Bottom's Dream (German Literature)

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9781628971590: Bottom's Dream (German Literature)

“I have had a dream past the wit of man to say what dream it was,” says Bottom. “I have had a dream, and I wrote a Big Book about it,” Arno Schmidt might have said. Schmidt’s rare vision is a journey into many literary worlds. First and foremost it is about Edgar Allan Poe, or perhaps it is language itself that plays that lead role; and it is certainly about sex in its many Freudian disguises, but about love as well, whether fragile and unfulfilled or crude and wedded. As befits a dream upon a heath populated by elemental spirits, the shapes and figures are protean, its protagonists suddenly transformed into trees, horses, and demigods. In a single day, from one midsummer dawn to a fiery second, Dan and Franzisca, Wilma and Paul explore the labyrinths of literary creation and of their own dreams and desires.

Since its publication in 1970 Zettel’s Traum/Bottom’s Dream has been regarded as Arno Schimdt’s magnum opus, as the definitive work of a titan of postwar German literature. Readers are now invited to explore its verbally provocative landscape in an English translation by John E. Woods.

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About the Author:

Arno Schmidt (1914–1979) was born 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 first book, Leviathan, was published in 1949. In 1958 Schmidt moved to the village of Bargfeld near Celle. Over the next twenty years, until his death, he wrote some of the landmarks of postwar German literature, many of which are available in translation from Dalkey Archive Press.

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.

Review:

"Arno Schmidt . . . 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." -New York Review of Books

"(A) treasure house of post-Joycean language-games, the projection of a complex and crotchety personality, a unique blend of fiction, conversation pieces and literary criticism, humorous and obsessed, intellectually adventurous and stuffily provincial, polyglot and archetypically German" -S. S. Prawer, Times Literary Supplement

". . . In this world, as he writes, everything proves to be a "PHALIBILD . . . NOTHING BUT A PENIDIN." These elusive etyms are perhaps the true heroes of Schmidt's masterpiece, Bottom's Dream (1970). That book is in some sense Schmidt's response to Finnegans Wake; it is a sprawling novel about a brief period, from 4 A.M. to early the next morning, outwardly centered on a discussion of that American father of European modernism, Edgar Allan Poe. Written in three columns and published only as a facsimile of an idiosyncratic typography designed by the author, the "Dream" represents the ultimate but untranslatable challenge to any translator. Mr. Woods has already shown his ability to translate late Schmidt with his version of Evening Edged in Gold (1975). Let us hope that he will have an opportunity to attempt the impossible and give us an English Bottom's Dream too. Then Arno Schmidt will assume his rightful place in modern literature." -Jeremy Alder, New York Times

"A truly witty and innovative writer." -Chicago Tribune

"A giant of postwar German literature." -New York Times

"Zettel’s Traum is both Schmidt’s most famous book and his least read." -Esther Yi, The New Yorker

"Reading Arno Schmidt can be addictive." -Times Literary Supplement

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