*By Tim König, co-translator of Melchior Vischer’s 1920 Dada masterpiece Second through Brain (Equus: 2015).Man is but an ass if he go about to expound this dream.
An “instrument of terror”
For a long time, Arno Schmidt was an underdog of German literature in the Anglophone world. After 2016, this could change, as his huge masterpiece Zettel’s Traum has been translated into English by John E. Woods under the title Bottom’s Dream. Anglophone scholars could have been waiting for a translation of one of the most experimental texts of German literature since as early as 1979, when an influential article by David Hayman, who included translated excerpts of Zettel’s Traum in Some Writers in the Wake of the Wake, introduced Schmidt’s book as an “attempt to write a German Finnegans Wake”. Hayman presented Zettel’s Traum (the title not yet translated) as proof of the “influence of the Wake on concrete fiction, the ful-fill-ment (however unevenly successful) of the printed word, its gesturalization (immediacy and motion).” Despite that, Bottom’s Dream hasn’t been commonly read as a post-structuralist text, critics seldom drawn to its concrete and performative aspects.
Schmidt was aware of similarities between his and Joyce’s writing and went far beyond reasonably or theoretically conventional literature. Once, probably ironically, but surely arrogantly, Schmidt stated that Joyce had lightened up his work, because he hadn’t imposed order upon Finnegans Wake, and because he’d let the text be typeset in only one column – which would make things more complex than they were. For this reason, Schmidt wrote Bottom’s Dream in three columns, laconically adding: “He [James Joyce] simply enjoyed secretiveness.” In many cases, the voice of Arno Schmidt is as unreliable as that of his figures, often implying: It is more complicated than you think.
Bottom’s Dream has been a challenge for readers of any ilk, from enthusiastic amateurs to progressive literary scholars. Luckily, it is now available in English for $ 56 (which is cheap: the German version costs around 300 €); and may be the heaviest text-object with the most infinitely enigmatic and funniest wordplays one can get for this little sum. Maybe this explains why the first review of Bottom’s Dream was published in The Wall Street Journal, followed by more insightful reports in The New Yorker, The Times literary supplement and, most recently, in the Los Angeles Review of Books. The last one is one step ahead, reflecting on possible techniques of reading and deciphering, as well as proposing the strange conjecture that the English translation of a book that extensively theorises translations could very well say more about the art of translation than the original. Just as the first reviews of Zettel’s Traum in the seventies, the first reactions to Bottom’s Dream focus on the material status of the text as a behemoth that will never fit on any coffee-table. This book undermines its status as a text, both as rupture and continuation of a textual line.
Given the current resurgence of interest in Schmidt, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the German reception of this leviathan of German literature – which enemies and fans it’s garnered over the past half-century and which cults it’s given rise to. Therefore, I am going to give a short introduction to Bottom’s Dream and insight into the main German research communities as it explains some of the major pitfalls and great chances of reflecting on Arno Schmidt’s experimental writing. Finally, I am going to present an attempt to theoretically grasp this book, which basically means finding a way to read it. In this attempt, Philippe Sollers’ Writing and the experience of limits as a “theory of ruptures” is my point of departure (and arrival), the text showing the way.
Why does it have to be so complicated?
Bottom’s Dream is one of the most kaleidoscopic literary texts. It has been recognized, appreciated and criticized as avant-garde. It has described as neither understandable by itself nor hermeneutically decipherable. It has been analyzed as a truly innovative text at the same time deeply rooted in traditional literature. It was considered an unreadable book with an almost banally simple narrative. It is probably the most prominently reviewed book of all by Arno Schmidt – and, at the same time, the least read. The book provoked this phenomenon; however organized or categorized it is, it negates order as it moves into an antonymous relation to any order. It is hard to say anything meaningful about Bottom’s Dream. A brief glance at the first chapters gives an impression of this problem. Book 1 (out of 8) of Bottom’s Dream is called “The Horrorfield, or The Language of Tsalal”, whereas ‘Tsalal’ could mean, as the main character explains on the beginning pages “(Charlatanic : it had ’ndeed taken a few days before the insight came to me ! . . .)”
Nevertheless, the basic parameters of Bottom’s Dream can be named in one sentence, if one follows an explanatory radio session with Arno Schmidt: A married couple of translators, Paul and Wilma Jacobi, and their daughter Franziska visit the author Daniel Pagenstecher for twenty-four hours at his home in the north German rural district Celle to discuss the life and writings of Edgar Allan Poe, whose texts the couple is translating.
The layout looks extravagant in the beginning, but might be explained briefly, too: The main text is centered in a column in the middle, taking up half of the page. The text shifts to the left side when it is about Edgar Allan Poe and to the right side if dealing with psychoanalytical issues. Also, there are smaller printed commentaries wherever there is space. The uncertainty of reading appears in confrontation with the literary text, not in its summary; this can be illustrated by the beginning of Bottom’s Dream.
