society - and find that it is genuinely funny, that the humour transcends cultural and historical boundaries. Here, the characteristics of the pretentious, deluded cat Murr and the intense, anti-social composer Kriesler are easily identifiable in any era.

Murr engages in a sort of bildungsroman, starting off as a precocious kitten fond of half-reading classics and amusing himse
Aug 17, 2014 David rated it really liked it
Always a fan of E.T.A. Hoffmann I was not disappointed by this tale of a self aware cat and his journey through life. Though not as compelling as The Tales of Hoffmann there was a lot to recommend this work of Fabulist Satire. Though considered his masterpiece, I found the Tales of Hoffmann more enjoyable -- but this is a personal choice and not meant to be read for an objective statement.

Essentially, it is the story of the self-taught cat Tomcat Murr who has written is own autobiography which,
Feb 07, 2009 Dan rated it it was ok
I've been wanting to read this book ever since I read a collection of ETA Hoffmann's stories 2 years ago-ish. So far it is as enjoyable as I had hoped and expected it to be.


After finishing: I must say after the initial novelty of the form, characters and setting wore off, I didn't enjoy this book all that much and it was a struggle to see it through to the end. My main criticisms: The Kreisler plot is so convoluted and every time it begins to pick up, a Murr chapter breaks the momentum.
Mar 02, 2008 Katie rated it it was amazing
I am so glad I picked up this book (enticed by the cover engraving of the handsome titular cat). Murr will make you laugh out loud. Highlights were his encounters with Ponto the poodle, especially their first meeting. The other story, about the composer Kreisler, was not as immediately accessible but soon pulled me in. It's really a pretty amazing technical feat for Hoffman to have pulled together these two stories that are so different in tone in such a way that they're pretty much equally enjo ...more
Brian Baker
May 09, 2012 Brian Baker rated it it was ok
Sometimes one good book leads to another, and as 'Tomcat Murr' is referenced in a recent favourite of mine - Andrew Crumey's 'Mobius Dick'- I thought I'd give it a go. It's a really nice idea: two manuscripts, one a satirical biography of a tortured musician and the other an autobiography of an educated cat, get accidentally spliced together at the printers ( so that's where Calvino got his idea from ) into a single book whose narratives constantly interrupt eachother. The problem I found, howev ...more
Vit Babenco
Dec 18, 2014 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing
Cats are disdainful creatures so in their judgments of humanity they show no quarter…
“I don’t see why an agreeable domestic pet with a happy natural disposition shouldn’t be taught to read and write, or indeed why such a little creature couldn’t rise to become a scholar and poet. Is that so unprecedented a thing? I won’t go so far as to quote the Thousand and One Nights as the best historical source, and a source full of pragmatic authenticity; I will just remind you, my dear fellow, of Puss in
Jan 08, 2009 K8 rated it really liked it
Fabulous! I just wish that Hoffmann had lived long enough to write the third book/section. We're left with a cliffhanger that will never be resolved (although I can imagine all sorts of fan fiction possibilities).

The stories of both Murr and Kreisler are fragmentary, fun, suspenseful, action-filled romps. And with all of that, they also contain fantastical and gothic elements.

I will need to read this again so that I can better explain the ways this book works for me.
Mar 10, 2016 Melda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mar 25, 2016 Steve rated it liked it
It took me a while to get into the book, the sentences just had too much romantic flourishes. However, I really liked the last chapter. Also, whenever the professors talk about Murr, I found the book absolutely hilarious.
In terms of its description of emotion, and the heights and chasms it an bring people, it was very well done. There is a conscious desire to describe mental illness, done better than most books I've read.
This book is undoubtedly a classic. It is innovative, even today, and I c
Mar 28, 2014 Deanne rated it liked it
Shelves: 1001-books-2008
Good but it could have been better if the two stories didn't keep breaking off when the story was getting interesting. The story about the music master was the more convoluted plot, with strange characters and plot devices which appear frequently in books of this age.
Apr 10, 2015 Sergei rated it really liked it
They have a party tonight in Königsberg - Mr E. T. A. Hoffmann and his friends the writers: The Tomcat Murr, Edgar Poe, Gogol, Franz Kafka, Dostoyevsky, Bulgakov, Marquez and Calvino.
Dec 09, 2015 R. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
The edition I read is from the two-volume set of the works of E.T.A. Hoffmann from the University of Chicago Press, The Selected Writings of E.T.A. Hoffmann Volume 2: The Novel, copyright 1969 (as a matter of fact, there is a library date stamp indicating when this volume came into the public library collection - January 1970 - the book has been on the shelves that long and looks like it just arrived yesterday...obviously people did not know what a goldmine this book is, otherwise, over a period ...more
Vaida Dryžaitė
Vos išvydusi šįmetinėj Knygų mugėj šį romaną, kaip kreizi kačių moteraitė tiesiog negalėjau neįtraukti jo į savo Knygų-Kurias-Reikia-Perskaityt-Kuo-Greičiau-Arba-Antraip-Ateis-Pasaulio-Pabaiga-Sąrašą. Taigi, XIX a. vokiečių romantiko Hoffmano romanas, drąsiai ir ne šiaip sau vadinamas klasika. Originalus siužetas (iš tiesų, iki tol neteko nieko tokio skaityti), susipynusios dvi tokių skirtingų ir drauge tokių panašių herojų istorijos, keliamos meno, mokslo, religijos problematikos - tai daro kūr ...more
Apr 23, 2010 Yrinsyde rated it really liked it
One of the first magical realist novels and 'one of the strangest novel of the nineteenth century'. A fun read with some surreal moments and some rather rambling bits that ended up being a little tiring. Some bits were laugh-out-loud hilarious (hint hint!) with a little more than a sprinkling of gothic horror plus some very tear-jerking moments (especially if you are a cat lover, which Hoffman was). The introduction is very interesting and worth a read too, but I would read it after the reading ...more
Jan 12, 2016 Alex marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
If the phatasmagoric Kater Murr were published tomorrow as the work of a young Brooklyn hipster, it might be hailed as a tour de force of postmodern fiction.
- New Yorker piece about fictional composers

