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Arno Schmidt
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message 1: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 985 comments Arno Schmidt is a Wakean, or he shall once we've UNEARTHed his books.


message 2: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 985 comments Dalkey has published four volumes of Schmidt's work, translated into English by John E. Woods. Woods has also a prepared manuscript of Schmidt's gargantuan Zettels Traum (eventual pub date unknown) which is more resemblant of The Wake than anything else I've laid eyes upon.

The Dalkey Titles;OR, where to begin?:

The series begins with Collected Novellas: Collected Early Fiction 1949-1964 BUT I could imagine that one would begin with the career spanning The Collected Stories of Arno Schmidt. But some of us dive directly into deep ends of oceans of rivers of storying and would being with Two Novels: The Stony Heart and B/Moondocks, the later of the two especially. Or, what we are likely to end up with one day, beginning with Nobodaddy's Children: Scenes from the Life of a Faun, Brand's Heath, Dark Mirrors because it has the word "Nobodaddy" in the title and that is a great word.


message 3: by Nate D (new)

Nate D (rockhyrax) | 354 comments One of the non-Dalkeys, The Egghead Republic, is for my money the most fun/readable/crazy (as compared to Nobodaddy's Children, at least.

I'm also incrementally creeping through Green Integer's School for Atheists, but it's too massive* to carry on the subway, and so far the content isn't really interesting enough to justify the format and demands on reader-attention, I have to admit.

*Though nothing (no novel I've ever seen, literally) is as absurdly oversized as his last, Evening edged in gold.


message 4: by Nathan "N.R." (last edited Apr 09, 2013 04:59PM) (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 985 comments Nate D wrote: "One of the non-Dalkeys, The Egghead Republic, is for my money the most fun/readable/crazy (as compared to Nobodaddy's Children, at least. "

Egghead Republic is included in one of the Dalkey volumes. Woods translated the title differently and I can't reach the damn books at the moment to double check.

EDIT:

There it is. "Republica Intelligentsia" in Collected Novellas: Collected Early Fiction 1949-1964.


message 5: by Nate D (new)

Nate D (rockhyrax) | 354 comments So it is! It's sufficiently long as a stand-alone that I'd never guessed it was also in there (I had to check)


message 6: by MJ (new)

MJ Nicholls (mjnicholls) | 209 comments I read around in his Collected Stories volume today. The content doesn't appeal to me, but I was disappointed to read his creative punctuation was inconsistent, according to the translator. If he doesn't obey his own grammatical rules, what fun is this for the reader? To what extent is this sloppy or simply bad writing?


message 7: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 985 comments MJ wrote: "I read around in his Collected Stories volume today. The content doesn't appeal to me, but I was disappointed to read his creative punctuation was inconsistent, according to the translator. If he d..."

I believe the thought is that Woods could discern no systematic use of punctuation such that one could learn to use Schmidt's conventions to the degree to which we all learn to use the conventional conventions (which most of can't anyways). Another case of faith that the author probably knows what he's doing.

From the collected stories, look at that third and final batch of stuff which is of his later period and apparently things go a bit more bat-shit. This volume should be my next Schmidt. I'm building slowly to the big books.

As to the content, I've heard it said that some Germans write him off as "for kids," a Roh-Mann-Tic, kind of like growing out of reading Hesse. He's got a reputation as being the solipsist on the heath, and many of his books are rewritings of the same book. Might not appeal to all. I don't know enough about him yet to insist that the content will appeal to you.

I'm quite certain that it's neither sloppy nor bad writing. That would be too easy.


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

From what I read, I would not say bad writing at all. Although I did not read enough to really get at any understanding of what his themes may be. I will say that I really liked his sense of humor.


message 9: by Nate D (new)

Nate D (rockhyrax) | 354 comments In dialogue, I believe that he paces out the words with punctuation marks denoting wordless gestures, facial expressions, and exchanges of glances, actually. They sometimes actually seem readable to me in that way.


message 10: by MJ (new)

MJ Nicholls (mjnicholls) | 209 comments Certainly Schmidt's sense of (German) humour appealed to me, as one who finds German fiction too dry and lacking in the funny stuffs. Sadly the roh-man-ticity and punctuation is likely to leave me uninterested. Looking forward to y'alls unBURYing howevs. Keep up.


message 11: by Larou (new)

Larou | 21 comments I don't think Schmidt's idiosyncratic punctuation was ever meant to be codifiable as a grammar, but is a highly individualistic and subjective affair - although I would put him closer to Expressionism than Romanticism. I always found them intuitively understandable, but then I might have a slight advantage, being a native speaker.