The difficulty of getting into a consistent reading is also reflected within the story, very obviously in the beginning, which remains a complete enigma if one does not know the references of the text. Jörg Drews gave a deep analysis on the first page, so most of the references are given; of interest for me (besides I found one small referential clue that Drews did not name) is that the text stylizes the vulnerability of reading in a pictorial way:
The ‘x’s opening for the “king” could represent the later named barbed wire fence, through which the four protagonists have to step into the Horrorfield after which the first book of Bottom’s Dream is named. While stepping through the fence, Paul Jacobi might say “king” as he does later in the text several times – but as the right side comments, it could be a quote from The Monikins by James Fennimore Cooper protagonist, Noah Poke, or a curse (fu-king).
I have left aside several other meanings of the first line, but the important point is that Bottom’s Dream remains silent for the reader who does not use a method of deciphering – may it be a contrasting reading of other texts like Cooper’s and Poe’s, or a biographical reading (i.e. it is likely that Schmidt had to eat udders, when he was a child). All these techniques are vulnerable, might lead to stupidities, lame jokes or simply ignorance of the diversity of meanings.
One of Arno Schmidt’s most famous sayings, uttered shortly after the publication of Zettel’s Traum in 1970, is an answer he gave to the journalist’s question of who should react to his book: “The intelligent reviewer doesn’t say anything about the book for one year. He simply states that there is something like that.” Today, again, the material of the book is described in the first place, only afterwards, the textual structures of Bottom’s Dream get paraphrased, mostly ending wondering about how the book could be understood. In the article cited above, the interviewer stated later that there is only one reader who could understand the book: Arno Schmidt.
This statement could also be seen as a part of creating a myth as well as having an advertising effect: After three months, all 2000 prints of the German original print were sold, although they cost 298 Mark, which was nearly a third of the average monthly pay in the seventies. There were good reasons for not judging the book in 1970, when it was published five years after Schmidt started combining his sheets of notes and quotes to create Zettel’s Traum: Behind the physical enormity (1334 pages in A3, weight: 17 pound) stands a facsimile of a typescript that was neither a pure product of the author’s nor the publisher’s intention. Friedhelm Rathjen, by now editor of the Bargfelder Bote, goes as far as to say that “[t]he publication as a typescript was a makeshift and, because of its sheer length, Schmidt could not afford the originally intended clean copy of the text so that this typescript contains literally corrections on every page, blackened text and text-additions, often written in Schmidt’s hardly legible handwriting.”
Therefore, the editors of the complete works used improvements in printing-technologies to compose a new edition of the book, in which nearly every blackened text is erased, few typing-mistakes get corrected and the layout is simplified (i.e. additions in Arno Schmidt’s handwriting get transcribed). One of the surprisingly practical things about John E. Woods’ translation is that the foliation of Bottom’s Dream is the same as in the German edition from 2010. Without the existence of a reclusive author living in Bargfeld and the possibility of an interview or nervous chat through a fence with him, the advertising effect of its massive obscurity would not have been that strong: The possibility of a true meaning of it all, or more precisely, the possibility of finding it in a German heath at the writer’s house, has to some extent died with the author.
The Arno Schmidt Foundation maintains his house and last year the foundation offered the opportunity to step inside a darkened room in the Akademie der Künste with exhibits or devotional objects as well as interviews surrounding Arno Schmidt; one of the interviews was held with John E. Woods, who highlights the political implications of Arno Schmidt’s transformation of the German language and its historical embeddedness in post-war Germany. Somehow, the author gathers voices that lead to other directions than Bargfeld.
Unlike for many others, 2016 has been a year of anniversaries for Arno Schmidt scholars. The publication of Bottom’s Dream is one of them. Although published by Dalkey Archive Press, practically, it forms a part of the complete works published by the Arno Schmidt Foundation, which holds the rights of the works and supports translations or studies of them.
At Bargfeld, the Bargfelder Bote celebrated this summer both its 400th issue and Alice Schmidt’s 100th birthday. The magazine was founded by the Arno-Schmidt-Dechiffrier-Syndikat (= syndicate for decoding Arno Schmidt’s works), an ironically named group that claimed to make Bottom’s Dream collectively legible. Until today, one can find people making fun of the cult(s) around Arno Schmidt, as they would try to decode Arno Schmidt like crosswords, trying to find solutions in every inch of Arno Schmidt’s life. In fact, this program was a pun from the beginning, although it came to serious results. Nevertheless, it is tough to get issues of the Bargfelder Bote in libraries these days.
