A
Literary Saloon
&
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.



Contents:
Main
the Best
the Rest
Review Index
Links

weblog

crQ

to e-mail us:



In Association with Amazon.com


In association with Amazon.com - UK


In 
Partnerschaft 
mit 
Amazon.de

the Complete Review

A Literary Saloon and Site of Review


     

Arno Schmidt
at the
complete review:


biographical | bibliography | quotes | pros/cons | our opinion | links


Biographical

Name: Arno SCHMIDT
Nationality: German
Born: 18 January 1914
Died: 3 June 1979
Awards: Fontane Prize (1964)
Goethe Prize (1973)

  • Attended the University of Breslau
  • Translated numerous books from the English

Return to top of page.


Bibliography

German | English

Highlighted titles are under review at the complete review

German:

  • Leviathan - stories, 1949
  • Brand's Haide - novel, 1951
  • Schwarze Spiegel - novel, 1951
  • Aus dem Leben eines Fauns - novel, 1953 (Scenes from the Life of a Faun, trans. John E. Woods (1983))
  • Die Umsiedler - prose studies, 1953
  • Das steinerne Herz - novel, 1954
  • Die Gelehrtenrepublik - novel, 1957 (The Egghead Republic, trans. Michael Horovitz (1979))
  • Dya na sore - dialogues, 1958
  • Fouqué und einige seiner Zeitgenossen - biography, 1958
  • Rosen und Porree - stories, 1959
  • KAFF auch Mare Crisium - novel, 1960
  • Belphegor - dialogues, 1961
  • Sitara und der Weg dorthin - biography, 1963
  • Nobodaddy's Kinder - 1963; collects Aus dem Leben eines Fauns, Brand's Haide, Schwarze Spiegel
  • Kühe in Halbtrauer - stories, 1964
  • Die Ritter vom Geist - dialogues, 1965
  • Trommler beim Zaren - stories, 1966
  • Seelandschaft mit Pocahontas - stories, 1966
  • Der Triton mit den Sonnenschirm - dialogues, 1969
  • Zettel's Traum - novel, 1970
  • Die Schule der Atheisten - novel, 1972 (The School for Atheists, trans. John E. Woods (2001))
  • Abend mit Goldrand - novel, 1975 (Evening Edged in Gold, trans. John E. Woods (1980))
  • Alexander oder, Was ist Wahrheit - stories, 1975
  • Krakatau - story, 1975
  • Julia, oder die Gemälde - novel, 1983

English:

  • The Egghead Republic - 1979 (Die Gelehrtenrepublik, trans. Michael Horovitz)
  • Evening Edged in Gold - 1980 (Abend mit Goldrand, trans. John E. Woods)
  • Scenes from the Life of a Faun - 1983 (Aus dem Leben eines Fauns, trans. John E. Woods)
  • Collected Early Fiction, 1949-1964, in four volumes (all trans. John E. Woods):
    • Collected Novellas - 1994
    • Nobodaddy's Children - 1995
    • Collected Stories - 1996
    • Two Novels - 1997 (The Stony Heart and B/Moondocks)
  • Radio Dialogs I - 1999 (trans. John E. Woods)
  • The School for Atheists - 2001 (Die Schule der Atheisten, trans. John E. Woods)
  • Radio Dialogs II - 2003 (trans. John E. Woods)

Please note that this bibliography is not necessarily complete.

Return to top of page.


Quotes

What others have to
say about
Arno Schmidt:

  • "Arno Schmidt steckt an." - Günter Grass, "Kleine Rede für Arno Schmidt", Laudatio, Kleist Prize (March, 1964)

  • "He has an unfailing ear for the nuances of living speech. He has a rare feel for literary form, coupled with a Stakhanovite capacity for taking pains, which makes it an exciting adventure to unravel his narrative strands, follow his ingenious involutions and listen for the subtle and constant play of echo and counterpoint." - S.S.Prawer, Times Literary Supplement (21/7/1972)

  • "Schmidts autodidaktischer Eros, durch frühkindliche Isolation und die nachfolgende geistige Haft im Faschismus doppelt unterdrückt, verschloß sich, nach expressionistischer Sympathiezeichen, immer mehr der Gegenwart und zog sich immer öfter und länger zurück aus der umgebenden Welt, um zu Rettungs- und Entdeckungsexpeditionen ins Vergangen-Versunkene aufzubrechen." - Wolfgang Schütte, "Das offene Geheimnis: Jean Paul & Arno Schmidt", in Text + Kritik 20/20a, Arno Schmidt (3rd. ed, 1977)