His humour, from what I remember, seems mostly to consist of being grumpy and rude, and is, I suppose, very German in that regard - he always reminded me a lot of Schopenhauer in that regard.


message 12: by Nate D (new)

Nate D (rockhyrax) | 354 comments Yes, but he's also very involved in weird typographically conveyed puns and wordplay, which seems a little more out of the ordinary.


message 13: by Larou (new)

Larou | 21 comments Nate D wrote: "Yes, but he's also very involved in weird typographically conveyed puns and wordplay, which seems a little more out of the ordinary."

Agreed - but that barely ever rises above what we call "Pennälerhumor" in German. (Is there a term "schoolboy humour" in English?) I do love Schmidt's work, but as much as I admire his writing I find his humour often cringe-inducing.


message 14: by Nate D (new)

Nate D (rockhyrax) | 354 comments I always assumed the sophmoric-ness was deliberately designed to balance the extremely intellectual aspects of his writing, similarly to Pynchon, or really most of the high post/modernists, right back to Joyce.


message 15: by MJ (last edited Jul 09, 2013 12:54PM) (new)

MJ Nicholls (mjnicholls) | 209 comments "A fart joke in Latin is still a fart joke."--Cicero.


message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

Cicero aught to be careful. He could lose his head talking like that.


message 17: by Jim (new)

Jim MJ wrote: ""A fart joke in Latin is still a fart joke."--Cicero."

Awesome! I'm totally going to add that to Cicero's quotes page...


message 18: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 985 comments MJ wrote: ""A fart joke in Latin is still a fart joke."--Cicero."

And a fart joke told by Cicero is still a fart joke told by Cicero. (view spoiler)

(view spoiler)


message 19: by Steve (new)

Steve | 31 comments A very good friend of mine loved Arno Schmidt - he viewed his work as a puzzle to figure out. I, on the other hand, did not grow warm when I read small samples at his urging. You might find the following quote interesting:

"Schmidt's texts are at loggerheads with their readers, however one may look at it. Not only do his narrators or the impersonal voices and arrangers of his prose take on the sometimes bitter flavor of the author's personal and very private predilections -- hammered into us by perpetual repetition -- but by the same means Schmidt's texts become unique intertexts, texts referring to one another by a variety of modes, repeating topoi, motifs, quotations and references, by quoting themselves and naming their author, describing details of his habitat, garden, or the paths he walks." - Robert Weninger, "Why Were They Saying Such Terrible Things About Arno Schmidt", in the Review of Contemporary Fiction (Spring, 1988)


message 20: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 985 comments Steve wrote: "become unique intertexts, texts referring to one another by a variety of modes, repeating topoi, motifs, quotations and references, by quoting themselves and naming their author, describing details of his habitat, garden, or the paths he walks.""

Thanks for the snippet. Wish I could still find that Schmidt volume of the RCF. I'm 2/3 through his collected stories, which is only my second Schmidt buch (Bach!), and I've just started to encounter several instances of what is described here, especially in the third collection, "Country Matters." I'm finding it all quite fascinating but I've got bitter flavors myself similar to Arno. I've been collecting comments from Germans about Schmidt, mostly negative or dissenting, because Germans are the only folks who read him ;; but so far, I'm not convinced by the neigh=sayers. Aber was verstehe ich, ich armer Tor....

On the other hand, is one not too far removed from the truth that one might expect a reader to react to Schmidt as one may expect them to react to Finnegans Wake (Genius!!) . That's sort of where my question lies -- is Schmidt just a cantankerous old crank, or is he rewriting Finnegans Wake ;; and rewriting the Wake needs to be done now like an emergency.

I'd also add, that not only does Arno talk a lot about Arno and Arno's fiction in Arno's fiction; but there's a lot of other people's fiction in Arno's fiction ;; Poe, especially, and all those German roh=mann=ticks I know not very much about. But this is a mann who loves books, für sure.