The Gesellschaft der Arno Schmidt Leser (society of readers of Arno Schmidt) celebrated at this year’s conference its thirty years of existence. As a society, the GASL is more institutionalized, but at the same time academically nomadic. The Zettelkasten, its yearbook, is available in at least some libraries. Although most disputes have been laid off in time, there are constant rumors about approaches to Arno Schmidt’s literary texts: The unsettled character of research on Arno Schmidt allows more innovation, as in the same move, it provokes obscurity. Often, one encounters personal histories of reading Arno Schmidt, whereas in the first place, his texts seemed to be highly enigmatic, closed, obscure and difficult. After reading a second or third Schmidt book, one feels at home in his works and can find references, decode them and participate in a dialogue about their meaning; the longer this dialogue goes on, the more obscure it gets. This way of acclaiming not only knowledge, but also an introduction to a certain, literary way of collectively connecting knowledge, seems to be coming to an historical end. Despite that, new ways of reading Arno Schmidt -besides decoding- were explored at this year’s GASL-conference, for example Alexander John Holt’s reading of Republica Intelligentsia (Die Gelehrtenrepublik) as a Foucaultian heterotopia of languages, (latently fascist) eugenics and geopolitical struggles of power. (Here I refer to Alexander John Holt’s lecture, “Der heterotopistische Hominidenstreifen“, given at “31. Jahrestagung der Gesellschaft der Arno Schmidt Leser” in Mainz. Here‘s a brief summary thereof – my thanks to the author for allowing me to read his lecture notes.)
The approach of searching for hints in the works of Arno Schmidt and his library has been successful to a certain degree, it has become useless as a collective project in times of digital humanities and Google. If one analyzes texts as collages of other texts, digital comparison of available corpora is always faster, although the absurdity of it still remains (if it does not get increased). But if one recognizes the absurdity of interpretation and the obscurity of comparative analyses, this does not need to be a vulnerable, but an adventurous aspect of Schmidt’s texts, as Jan-Frederik Bandel has lately argued:
In Sitara und der Weg dorthin (1963), then mainly in his monumental novel of theory Bottom’s Dream, Arno Schmidt has subjected not really fictive, but bibliographically seizable texts firstly by May, then by Edgar Allan Poe to a psychoanalysis (with prominent results like May having depicted symptoms of his homosexuality, Edgar Allan Poe the symptoms of his coprophylic voyeurism, analytically graspable in depictions of landscapes, constellations of characters etc., above all within an unconsciously ambiguous language, as it is named in Sitara the “characteristic, trait=oral lettercreeplings …, the fonetical caricatures, the not=roots=of=words but uncontrolled mandrakes of roaming fantasies”). Schmidt portrays himself in a sort of postscriptum to his book on May as a “pronounced clear=glass=buffoon”, because he was open to comical effects, because he could not resist the “mixtures of creative destruction & pantagruelic revelation”.
The pure principle of comparing two texts that would could have become useless, cannot be practiced without any aim and theoretical background. Often, irony served as a legitimation of cognitive interest and the experimentation with theoretical viewpoints on texts, also discussing the art of referring. I.e. in Bottom’s Dream, mushrooms stand in a Freudian view always for ‘penis’, although Daniel Pagenstecher makes fun of an anecdote in which Freud would have told his daughter Anna about mushrooming when he was a child, giving her the advice “to lay fresh flowers every day for a Madonna set out near the woods, so that it would help them find more” (BD, 739) mushrooms.
Decoding this part as a story about symbolic deflowering may be funny, but in a theoretical viewpoint, there are three processes of decoding: In a (probably) Freudian view, ‘mushroom’ means ‘Penis’, in a Pagenstechrian view, Freud having mushroomed with his daughter is a symbolic deflowering and, finally, in our view, Psychoanalysis as a referential system becomes ridiculous.
Up to this degree, Arno Schmidt’s writing anticipated the theoretical pitfalls one is dealing with until now. Moreover, the difference between a professional and a learning reader gets undermined: The concentrated, complex and polysemantical patterns of words stand in the way of a fluent reception (at least, in the beginning) for both sorts of readers. This explosion of meaning can be read as well with a sense of humor as there is nothing behind the text, only the material objects, which appear directly in texts, like the fence in the beginning or, later in the book, a drawn mushroom (BD, 1141). I sum up two main pitfalls:
- An explosion of possible references of his overly complex distillations of words and forms, which can be often reduced by
- comparing two texts,
- comparing biographical information and
- comparing discourses standing above history with texts by Arno Schmidt (like psychoanalytical decoding).
- On the other hand, historical and material atoms of everyday life appear and disappear in his texts so that abstraction from atoms to systems is highly difficult.
The latter point leads to a field of problems surrounding the presence and absence of things, which remain silent if they are taken for themselves, if their void doesn’t open a space for speculation. If this speculation should not have the bitter taste of randomness, the can be drawn from their historical embeddedness. The structure of things can always be taken as a steady ground for critique as, on the other side, the structural multiplicity of reference does not give clear hints about where to search. For explaining this at the text itself, there are some reasons for going back to the beginning of this text, the role of James Joyce in Bottom’s Dream.
