COLLECTED NOVELLAS by Arno Schmidt

COLLECTED NOVELLAS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 One narrative of cultural history runs like this: As contributions to 20th-century high modernism, the English-speaking world gave us Joyce; the French gave us Proust; and the Germans gave us Hitler. Of course, the Germans also gave us Mann and Musil, but they don't count, being eminently more comprehensible to most people than either Joyce or Proust. Dalkey Archive, courageously committing to four volumes of Arno Schmidt's fiction, is positioning Schmidt (191479; Scenes from the Life of a Faun, 1982, etc.) as Germany's voice of high modernism, albeit a late arriver to the scene, detained by the Nazis' desecration of the German language. The works in this volume, beginning with ``Enthymesis'' and ending with ``Republica Intelligentsia,'' were written between 1949 and 1957. Schmidt's writing often echoes Proust's hysterical empiricism or Joyce's manic wordplay, at times rivaling even Finnegan's Wake in obscurity. Award-winning translator Woods calls Schmidt ``a recluse, a solipsist.'' Indeed, he seems to have taken Stephen Dedalus's comment that ``history is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake'' literally. Schmidt's writing--described by Woods as ``spoken in both gamy vernaculars and cryptogrammatic tongues, punctuated by great rumbles of scathing rage and whoops of bawdy laughter''--is a furious attempt to write his way out of that nightmare.

Pub Date: Dec. 5th, 1994
ISBN: 1-56478-066-X
Page count: 429pp
Publisher: Dalkey Archive
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1994




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