Anything else you have on Arno, Steve, is pure gold to me. Thanks.


message 21: by Steve (new)

Steve | 31 comments You may be interested in the existence of an Arno-Schmidt-Stiftung with an extensive website:

http://www.arno-schmidt-stiftung.de/


message 22: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 985 comments Steve wrote: "You may be interested in the existence of an Arno-Schmidt-Stiftung with an extensive website:

http://www.arno-schmidt-stiftung.de/"


It's so extensive, I've not gotten beyond Zettel des Tages!! I'm also unbelievably fortunate to have a major Schmidt collection at a local library. I've touched envelops and newspaper clippings (about himself) which Arno himself touched and clipped!!!!

The Germans know how to treat their authors right; I mean who's dead and DOEsn't get a Gesamtausgabe? :: http://www.arno-schmidt-stiftung.de/B...


message 23: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 985 comments and I have a Review cobble'd together of Arno's second volume of Radio Dialogs from Green Integer. Especially of interest to BURIED=Germanistiker&=innen ; also Joyceans. It pains me that I don't have all seven volumes of the german collection of these dialogs. Arno does his own good Spade=Work in these dialogs.

Found under : Radio Dialogs II.

Arno turns 100 later this month.


message 24: by Garima (new)

Garima | 78 comments If this is of some interest to anyone: Framing a Novelist: Arno Schmidt Criticism 1970-1994


message 25: by Geoff (new)

Geoff | 25 comments Garima wrote: "If this is of some interest to anyone: Framing a Novelist: Arno Schmidt Criticism 1970-1994"

Ooooh tasty looking... Thanks Garima!


message 26: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 985 comments "Although his works make no concessions to the general reader, Schmidt has proved astonishingly popular, challenging the assumptions of many critics that he was a quixotic elitist devoid of a wider audience."

There's always optimism!


message 27: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 985 comments And !!: Happy 100 Arno!!

"Gegen Gott und die Deutschen"
http://www.tagesspiegel.de/kultur/arn...

"Sprachkünstler und Eremit: Arno Schmidt zum 100. Geburtstag"
http://www.focus.de/kultur/buecher/li...

Auch :
"Interauktorialität und Interfiguralität: Uwe Timms „Freitisch“ als Hommage an Arno Schmidt"
http://www.literaturkritik.de/public/...

"Arno Schmidt (Geburtstag /ZETTEL’S TRAUM; Über=buch)"
http://www.mdr.de/kultur/arno-schmidt...

"Chance für einen unbekannten Autor: Arno Schmidt wäre am 18. Januar 2014 hundert Jahre alt geworden"
http://www.literaturkritik.de/public/...


message 28: by Nathan "N.R." (last edited Feb 02, 2014 10:22AM) (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 985 comments Schmidt, Fernseh=Inteview, um halb century vorhair ::
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8snN0q...

Liest aus Zettel's Traum (selbst?) ::
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZBxAV...

Zuhause bei Arno Schmidt ::
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SI-GP6...

Schwarze Spiegel : Hörspiel (Komplett) ::
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxtfMJ...

Seltsame Tage (Teil 1). Live-Hörspiel nach einer Erzählung von Arno Schmidt. (Musik!) ::
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51PnCG...


message 29: by Michael (new)

Michael | 1 comments The Zettel's Traum reading is beautiful.


message 30: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 985 comments Martin Walser im Gespräch mit Arno Schmidt (1952) ::
http://www.br.de/radio/bayern2/sendun...


message 31: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 985 comments Ali wrote: "In honour of Schmidt's (widely ignored) January centenary, M. A. Orthofer at the Complete Review has just released a 24,000 word monograph in dialogue form, purchasable in print and EPUB from Lulu,..."

Zounds quat nace!!
Arno Schmidt: a centennial colloquy


message 32: by Geoff (new)

Geoff | 25 comments Thanks! Tasty!


message 33: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 985 comments I make no money when you click from the BURIED Book Club to any site selling books. I make ZERO $$$$ doing this. But you should know that Schmidt prices are on the rise -- which is a positive indicator of growing interest in Schmidt leading up to the publication of Bottom's Dream. Woods' first Schmidt trans, Evening Edged in Gold has always been expensive ; but now the price of School for Atheists: A Novella = Comedy in 6 Acts is now rapidly getting teuer (it used to be about FIVE US BUCKS+SHIPPING, but no longer).

School @amazon is now starting at US$22.49+shipping and quickly climbs to ~50. Better prices atm @abe where you can still pick up an 'as new' copy for 12 bucks ; and there's a cheap copy in Canada there to save international shipping charges if you happen to find yourself in Canada. But, seriously ; if you want a fore=taste of what Schmidt does in Bottom's Dream, you'll want his School for Atheists (which some think is made up of nothing but the leavings from BD).

http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/Searc...