Daniel Pagenstecher, the reclusive author, asks Wilma Jacobi whether she prays to Termagaunt, a fictive deity of Chivalric romances applied to oriental people, as he discovered once again that the principles of her education of Franziska, the daughter of Wilma and Paul Jacobi, were based upon fictive values – like Termagaunt. She takes this rightfully as an insult, asking him, to which god he prays (he responses: no one), which is his fatherland (he responses: none), which principles he lives by (again: none), and, finally:»Who is Your leader ? ; who is it that gives You orders ? « / ( – : joyce ? – : freud ? . – ) : »When I am of a mind to obey Them. Moreover, I have no one who commands me.« (BD, 531)
First, one should highlight the very striking implication of the German word for ‘leader’ in this place: ‘Führer’ is mostly used to refer to Hitler. However, naming Joyce and Freud as leaders to which one can “obey” brings them into proximity of a fetish; with ‘Führer’ as an ambiguous word in German, literary ancestry becomes a sadomasochistic, evil, and erotic play. A play insofar, as Daniel Pagenstecher assumes that he can choose freely whether to obey them or not. For us as readers, it is both failure and insight to bring Joyce (or Freud) into contrast with Bottom’s Dream. At the same time, this text forces us to do so – following, I will obey to the possibilities of meaning and matter of selected parts of the text(ure), leading the way to a historical series (which could and should be multiplied in later works).
A well=r’specktable text.
In times dominated by terms like “political correctness,” the possibility of expressing any meaning is still a controversial topic, a question of power. An implication can be an insult, discussing which implications should be taken serious, as a matter of justice. The intimate relation of definition and power is a crucial point within Bottom’s Dream: On page 20f Daniel Pagenstecher argues to be allowed to speak about sexual issues in his analysis of Edgar Allan Poe, but the parents Paul and Wilma Jacobi do not allow it in the presence of her daughter Franziska. Daniel Pagenstecher criticizes this act on a referential level: “Is Franziska forever to label love; (& those parts specially designated for love) with only the most vulgarest expressions of her schoolchums?” (BD, 20) Then, he says to give two arguments that should convince Wilma and Paul that Daniel can speak freely about sexuality. These arguments are explicitly named, then performed. The first one is irony, as he wants Franziska to swear that she understands every expression in the right way. The second one is a threat, which is performed by addressing the husband directly in order to oppress Wilma and, at the same time, impressing her by using “Graeco-Latinate hundredweight words” (BD, 20). Both arguments to not work out, so Daniel Pagenstecher names a third attempt to convince them, making his count wrong. This argument consists of speaking in abbreviations and secret codes: “Shall We not call a kitty a ›pussy‹ ? Shorthands & symbols work inf àct because they’re almost always uncompromised.” (BD, 21) In the German version stands “unvorbelastet” instead of “uncompromised”. In German, it is possible to speak about ‘incriminating’ or ‘vorbelastete’ (the prefix ‘un-‘ meaning a negation) words; mostly it is used in regard to Nazi-language, although acronyms were one of the major techniques of Nazi-speech, which were assumed to sound sharp (therefore, there are a lot of ‘z’s in Nazi-abbreviations, which mostly do not make linguistically sense). However, this attempt of convincing Wilma and Paul seems to work out. There is also a historical continuation inside the usage of language as manipulation.