  • "Schmidt never renounced his belief in the essential importance of the thinking, speaking, and creating self, much to the dissatisfaction of some of his later structuralist readers. But many of his texts of the 1960s and 1970s, full of quirky erudition, intellectual wit, and increasingly conservative ideas about life, tended to substitute, for the earlier articulations of obsessive self-consciousness, "scripts" about the talks and walks of writers, translators, and intellectuals congregating for a day or two in the heath to consider his pet theories, however camouflaged." - Peter Demetz, After the Fires (1986)

  • "In Schmidt, then, we have a fusion of the striving for scientific thinking with a commitment to modernist writing; for him the founding father of his art is not Zola but Lewis Carroll." - Keith Bullivant, "Arno Schmidt: The German Context", in the Review of Contemporary Fiction (Spring, 1988)

  • "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)

  • "Der Weg Arno Schmidts von den Erzählungen des Buches Leviathan bis zur späten Schule der Atheisten ist gesättigt mit Zeiterfahrung: aus Spott, Verachtung, auch noch ein bißchen Hoffnung." - Hans Mayer, Die unerwünschte Literatur (1989)

  • "Scheidepunkt der Kritik Schmidts an seiner Umgebung, Kern seiner Ausfälle gegen die bundesrepublikanische Restauration, gegen Verdrängung and "Wiederaufbau" ist die Ablehnung der in seinen Augen alles übergreifenden Verbindung von Kirche, Staat und Militär, der unheiligen Allianz von "Geistlichen, Militärs & Juristn" (KAFF 165)" - Georg Guntermann, "In unserer Bestjen der Welten ..." in Arno Schmidt (ed. M.Schardt and H. Vollmer, 1990)

  • "Arno Schmidt ist der Intellektuelle als Proletarier, den eine mögliche Schwangerschaft mehr beschäftigt als eine Verletzung der Ehre." - Elke Schmitter, "Provinz und Sexus, und ein Drittes" in Arno Schmidt (ed. M.Schardt and H. Vollmer, 1990)

  • "Arno Schmidt schrieb gegen die Zeit, gegen den vorherrschenden Zeitgeschmack und Zeitgeist. Seine literarischen Figuren, vornehmlich die Ich-Protagonisten, sind Spielrollen auf einer Bühne, auf der es um den beständigen Konflikt des intellektuellen Einzelnen mit einer geistwidrigen, unvernünftigen Umwelt geht, die das Individuum bedroht, verfolgt, in ihre Gewalt zu bringen, unter- und einzuordnen versucht." - Hartmut Vollmer, "Das vertriebene und flüchtende Ich" in Arno Schmidt (ed. M.Schardt and H. Vollmer, 1990)

  • "Schmidt versucht in seinen Prosamodellen nicht nur die Trennwände literarischer Genres aufzuheben oder doch durchlässiger zu machen; auch Einflüsse der Nachbarkünste werden integriert: der Musik, vor allem aber der bildenden Kunst." - Hubert Witt, "Dädalus im Gehäuse", in Arno Schmidt (ed. M.Schardt and H. Vollmer, 1990)

  • "(T)his most ludic author, one of the more undeservedly unknown masters of twentieth-century prose" - James Crossley, Review of Contemporary Fiction (Fall/2003)

Return to top of page.


Pros and Cons
of the author's work:

    Pros:
  • Large, varied output
  • Something to please everyone (and something to annoy everyone)
  • Creative approaches to story-telling
  • Imaginative use of language
  • Strongly expressed opinions
  • Incredible familiarity with (and use of) literary antecedents
  • A true lover of literature

    Cons:
  • Wordplay can be too demanding
  • His works not always easy to obtain (and some very expensive)
  • Despite John E. Woods' heroic efforts, much is lost in translation
  • Dark world-view
  • His strong opinions not always easily appreciated
  • Cliquish fans sometimes unwilling to share him with the world at large
  • Re-viewers & commentators too tempted to indulge in word- & other play in discussing him & his out-put
  • Messy copyright issues still cloud some of the publications

