Collected Novellas: Collected Early Fiction 1949-1964

Collected Novellas: Collected Early Fiction 1949-1964

by Arno Schmidt

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The novella was Schmidt's preferred form at the beginning of his writing career, and this volume collects the ten novellas he wrote between Entymesis (1949) and Republica Intelligentsia (1957). The settings range from ancient Greece to 21st-Century America, but all react to the stifling conservatism and cold prudery of Adenauer Germany. Bursting with

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The novella was Schmidt's preferred form at the beginning of his writing career, and this volume collects the ten novellas he wrote between Entymesis (1949) and Republica Intelligentsia (1957). The settings range from ancient Greece to 21st-Century America, but all react to the stifling conservatism and cold prudery of Adenauer Germany. Bursting with intellectual and sexual energies, resuscitating the German language after two decades of Nazi subjugation, these novellas revolutionized German literature in the 1950s and retain their power to shock and delight forty years later.

Schmidt has been called a "giant of the modernist tradition, an enormously important talent in the fictional line of cruel comedy that runs from Rabelais through Swift and Joyce" (New York Review of Books). This edition of his collected fiction should restore Schmidt to his rightful place at the forefront of 20th-century writing.

Dalkey Archive Press

Editorial Reviews

Rain Taxi
“Collected Novellas is an enticing introduction to the twisted mind games of Schmidt, to his unusual prose, his raving, voracious mind. While the themes and stories alone warrant hefty works ...more of fiction—war, devastation, love, art—it's the rambunctious style that brings these themes their power and their immediacy as well as their ability to capture, like Virginia Woolf, moments of being. Only Schmidt's moment is one of history's uglier, that of Nazi Germany, war on the western front, a POW camp, and postwar hypocrisy.”
Chicago Tribune
“With this opening volume of Schmidt's prose works in English, perhaps he will be recognized in this country for what he is: a truly innovative and witty writer.”
New York Review of Books
“By a bitter bit of mistiming, Arno Schmidt, who died in 1979, has now become at least partly accessible in English . . . It's a shame that we are learning about his career only now when
...more it's over; all the more reason, then, to blow the untimely trumpet. He was a very good writer; we should have known his work sooner.”
Times Literary Supplement
“"When Arno Schmidt died, on Whit-Sunday 1979, modern German prose lost its greatest virtuoso . . . Reading Arno Schmidt can be addictive. I was first captivated by him in the late 1960s, and know no greater reading pleasure in the whole of postwar German literature.”
New York Times Book Review
“Schmidt defies translation. But here John E. Woods captures his very persona—and gleeful eroticism . . . Let us hope that . . . this new edition of the early works has the success it deserves . . . Then Arno Schmidt will assume his rightful place in modern literature.”
Washington Post Book World
“The clown prince of contemporary German fiction, Arno Schmidt [was] a satirist who first wrote rather straight, pessimistic, intensely visual allegories of post-Nazi society, with
...more excursions into the time of Alexander the Great and A.D. 541, and then soared into tight, allusive wordplay that translates uncommonly well into English.”
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Schmidt (1914-1979), often called ``the German Joyce,'' began his publishing career in 1949 with the violent, fantasmagoric novella ``Leviathan,'' which details the desperate final hours of Hitler's Berlin. Also gathered here are the author's nine other novellas, most of which are characterized by an aggressive, elliptical speed that resembles a kind of crazed journal writing. Many of the narratives are set in the ancient world, whose Imperial Rome is clearly meant to be analogous to Hitler's Reich. In ``Enthymesis,'' we follow a Greek scientific expedition into the African desert, where the narrator attempts to rival Eratosthenes's calculations of the circumference of the earth. His jolting, deranged diary records the disintegration of his mission and its termination in the imaginary city of Hell, Weilaghiri (a place that turns up elsewhere in Schmidt's fiction). Schmidt ferociously satirizes the fascistic empire of the Greek conqueror in ``Alexander.'' His prose yields arresting images-a peasant in ``Leviathan,'' for instance, holding her child's severed head over ``a greasy scarlet puddle''-and translator Woods seems to do justice to the author's glaring eccentricities of style and punctuation. But the style seems as dated as the objects of its satiric ire; only fleetingly does it produce genuine surprise and shock. (Dec.)
Library Journal
Often compared to James Joyce for his experiments in language and form, Schmidt is perhaps the most idiosyncratic of Germany's major postwar writers. This collection of ten novellas is the first of four volumes in an ambitious project to issue Schmidt's early fiction (1949-64) in English translation. Included are the fierce Leviathan, set in the waning months of World War II, which articulates many of the fundamental themes of Schmidt's early fiction; Lake Scenery with Pocahontas, which brought about an obscenity trial for the author when first published, thus demonstrating the prudishness of the Adenauer era that Schmidt so often railed against; and Republica Intelligentsia, previously published in English in a different translation as The Egghead Republic, which is perhaps Schmidt's most popular text. Translator Woods has done an admirable job in recreating in English Schmidt's exuberant, mutlifaceted style. Highly recommended for modern literary fiction collections.-Michael T. O'Pecko, Towson State Univ., Md.

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Product Details

Dalkey Archive Press
Publication date:
German and Austrian Literature Series
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Arno Schmidt was born in 1914, in the working-class suburb of Hamburg-Hamm, Germany. Drafted into the army in 1940, he served in the artillery at a flak base in Norway until the end of the war. After being held as a prisoner of war for eight months, he worked briefly as an interpreter for the British military police. His home in Lauban and, more importantly for him, his library had been lost in the war, and he and his wife were officially classified as Displaced Persons. In 1946 they found refuge in a one-room apartment in Cordingen in Lower Saxony. In 1958 Schmidt moved to the village of Bargfeld near Celle. Over the next 20 years, until his death in 1979, he wrote some of the landmarks of postwar German literature.

John E. Woods won both the 1981 American Book Award and PEN award for his translation of Schmidt's Evening Edged in Gold and has published a new translation of Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks.

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