None of that sounds tempting but the book does sound cool.
I've been caught up in a Hoffmann spiral, which is one of the weirder spirals to be caught up in. What is it about him that I can't seem to train my mind away from? There's this sense that he's Important to me, even though I can't say why. I can't mention Hoffmann without going deep into the realm of the intertextual. I say Hoffmann, and in the same breath I say Tchaikovsky, Delibes, Offenbach, and Schumann, and that's just the composers. I say Robertson Davies and Angela Carter. And I talk Orph ...more

Consistently surprising. A cat has written his memoirs but in the process a number of pages from a manuscript about the life of a composer have gotten mixed in. The cat will be talking about his days, and the narrative breaks off mid-sentence, enters mid-sentence the court intrigue that dominates the composer's tale. Several pages later, mid-sentence, this story breaks off, and the cat's tale resumes.

What is perhaps most surprising in this seemingly comic setup is the darkness that intrudes into

Feb 22, 2015 Nikki rated it it was amazing
Oct 14, 2014 Kate rated it it was amazing
Если судить по названию, то можно предположить, что это прадедушка "Записок кота Шашлыка". Но нет. Точнее, не только.
Записки кота как будто бы являются основным поводом к книге. Как водится (хотя скорее всего именно Гофман и ввёл эту традицию), мир с точки зрения тщеславного самодовольного кота достаточно понятен и ограничен. Еда - женщины - кошки - самовыражение - отношения с хозяином - отношения с обществом (котовым и собачьим). Вот и всё. Хотя при этом автору удаётся даже в кошачьи главы впих
Jan 19, 2012 Nathan rated it liked it
This was a strange one. Two interwoven and overlapping stories, one written by a cat about his life and adventures and the other a version of 19th century courtly melodrama. Both were widely interspersed with rambles on Art, Music, Poetry and so on, which made them hard to wade through at times. But there were also sections of sublime foolishness and flights of whimsy (the cat duel is a doozy). I think of this one as fibre in my mental diet. 2.5/5
Mar 31, 2016 Joshua rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, bookshelf
This book is about a cat called Murr. Murr is an autodidact and has written his autobiography on top of a story about the composer Johannes Kreisler. The two have been spliced together creating a dream-like frenzy into the absurd.

Hoffmann forges a path into the surreal that had been previously unexplored at his time. Both characters and plot switch between sanity and madness. Murr is conflicted - as an ardent scholar he is still unable to escape his base instincts which cause him constant turmoi
Ann Klefstad
Nov 29, 2008 Ann Klefstad rated it it was amazing
this dazzling performance proves that recursiveness and postmodernism have occurred time and time again, and are sometimes performed with blood in their veins, positively effervescent blood! This is a wonderful and perplexingly overlooked book.
Jun 26, 2012 Saira.c rated it it was amazing
Loved this book. I get the impression that folks are more familiar with Hoffmann's other works (The Sandman, Tales from Hoffmann etc.) but this too is a gem. Well worth reading if you have an interest in the literary fantastic!
Jan 20, 2015 dely rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 0-germany, cats, ebook

Recensione che avevo scritto per l'edizione italiana, aggiornata con quella per questa edizione tedesca:
Hugh Ashton
Mar 11, 2015 Hugh Ashton rated it really liked it
A truly extraordinary book. It appeals to my sense of a fiction within a fiction, which is a device I've used myself for my Sherlock Holmes books, and I've always enjoyed this sort of complexity.
The delightful way that the two stories in this book interleave is pure magic. The tomcat's observations on life made me laugh out loud several times, and the counter-thread of the other story - the fictional Romantic composer Kreisler - gripped me as a psychological horror/thriller story of the first r
Apr 26, 2016 Andreuta rated it really liked it
“Dar cum se poate sa dormi oriunde te-ai afla? ii vorbi maestrul Abraham. Asa ai sa-ti pierzi toata vioiciunea si ai sa devii un motan posac. Spala-te frumos, Murr!”

“O, nu, nu zburdalnicia, ci o nepotolita curiozitate stiintifica m-a indemnat sa apuc cu labutele un manuscris si sa-l tot intorc cand pe o parte, cand pe alta, pana ce s-a facut ferfenita. Maestrul a intrat si, vazand cele petrecute, s-a napustit asupra mea strigand aceste cuvinte jignitoare: 'Bestie afurisita!'.”

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Ernst Theodor Wilhelm Hoffmann, better known by his pen name E. T. A. Hoffmann (Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann), was a German Romantic author of fantasy and horror, a jurist, composer, music critic, draftsman and caricaturist. His stories form the basis of Jacques Offenbach's famous opera The Tales of Hoffmann, in which Hoffman appears (heavily fictionalized) as the hero. He is also the author of ...more
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