Favourite German Books (Part #1): Classics – E.T.A. Hoffmann

Or: Lena Fangirls About A Dead White Man

E.T.A. Hoffmann books 1Sorry this is late =__=” Choosing the month with all the term paper deadlines for extensive blogging projects might not have been the best idea. So SORRY! SPORADIC BLOGGING AHEAD IN MARCH! I will still try to get out as many posts as I can manage (although I should probably focus on my papers). Anyway, let me tell you about this dead white guy.

When I thought about my favourite German classics I quickly realised that I was listing almost every classic I had ever read. So I decided to break this up into two posts about German classics. I have not read that many and most of them in school, so ask me again in 40 years and I might have changed my mind about my favourites. Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann, or E.T.A. Hoffmann for short, is the author that I have read the most works of in that tiny pile, so I decided to dedicate a whole post to the four books I have read by him.

E.T.A. Hoffmann books 3E.T.A. Hoffmann is an author from the Romantic period, and his works bear the typical motifs and themes of that time (transcendence, the fantastical, irrational, longing for nature and so on). Although you might not have heard of him, you might have heard of The Nutcracker (ballet). That was actually based upon one of his works. I have read three of Hoffmann’s countless literary works, and started a fourth one, so I am a total professional and very knowledgable here (not).

E.T.A. Hoffmann books 2Der goldne Topf (Engl: The Golden (Flower) Pot), first published in 1814, is one of his fantasy novellas, or a modern fairytale, as it has been called, and supposedly one of his best if not his best work. It follows the student Anselmus who gets entangled in weird magical stuff by accident – and summing up the plot of a book I read ten years ago or so can only give you that much.
We read this in school and I loved it. The novella was humorous, fantastical and not what I had thought classics would be like (i.e. dry and boring).

Das Fräulein von Scuderi (Engl: Mademoiselle de Scudéri), first published 1819, is a thriller/mystery/crime novella. Set in Paris during the reign of King Louis XIV, a series of murders and assaults is occupying the police. The elderly Scuderi unexpectedly gets involved in these mysteries when one evening a stranger bangs on her door.
I caught a part of a radio reading one night when I could not sleep and it was so suspenseful and creeped me out so much that even years later it was still on my mind and needless to say, I still couldn’t sleep that night. So one day I bought the book so I could finally know how it ended.

Der Sandmann (Engl: The Sandman), first published 1816, is a short story of the horror/gothic sort, so expect weirdness and insanity. I didn’t know what to think of this when I finished it, I still don’t know what to think of it now. This is one of those stories that you need to analyse and interpret to get to the depth of it. Had I read this in school we would have done that, but since I read this for fun, I just thought “Hmm. Weird. What.” for a minute and then moved on. It’s not my favourite of the three books I have read but I would really like to read a discussion on this book.

Lebensansichten des Katers Murr (Engl: The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr), first published 1819, is a satirical novel and Hoffmann’s last novel. Penguin, publisher of the English translation, writes: “Tomcat Murr is a loveable, self-taught animal who has written his own autobiography. But a printer’s error causes his story to be accidentally mixed and spliced with a book about the composer Johannes Kreisler. As the two versions break off and alternate at dramatic moments, two wildly different characters emerge from the confusion – Murr, the confident scholar, lover, carouser and brawler, and the moody, hypochondriac genius Kreisler. In his exuberant and bizarre novel, Hoffmann brilliantly evokes the fantastic, the ridiculous and the sublime within the humdrum bustle of daily life, making The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr (1820-22) one of the funniest and strangest novels of the nineteenth century.”
I haven’t finished this book yet but what I read was glorious. The characters are really fun to read and it is very interesting and unusual how this book is done. So far, I can only recommend it.

E.T.A. Hoffmann books 4

I always grab a Hoffmann when I want to read beautiful, exuberant German. I cannot tell you anything about the English translations, but every book I named has been translated, if you are interested.
If you have read this far THANK YOU and I hope you enjoyed it. Next week (probably not on time as well) will be about one Goethe, one Lessing and one Storm. I hope to see you there 😀

Click here to read part #0.5: Why I Read Books in English

Stay inky!- Lena

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One thought on “Favourite German Books (Part #1): Classics – E.T.A. Hoffmann

  1. Pingback: Favourite German Books – Part #0.5 : Why I Read Books in English | Study in Ink

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