Therefore, they speak about sexuality as ‘S’ which takes also the phonological related meaning of the Freudian ‘it’, as the German phoneme ‘S’ sounds like ‘es’ (which means ‘it’). But also, Daniel Pagenstecher criticizes German author Hans Henny Jahnn for not naming directly what he wrote about (in Daniel Pagenstecher’s view!), when he wrote ‘loins’ instead of ‘genitals’, arguing: “but that seems so silly to me, so dp=like” (BD, 21). Although it is understandable that DP should mean something alike ‘silly’, this abbreviation gets explained a page later, where Daniel Pagenstecher is asked what is meant by ‘DP’, which is a face-threatening act, because it gives Daniel Pagenstecher another chance to teach something and therefore forcing his listeners into the role of pupils. Also, this can be seen as a theoretical point of view: The performance comes first, like in a Wittgensteinian view, only within the act of explanation the word gets several meanings:»What’d You mean just now by Your ›dp‹ ? «; (P; and gave his empty pewter a brown=studied gawk.) / : »Oh nothing much really. – It’s my name for the ›seers‹, Y’see; the Orffeuses; the bakers who worship their own biscuits : those Dichter, as we Germans call poets, who imagine they stem from P riests : D (ichter)=P (riests). You can think of ’em as ›Dee Pee‹’s, too; or ›D isplaced P ersons‹ : ›Displaced Personalities‹. A well-circumscribed literary unit; that Y’ can recognize by their astoundingly high regard for ›myth‹, & how they flirt with ›second sight‹. – poe by the by totally belongs=there.«
At this point, John Woods’ brilliant translation reaches a conclusion that can only be understood with a glance at the German version of the text: speaking of ‘DP’s as ‘Displaced Persons’ appears in English in the original German version and is translated by Schmidt in the narrative as ‘Deplatzierte Persönlichkeiten’. Though ‘personalities’ is the right word to use, ‘deplatziert’ means ‘misplaced’, not ‘displaced’, and some meaning is lost. This mistake (which is invisible in the translation) of Arno Schmidt isn’t really a mistake: The Allies called civilians who were not in their home countries at the end of World War II ‘displaced persons’, which referred primarily to victims of German deportations or people, who had to flee from their home because of the war. This also included Germans who fled from the frontlines in the last years of war or who lived behind the newly set borders of 1945. A German translation for ‘displaced person’ without political or moral implications / consequences (i.e. geographical claim of an ‘expellee’, which would be a highly problematic implication if used by Germans) was hard to find in the Seventies; any German equivalent word had unfortunate implications in at least some regions. Therefore, it is not only remarkable that Arno Schmidt used an English word to describe the absence of a domicile or home indirectly referring to the aftermath of World War II, but also that the ‘mistake’ in translation adds meaning: It objectifies the person into a personality which is misplaced like an object. For that it is a mistake, an ‘original’ meaning is negated, both the ‘original’ German text is negated as a ‘true’ version of the literary text (however it can still be discussed whether the text is still literary, then). The origins of meaning and identity get obfuscated, disembodied and multiplied. Eroticism, polysemy and transterritoriality go hand in hand
Abbreviated language has a rupturing effect and is at the same time historically inscribed – continuity is brought into semantics of discontinuity. A practice, based on the prohibition of a ‘perverse’ or literal erotic speech with the aim of addressing bodies, especially the own body, which is not only in the DP-sense an object in the hand of history and politics. A further detour on the way to the own body runs through the analysis of Poe, which is, at the same time, another code to speak about perversions, in this way, abstract ones: Voyeurism. If the body was directly addressed, quasi ‘touched’ by words, the voyeur loses his lust. On the pages before p.181/Z.181 Poe’s Novel The Journal of Julius Rodman is analyzed, whereas Daniel decodes the whole novel as a trip of voyeurs:Notónly were ›skins the leading objects‹ of the entire voyageur=band, to be procured ›as privately as possible‹ – (we’ll get to that list in justasec – but ’ndeed the S=underpinnings find (fully satisfacktory) expression in phrases à la : ›In no other view of the case can we reconcile many points of his record with our ordinary notions of human action‹. (BD, 181)
The problem, again, is not the validity of his analysis, but the possibility to announce it; as Paul tries to develop this interpretation further, Wilma assaults him. In order to distract Wilma, Daniel throws his own history into the interpretation:
But first back to W; who was trying to bicker with P) : »Dearwilma – : Év’ry=man who came home from the 6=Years=War a somatic=whole is nónetheless to be regarded & treated as a Ψ=&=S=invalid – ›a saturnine brain‹ is the poe’tic term for it« (I iii, 405 : the incredibly self=expósing cunnonade of curses aimed at masson !) – »and that something isn’t=rite in rodman’s cold=jungles should’ve been clear to You, really, from the way it just jumps rite=over the winter months : if there’s one thing the ›born voyeur‹ can’t make=use of, its the impenitrouble coverings of the freezin’ season : a ›Peeping Tom‹ blossoms in the summer ! : Julius rodman & Pierre Junôt : ›June=July‹ «; (& how many heroes are not named AugustuS ! ? – / – (Now ’twas Wilma=herself who came to a halt. (Granted, She at wants began plucking juniper berries (as ›justifickation‹), ›Howse=whyfully‹); She remarkt out into the sweet=smallcheckt green) : »I’m sorry for You, Daniel : what a nice=parzivil lad Yóu were at one time ! So intellecktual & of extréme=purity ! . . . « (BD, 181)
This one is followed by a cynical commentary in brackets (=in thought) by Daniel, stating that straight-laced Wilma does not know anything about pureness. The legitimacy of this cynicism becomes clearer as one sees that her name ‘Wilma’ in German sounds like ‘wanna’ and, on an intradiegetical level, it turns out later that she abuses her daughter Franziska.