I'd also recommend, if you are prepping for Bottom's Dream's release (approx Spring of 2016), you might like ::
Radio Dialogs I: Evening Programs
Radio Dialogs II
Arno Schmidt: a centennial colloquy -- which is a general intro to his works, written in the style of the Radio Dialogs


message 34: by Henry (last edited Sep 26, 2015 05:13AM) (new)

Henry | 40 comments Nice to hear taht the interest in Schmidt abroad is soaring.

To show you that Schmidt is not quite forgotten in Germany either and because the weather in Hamburg today is nice (a rare occasion), I took some photos in my neighbourhood.

Hamburg named a square after Arno Schmidt. I think rather recently. Maybe about 10 years ago or so.




Overview of the square. During the day , people gather here and sit on these bench-like shapes. But it was early, so there were just a few bums. The building in the background is the Central Library of Hamburg. The bus in the foreground brings books to people who are not mobile anymore.




If you follow this road, which passes by Arno-Schmidt-Platz, for 3 km, you end up in Hamm where Schmidt was born and raised.




message 35: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 985 comments Henry wrote: "Nice to hear that the interest in Schmidt abroad is soaring."

Vielen Dank! Also, in Berlin, there's an Ausstellung presently open ::
http://www.adk.de/de/programm/aktuell...


message 36: by Henry (new)

Henry | 40 comments Thanks for the tip. I will be in Berlin soon and put it on my To-do-List.

I saw an exhibition of Schmidts photographs last year in Altona. Turns out old/young Arno is actually quite good at photography. Although he might not have been too inventive while picking his motives: the exhibition featured only nature photography.


message 37: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 985 comments Henry wrote: " the exhibition featured only nature photography."

Yes, he's definitely a Roman=tick!!! Looking forward to hearing back from you about the Berlin Ausstellung.


message 38: by Michael (new)

Michael Schmidt is not dead - he just smells funny!


message 39: by S̶e̶a̶n̶ (new)

S̶e̶a̶n̶ (nothingness) | 92 comments NYRB review of The Egghead Republic and Evening Edged in Gold (part 1):


Devil’s Brew

Robert M. Adams

March 5, 1981 Issue
The Egghead Republic: A Short Novel from the Horse Latitudes
by Arno Schmidt, translated by Michael Horovitz, edited by Ernst Krawehl, edited by Marion Boyars
Marion Boyars, 164 pp., $12.00

Evening Edged in Gold
by Arno Schmidt, translated by John E. Woods
A FairytalefArse, 55 Scenes from the C ou/untryside for Patrons of Er ra/o Helen and Kurt Wolff Books/Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 215 pp., $74.95

By a bitter bit of mistiming, Arno Schmidt, who died in 1979, has now become at least partly accessible in English. On the evidence, he was an enormously important talent in the fictional line of cruel comedy that runs from Rabelais through Swift and Joyce—or to say it straight out, a “Major European Novelist.” It’s a shame that we are learning about his career only now when it’s over; all the more reason, then, to blow the untimely trumpet. He was a very great writer; we should have known his work sooner.

Even now, with only two novels (out of some twenty) translated, some reasons for our ignorance are apparent. Schmidt isn’t an easily approachable writer, and in the two novels so far translated, we have a low road and a high road to his work; though neither leads to a complete view, the outlines are broad. The Egghead Republic of 1957 is a short anti-Utopian novel, the action set in the year 2008, i.e., fifty years in the future.

The book purports to have been written in the Americanese of that day by a journalist accredited to the newspaper of Douglas, Michigan (at the mouth of the Kalamazoo river, population as of 1980 minuscule). His name is Charles Henry Winer; he is at the time of writing 30.8 years old, and his report, though subversive, has been translated into a dead language (German; after the great atomic war, only 124 Germans remain alive), so that it may be preserved safely in the archives of the Egghead Republic. The translator, whose work (as he tells us) was done in Argentina, is 67.3 years of age, splendidly learned in Old High German, with an erotic drive rating of 0.04 (compared with the author’s splendid 8.1). Temperamentally, politically, artistically, and intellectually, he despises the author he is forced to translate, venting his anger mostly in indignant footnotes.