Return to top of page.


the complete review's Opinion

     Arno Schmidt is one of the greatest German writers of the 20th century -- and certainly the least well known of the top-tier authors. World War II delayed his debut, but he published furiously and extensively for some twenty-five years. Some of his early prose is still relatively straightforward -- printed like normal text, read like any other work of fiction -- but he is perhaps best known for the oversize typoscripts of his later years, including the notorious Überroman, Zettels Traum
     In addition to the wide variety of fiction, he also wrote extensively on other authors. He wrote a remarkable study of Karl May (Sitara und der Weg dorthin) and a biography of Fouqué (the enormous Fouqué und einige seiner Zeitgenossen). He wrote dozens of radio-programmes that served as extensive (and opinionated) introductions to a wide variety of classical and often overlooked (or misunderstood) authors. (The complete review is obviously indebted to these: our Literary Saloon dialogues are clearly inspired by Schmidt's brilliant work.)
     Beside his original writing, Schmidt also translated the works of others, including Edward Bulwer-Lytton's massive My Novel and What will he do with it ?, Stanislaus Joyce's two books on his brother, Wilkie Collin's The Woman in White, several works by James Fenimore Cooper, and (together with Hans Wollschläger and others) the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe.

     Arno Schmidt is not an easy author. He revelled in wordplay, dialect, allusion, quotation, marginalia, footnotes, and then his own etym-ological theories. The late works -- the typoscripts, especially -- are oversized meta-texts, marvels of modern literature.
     Schmidt was an experimental writer -- and yet one firmly grounded in literary tradition. Only James Joyce -- one of the authors Schmidt was most interested in (especially his Finnegans Wake) -- tried as much (and was as successful).
     Many of Schmidt's works are specifically literary, with literature dominating both subject and form. Amazingly well-read, Schmidt's work can appear daunting -- but it is invariably worth the effort.
     His specifically German (literary) background and the many German references make some of the texts difficult for those unfamiliar with this tradition -- but English-speakers have the advantage that some of Schmidt's favourite authors (or rather: greatest obsessions) included Poe (the subject of Schmidt's magnum opus, Zettels Traum) and James Joyce.
     Certainly in the German-speaking countries Schmidt has also been tremendously influential on other writers -- though this has perhaps not always been for the best.

     Schmidt has been well-served by the estimable (and very well-funded) Arno-Schmidt-Stiftung and many devoted (and occasionally obsessive) scholars. His publication history has been a bit confusing: copyright issues linger to this day. The collected edition of his works appearing as the Bargfelder Ausgabe (at the wonderful Haffmanns Verlag) has made much of his work available and accessible (though some remains out of reach). The apparent imminent (and immensely regrettable) demise of Haffmanns has led to the transfer of this edition to Suhrkamp, where one hopes everything will eventually be consolidated; for now there still appear to be some disagreements with former Schmidt publisher, S.Fischer (who have recently come out with a marvelous (and almost affordable) paperback edition of Zettels Traum). Entertaining though the legal wrangling may be, it has not served Schmidt or his readers particularly well.
     English-speaking readers are also fortunate: one of the foremost translators from German, John E. Woods, has bravely devoted much time and effort to translating many of Schmidt's works. Two of the foremost literary publishers in the United States have also devoted considerable resources to making Schmidt's works available: Dalkey Archive Press has published four volumes of Schmidt's early fiction, while Green Integer is bringing out many of the radio dialogs and in 2001 published The School for Atheists. (Unfortunately (and unbelievably) these publications -- especially the most recent one -- have gone almost unnoticed in the American and English media.)

     There are few authors who so clearly loved literature and who so literally revelled in it. Schmidt read more than most people ever could imagine reading (and wrote more, too -- his output is incredible). He lived for little else, and it shows.
     Schmidt is among the most interesting, challenging, and entertaining of authors. He should be better known, his work should be more widely read (except, one hopes, in creative fiction classes, where his influence might be too overpowering and could lead to some horrible results -- though, given current trends, any such influence could probably only be for the better).
     Read -- enjoy -- marvel ! His work allows it all.

Return to top of page.


Links

Arno Schmidt: Arno Schmidt's books at the complete review: Books about Arno Schmidt under review: See also:

Return to top of page.



© 2002-2014 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links