Without reaching the bottom of the multiplicity of meanings interwoven in this part of the text, some relations can be drawn: The Second World War described as a 6 years’ war takes it into connection with the 30 years’ war; the psychic and sexual disability is expressed through abbreviations, forming a continuous backside on the historical break of a war, which is tried to made clear for Paul, Wilma and Franziska through talking about Poe. The part in between “poe’tic term” and “Not ‘twas Wilma” is printed in the left column, the rest in the middle. The text’s movement at this point does not make anything clear, it rather obfuscates things, as the analysis of Poe is used to explain or lead to something completely different. The analysis as a detour is also the detour of the text-block; this way of signifying goes beyond the possible mistakes of comparing two texts, also beyond comparing text and biographical information as well as beyond comparing text and theory: It uses Poe as an emblem and detouring code, to get to an inexpressible point.
In between, there’s so called reality: Wilma plucks berries, which could be interpreted as an erotic move as well, then she excuses, making Daniel’s plan of distracting her successful. However, calling him a “nice=parzivil lad” gathers several other meanings (Parzival; pacifistic; civilian) and sexualizes him within attributing him “intellecktual & of extreme=purity”: “lecken” in German means ‘to lick’, making ‘intellectual’, spelled with ‘ck’, into a licking action; his purity makes him also sexually accessible, like the freshly plucked flowers could attract mushrooms. This sexuality is interrelated with nationalism in the view of Daniel Pagenstecher, which makes it a meaning that is fought about: On the right side, it is commented in small letters that an unspecified “Hé”, meaning the young Daniel Pagenstecher in the view of himself as an Other person (because commentaries are internally focalized by Daniel), is followed by the “heck-Se Cuntry”; whereas the last word explains itself in English, the first is a mixture from ‘Heck’ (back of a car), ‘Se’ recalling the ‘S’ and the colloquial pronouncing of an official formal address (‘Sie’ turns into ‘Se’) and, finally through its sound: ‘Hexe’ means ‘witch’. Few lines below, the column moves to the left side again, bringing together Poe, eroticism and nationalism:»And diddn’t the emurgeance – ’parently beyond His cuntrol – of those ›fairy islands‹ make You prick up your ears at=all ? Y’ didn’t see : nature is forced to play a double role ? That it’S allabout pseudo=butt’ny, pseudo=zoology, pseudo=geograffy; down to little pseudo=tools : yes, about pseudo=Whatefur ? ! – «. (No ? Hmyess then We’ll havta audit His S=enclaves anew. (BD, 181f)
After all, this gives an explanation on why Bottom’s Dream is such an instrument of terror, torturing the reader with that much analyses on Poe and several other authors: As long as one doesn’t recognize the objectification of the Other in the eroticism of nationalism, which, in the end, takes away their status as autonomous, living and human, Daniel Pagenstecher keeps on analyzing. In order to detect this, Daniel Pagenstecher goes beyond human action. Wilma criticizes this as “elitist”, or, in the German version, as “Unvolkstümlich” (BD/ZT 182), whereas the German expression implies that these thoughts do not fit with her ‘Volkstum’, an often used word in Nazi-ideology, coming originally from folklore and then transformed into a part of the blood and soil ideology both meaning race and nation. The proposed transgression is at disposal, because it is not told as a successful story in which Wilma sees the truth after the revelation of Daniel Pagensteiner (who is also a ‘DichterPriest’). Even worse, the repetition of such dialogues on the following 1400 pages is a crucial point. Lenz Prütting for example states that Zettel’s Traum adopts at some points “the character of a delusional compulsory exercise in interpreting” Edgar Allan Poe’s texts. Reading, although comical, is playful torture which should lead the way to freedom in its most complete form, which means for literature always anticipating and evading meaning in order to give the reader the full responsibility and workload of understanding. Finally, the reader herself learns at the same time how to read landscaped in their double role – within this technique, Bottom’s Dream itself gets vulnerable, analyzable; this text can be played as well as it can play you. But what are the rules of this game?
Writing and the Experience of Limits
Writing and the Experience of Limits is the English translation of essays by Philippe Sollers that were published in different contexts. The first publication took place in the Tel Quel review around 1964-1967, having Sollers as an editor. At this time, the review’s discourses started evolving “from a sense of literature tel quel, ‘such at it is’, through a notion of ‘avant-garde’ practice, gesturing then towards some form of ‘scientific’ analysis.” This evolvement was at this time barely in its infancy, when Tel Quel as a ‘group’ was merely starting to have “demarcated identity”; according to Ffrench’s and Lack’s distinction between several ‘moments’ at which the program of Tel Quel changed, this first ‘scientific’ period lasted until approximately 1975.
Shortly before the 1968 outbreaks in France, most of the texts from Writing and the Experience of Limits were published as Logique de la Fiction, contrasting his novel Nombres, which fits to the thinking of literature analysis as a practice. Adequately, the motto of the book, which is also written in the English version (but not translated), is: “C’est de toutes parts et de toutes façons qu’un monde en mouvement veut être changé” – and the first part of the following Prolegomenon is titled ‘Writing and Revolution’. In an improved version, Logique was published again in 1971 as L’Ecriture et l’expérience des limites.