These are the layers of irony in the German text; the work of Schmidt’s translators has therefore been to translate The Egghead Republic back into American from its supposed translation into German. This they have done very well, catching not only a certain exaggerated slanginess but also the nervous jerkiness of journalistic style, setting riddles for the reader in the shape of distorted and phonetic spellings, and maintaining the conventions of the new punctuation, which produces constellations like: “Heeeeeahh!!”/—:!:!!: and :?—:!//:??:!!!:. From this sort of thing the prose acquires a nubby surface that can be pleasant when one gets used to it.

As for the Egghead Republic itself, we don’t get to it until nearly halfway through the book. In the world of 2008, and especially for anyone proposing to visit IRAS (the International Republic of Artists and Scientists: one visitor every twelve years, time of visit strictly limited to fifty hours), there are innumerable formalities, document registrations, sanitary inspections, and security clearances. And finally, for reasons not made altogether clear, the path to the floating island of the intellectuals, somewhere in the Sargasso Sea, must lie through the Hominid Zone, running north-south through the Rocky Mountain states and separated from the rest of the United States by a twenty-four-foot concrete wall punctuated with blockhouses that are manned by armed guards. It’s a picturesque detour, and no sensible reader will quarrel with a balloon trip into the interior of this federal reserve bank of genetic mutants, presumably caused by the late atomic war.

Suspense is created by the obvious eagerness of the authorities to dispose of our hero, Winer, permanently. They direct him into the most dangerous districts of the Zone, fill his canteen with poisoned gin, are surprised and sorry to see him reappear. But reappear he does, though very reluctantly, having fallen in love with a pubescent and passionate centauress, musically named Thalia. In fact, the centaurs generally are a good sort—superb soccer players, wild and happy nomads, everywhere at home in nature. Other entertaining prospects in the Zone are provided by herds of poisonous spiders who lurk in the cactus-groves and some ephemeral “Flying Masks,” human faces with butterfly wings. The reader who is curious about the direction from which one approaches a centauress—it’s a problem not much addressed in the literature—will be disappointed by the lyrical but imprecise description here; Winer, in 2008, still has a censorship to worry about.

By jet (rocket?) and ferry, we are off now to the Egghead Republic itself, a big symmetrical island/vessel, divided down the middle into a Soviet bloc and a Western or democratic bloc. The library contains all the world’s books; by some remarkable feat of imaginative compression, it is not grotesquely outsized. There are hospitals, clinics, museums, theaters, a sports complex—even a certain amount of calculated open space. For the use of the distinguished fellows there is also a plethora of Xerox machines, computers, and sexually available secretaries. But the eggheads turn out, on closer inspection, to be disgusting representatives of their kind. They do no work, leave the splendid library quite untouched, and spend most of their time sneering at the other faction, a task in which they are encouraged by agents of the secret police on both sides. The climactic discovery of our reporter is that both sides have developed a technique of brain transplantation, which enables them to kidnap the best brains of the opposition and either keep them in deep-freeze or transplant them into other bodies. Having uncovered this culminating horror, our reporter is hastily bustled off the island, his last fond thoughts at the end of his trip being, appropriately, for the sleek young centauress, Thalia.

The Egghead Republic is more heavily stuffed with textual plums than a review can suggest; there are idiot interpolations by the pompous “translator,” artful allusions to a profusion of literary analogues, blurred and distorted references to be deciphered. A semimythical “Formindulls” turns out to be Foreign Minister John Foster Dulles, and a great-great-uncle to whom Winer too tediously alludes is probably the obscure German author Arno Schmidt.

The weakness of most sci-fi novels lies in the flat explanation of mechanical ingenuities. Schmidt avoids this by taking a very short perspective; his reporter is constantly blundering about, finding anomalies that neither he nor the reader understands, and letting the explanations emerge only belatedly and partially. For reasons like these, The Egghead Republic has more texture than Brave New World and most of its successors, and has an artistic interest apart from its social commentary. It’s a satiric vaudeville, to be sure, and can be read as such; but behind the vaudeville lies a distinctive temper, a special vision.