The evolvement to ‘science’ is portrayed by Ffrench and Lack as a rhetorical one that used the initial discourses of Marx, Freud or Saussure critically as “discourses which initiate an epistemological break with the past and construct themselves through this critique; a rhetorical the same as Joyce’s enveloping of multiple languages within his writing” – and here, we come to the idea of a rupture nearer to what gets developed by Sollers in reflections on Lenin, Marx, Engels and specified on an anti-canon of Dante, Sade, Mallarmé, Bataille, Kafka and others (but not Arno Schmidt). The revolutionary practice is a link of semantical and political action; also, both depend on each other.
Out of the late collection of papers, one text stands out. “The Roof: Essay in Systematic Reading” connects the crucial points of materiality, practice and science with the involvement of discontinuity and continuity in one movement of thought.
The initial observation named is ‘typical modern’: The “normal man” had to deal medially and pragmatically with highly complex, contradictory and discontinuous issues and things, but the most affecting medial scandal that made people hit the streets was the archaic violation of tombs – a possibly continuous item, an assaulted “parody of immortality”. Sollers argues that the reason for this situation is that “The transition from the discontinuous (from the significant world comprised of individuals and things) to the continuous (manifested by death, violence, revolutions is part of the fundamental play of prohibition and transgression.”
In order to make prohibition and transgression visible, Sollers opens a metaphor by Bataille, the ‘temple roof’, from where all differences, relations and spaces could be seen – this metaphysical ideal conception is (fortunately) not achieved as a permanent state in this text, but used to make clear that two kinds of pairs can be seen. On one side, there is pseudo-transgression, carrying prohibition always on its backside, i.e. leisure (that depended on work), a ‘return to nature’ (that depended on urban spaces) or drugs (that depended on soberness):This is the organ of repetition insofar as it conditions, like so many ‚moves‘ [‚coups‘] in the play that governs it, the possibility of passing from a state of belief and internal division to a thought that would know, with an irrational knowledge, that it alone is responsible [en cause], that in itself it conjoins the compliticity and interaction of opposites, that it is, in sum, the basis of conscious selection.
On the other side, there is something that could be called pseudo-prohibition but is set differently. It plays the role of the ‘pure signifier’, the ‘meaning’ – “the world of discourse is prohibition’s mode of being”, not regarding that “we never speak about anything, but with (or at the same time as) something”. And in opposition to this kind of prohibition, a new way of transgressing emerges: “A transgression that would recognize the necessity of the prohibition to which it is linked – as history, insofar as this prohibition alone makes transgression possible by ensuring a hold on the ground where transgression takes place [doit jouer].”
The space where history and transgression meet is a literary one, a modern one, historically defined by a ruptural multiplicity of meanings; carrying inner experience, but also serving as a corporal trace; also recalling histories and histories of ‘perversions’ as well as the different incarnations of ‘man’; but still this “modern literature is haunted by this real dimension, so much so that the body has become the fundamental referent for its violations of discourse”. This bodily violation of discourse brings materiality and revolution together.
Its historical (and therefore foreshadowing a new scientific approach in history) form is set within eroticism, connecting rupture and structure: “The principle of all erotic activity [la mise en oeuvre érotique] is a destruction of the structure of the closed being which, in its normal state, is a participant in this play . . . . “ and, taking it back into a revolutionary stream: “The point is to bring as much continuity to the interior of a world based on discontinuity as that world can sustain.” Nevertheless, eroticism also has to find itself in a crisis because it is still formulated by objects that cannot be allowed to become “erotic objects” since this “detour” would afford a detour through death – when the body loses its status as a subject, it becomes a corpse.
This problematic effect becomes enclosed and practically possible by the technique of writing; at the same time, Sollers’ text becomes metaphorical, transforming the erotic play, as the author “retraces signs, like ideograms, on the inside of his hand: ‚[…] this hand that writes is dying, and through the certainty of death, it escapes the limits accepted in writing (accepted by the hand that writes, but refused by the one that dies).‘” The traces left were dead signs and only reading them lets the ‘two hands’ “for a moment, in their swiftly effaced contradiction, become the emblem of this ‚roof‘ of writing that only an other may finally observe: ‘Whoever you are who read me: take your chance [joue ta chance]. As I do, patiently, just as in the instant I am writing, I play you.‘”
At this point, a circular movement seems to be closed, still being obliged to see the world from a roof with two slopes, having to categorize in differences that make their opposites invisible. Thus, it is important to highlight the performative aspect of this reading-technique: One exposes oneself to the text, searching for differences, then seeing oneself in an erotic relationship, then avoiding ‘death’ in literature through getting again on a roof – but a different one, at least in time. The possibility of emergence persists in this change of the theoretical roof through confrontation with literature. But also, it should not be dismissed that on the way, historical and revolutionary possibilities become visible – as, in the end, social phenomena or techniques in between reading literature and perceiving reality. In Julia Kristeva’s reading of Sollers’ novel H, she pointed out that His a music that is inscribed in language, becomes the object of its own reasoning, ceaselessly, and until saturated, overflowing, an dazzling sense has been exhausted. H asks for nothing – no deciphering, at any rate, no commentaries, no philosophical, theoretical, or political complement that might have been left in abeyance, unseen and forgotten. H sweeps you away.