At the moment when Charles Henry Winer bids farewell to his semi-equine friends of the Hominid Zone, a descriptive phrase sets the scene: “A glassblue evening edged in gold.” This phrase alludes prophetically to the second of the books under review, an amazing volume in countless respects. Evening Edged in Gold is remarkable for its price of $75.00, for its physical dimensions (13″ x 18″), for its format (typewritten sheets with interpolated photographs, drawings, street maps, snipped-out advertisements, labels, crude directional signals, graphs), and for its contents, to which no capsule phrase can be adequate. Let us approach the matter slowly, prefacing everything with the remark that this is, to a degree exceeded only by Finnegans Wake, a resistant and entangling book. It has been translated by John E. Woods with a meticulous particularity and brutal accuracy which extend even to reproducing the blots and crossings-out of Schmidt’s original manuscript.

The book can never fully satisfy even a devoted reader because the text includes numberless puns and double-entendres, verbal deformations and distortions, buried unidentified quotations, and multiple allusions, not only to the full range of European literature, but to folklore, ballads, the vulgar subcultures, and to the author’s personal history. There are bits of archaic poetry, attributed, against all probability, to one of the characters; there are extended quotations from analogous literary works—sources sometimes indicated, sometimes not, quotations more accurate or less.

On occasion the narrative splits into three columns to follow the simultaneous words or actions of three groups of characters. There are passages (on pages 111 and 113) which require to be read from the bottom of the page to the top, though still from left to right across the page—but which, even when so read, are hard (I dare not say “impossible”) to connect with what precedes and follows. There are literally hundreds of typographical errors or overtyped letters, which sometimes fulfill a phrase of the subtitle, “For Patrons of Er ra/o,” but often do not. Routine deformations for colloquial effect (such as n=and, y=you, t=to, z=as, etc.) throw no more than a little sand in the reader’s gears. Obscene and scatological distortions serve instantly recognizable expressive ends—explosively funny and obsessively disgusting. But there are also entire nightmare scenes, not to be expressed in sedate syntax or conventionally docile spellings; there particularly, but to some extent throughout the novel, the author engages in trouble-making for its own sake, impish and tormenting. Like Finnegans Wake, Schmidt’s novel gets an unsoundable oceanic effect out of torturing the phonemes; the experience of reading such language remains in the mind like a multitude of tiny bruises.


message 40: by S̶e̶a̶n̶ (new)

S̶e̶a̶n̶ (nothingness) | 92 comments NYRB review of The Egghead Republic and Evening Edged in Gold (part 2):

So much resistance, it’s to be anticipated, will exasperate readers with flat and regular expectations—linear readers, so to speak, who insist on the shortest distance between two points. Even a reader with a zest for challenge may start to feel oppressed after a while until he reaches the zone of reward. To put it simply, this is not a book you sit down to read before you go to bed; it takes up a lot of space in your life. Best to give it a place of its own in a corner of the house and come back to it at intervals. The book is divided into three days, twenty acts, fifty-five scenes; its form is semidramatic. It isn’t hard to pick up after being put down.

And what’s it all about? As the phrase in The Egghead Republic indicated, Evening Edged in Gold is the coming of night and old age, the surrender of youth, freedom, and sexual vigor. The big novel couldn’t be more explicit in setting up this conflict. In a house near Klappendorf on the Luneburg Heath (province of Hanover) live three old men and two women more or less of their age:

Eugen Fohrbach (fifty-seven) called “the major,” a double amputee from the thighs down, with an uncontrollable passion for the literary works of Friedrich Wilhelm Hackländer (1816-1877);

Egon Olmers (seventy), brother-in-law of Eugen, a retired librarian and avid searcher-out of buried sexual innuendos (errata/erota) in any conceivable text on any conceivable topic;

Alexander Ottokar Gläser (sixty), called A&O; writer, translator, polymath, and heart-patient. An evident porte-parole for Arno Schmidt, his last name bringing to mind the “glassblue evening” of The Egghead Republic, his transparency a redemptive gift.

The adult establishment is completed by:

Grete Olmers Fohrbach (forty-five), sister of Egon, wife of Eugen, domestic, religious, tyrannical, stupid;

Asta Reichelt (fifty-eight), housekeeper.

For the first part of the novel these old people sit about, discussing books (which they know in paralyzing detail), bickering, reminiscing, and complaining about the bad behavior of the younger generation. They have bitter, spiteful tongues and foul imaginations—Grete rather more than the average, A&O rather less, but it’s a high average indeed. The weight of all this spite, venom, and disapproval falls on two girls, one permanent, the other transient:

Martina Fohrbach (fifteen) is the daughter of Eugen and Grete; encyclopedic in the book-learning she has picked up from her elders, and occasionally owlish about reciting it; sexually innocent, but bumptiously eager to learn, especially from her schoolfellow Martin, who adores her silently from afar;

Ann’Ev’ (twenty) is Martina’s friend, a skinny blonde Luxembourg girl with interesting powers of divination, self-transmutation, and romantic insight. At the moment she is not living in the house, having antipathies to such close quarters, but in a commodious barrel outside it.

Ann’Ev’ is in fact the leader of a cult group of hippies-gypsies-scroungers, lawless, ragged, and libidinous, who set up on a “hillahay” in back of the house. Their appearance leads to an orgy of multitudinous fornications, a wild tumult of perversions and obscene interlacings which language is dislocated and fiercely fractured to express. The vision is not simply of a jungle of wild copulations, but of filth, fecality, bestiality. Bosch and Breughel are surely the progenitors of these grotesque scenes; the Bastard Marwenne, the drunken, unctuous Egg, and the tiny eleven-year-old prostitute Babilonia seem like carryovers from the peasant wars, followers of the Drummer of Niklashausen, or anabaptist anarchists seeking the New Jerusalem through orgiastic rites of sexual purgation. This is the “fArse” promised by the book’s subtitle; but a black sex-farce it is, a Walpurgisnacht deluge of unspeakable practices and unnatural acts which rushes over the old peoples’ compound and submerges some of them.

How out of this devil’s brew there rises, as in Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler, a music of pure and transcendent joy, I think is best not to explain here. As the book moves toward its end, the promised element of “fairytale” comes to the fore, but it is the sophisticated and ironic kind of fairytale cultivated by German romantics like Tieck and Jean-Paul Richter, to whom Arno Schmidt was obviously devoted. Ann’Ev’ is the agent of this transcendence, old A&O the beneficiary—gold shadings on the gathering dusk being touched into the story with surpassing delicacy.

The novel is symphonic in its range of tones and play of fact with fancy. Readers will want to invest different measures of personal reflection in diverse episodes, such as a fantastic excursion (by Ann’Ev’, naturally) behind the surface of Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, an extended parable of imagination’s struggle for existence against dark authority, not to mention the bibliographical high jinks of the three old codgers. No doubt the novel has its longueurs; its obstructive mannerisms may be at moments exasperating. But the lyric end is not to be appreciated unless one works one’s way through the thick and rough of the middle passage; the experience of reading the book as one rearranges it in retrospect becomes nothing less than immense.

A special word of gratitude goes to the translator, John E. Woods, for his skill in conveying the rough and gritty feeling of so gnarled a text, and making the final product sound so little like a translation. He deserves all the praise available to practitioners of his exasperating and self-effacing craft. As for the volume as a whole, it’s an example of creative publishing which reflects credit on everyone associated with it. If the book can’t, in the nature of things, be expected to sell widely (at $75.00 a copy), it should at least be recognized as an extraordinary undertaking, likely to serve well the reputations of author, translator, and publisher alike.


message 41: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 985 comments Many thanks, Sean!


message 42: by Nate D (new)

Nate D (rockhyrax) | 354 comments Oh wow. This does make me want to dust off my long-neglected copy of School for Atheists and plunge back in (as Evenings Edged in Gold is as far as I know relentlessly out of print still).


message 43: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 985 comments Nate D wrote: "Oh wow. This does make me want to dust off my long-neglected copy of School for Atheists and plunge back in (as Evenings Edged in Gold is as far as I know relentlessly out of print still)."

School for Atheists is terrific! I'm not expecting a new edition of Evening until Dalkey at least sells through the first printing of BD.


message 44: by Nate D (new)

Nate D (rockhyrax) | 354 comments Yeah, I'm not holding my breath. And anyway, there's still that circulating college library copy lurking in my home town (in the special library section only reached by a tunnel) if I'm dying to take it on.


message 45: by Ploppy (new)

Ploppy | 2 comments http://www.arte.tv/fr/videos/047347-0...

A documentary about Arno Schmidt. I don't know where it is available to watch exactly (perhaps only in certain European countries, I am watching from France). It does have English subtitles though.


message 46: by Griffin (last edited Nov 01, 2021 01:40PM) (new)

Griffin Alexander | 23 comments for those who cannot afford the astronomical resale price of Bottom's Dream, there is somehow a very nice pdf!! Easier to carry too:

https://3lib.net/book/5397090/623b5c


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