This reading experience is opposite to how I have proposed to read Bottom’s Dream: Where H may be a pleasuring read, Schmidt’s book hurts, kidnaps and makes deadly serious fun of his readers. All the signs, detours from standard orthography and the simple plot (so it doesn’t even give you the choice of saying: ‘It is hard to read’) makes fun of the reader who searches for meaning: “Man is but an ass if he go about to expound this dream” (BD,7), cites Arno Schmidt Shakespeare in the motto.
But as the same movement is detected within a contrast, one has to acknowledge that the environment in which Zettel’s Traum was thrown, not only the specific German environment, but West-Germany, trying to be international, trying to play a powerful role in the Cold War by establishing atomic power, atom bombs and a technically advanced German army. It was the time of the ‘Wirtschaftswunder’ in which former Nazis could still work in high political positions and international economical boundaries made the growing middle class free from accusation of nationalism whereas national stereotypes as incorporated in Wilma still were able to control social orders: And literature was not a freeing power; the Group 47 played in this regard the historical role of a conservative literary monopole. In this contrast, the role of Schmidt as an outstanding outsider itself could be seen as artistic; of forming a space for living outside an overwhelming power of pseudo-transgression.
But as the relationship between author and book, especially in this seemingly obvious case, is a highly complex one, the relation to possible fields of action may be drawn out of the pages. The stepping through a barbed wire fence in the beginning of the book gets repeated later, when the four protagonists return to Daniel Pagensteiner’s house and have to cross a garden door which is surrounded by barbed wire. Whereas Paul plucks a string and naively listens to the deep sound, which leads to a reflection of resistibility of a fence in winter (if it’s too tight and therefore sounding high, the cold ruptures it), Daniel comes to the result “that it mite well be a considrubble art to lock yourself in at the rite moment”(BD, 339).
Then, Franziska and Daniel start, as often in the book, to flirt, encoded in a conversation about a cat sitting on the garden door; Wilma interrupts the flirting and Daniel tries to drive the talk back to analyzing Poe through erotically framed cat-motives; but as Daniel starts ‘teaching’ Wilma the ‘truth’ about Poe, she announces a truly justified obstacle, as her speech position gets often degraded with the justification, she had to act – and just listen to the men’s conversation – like a woman: “’f You=two could kéép from=instructing & correcting Me for just 1 minute ? : that’d be something vèry=special”, then taking Daniel back to the question of the reason for locking himself up:You managed to elude Me very cleverly Dän – (once=again ; You were a master at it even as a lad) – but isn’t it really a minor psy=riddle : how You, (seeing as You both endured such awful things as pris’ner’s of war, behind barbwire, over the course of many hundreds of days !) how it is, then, that Yóu can even bear this wire cagery; ? no : how Y’ could’ve laid it around You ? ! « (BD, 339)
But Daniel answers evasively, saying that he slept in a cot with bars; psychological talk is used also as an obscuration. But what is striking about this passage is that the barbed wire has lost its spatial expression; once inside, the reader is not allowed to see the wire that’s surrounding him, because this network of relations is the multiplicity of meaning.
Being locked up, taking over as well as analyzing the voyeur’s position in the character of Poe (but also Daniel goes peeping several times) is the specific position for a narrator both inside and outside the story he is telling. Distance plays insofar a crucial role, as its design avoids or keeps the enigma of uncertainty; as well the technical alienation of view through, i.e. binoculars or panoramas may create a multiplicity of meaning going hand in hand with a transgression: a sensual rupture. In both bondage and voyeurism, Sollers and Schmidt meet again, which leads me to the last point of coupling Sollersian thought with Zettel’s Traum: The bodily experience incorporated in the text.
1961 Le Parc, a novel by Philippe Sollers was published; its orthography is standardized, but the general design fits the precepts of the nouveau roman, as it is a fluid description of the house on the other side of a street, the park beneath and the people moving inside; but no names are told, a world of distance is created, as Foucault analyzes: “For this world of distance is in no sense that of isolation, but of a proliferation of identity, of the Same at the same point of bifurcation, or on the curve of its return.” But this world is radically worn out by its narrator, finding a crucial expression in a blank space in the middle of the book, as the narrator closes his eyes and it is written:“It is five o’clock in the morning. Open, then shut, they should have seen the close whiteness of the pillows that my cheek rubs against as I wake.”
It happens inside the relished measuring of visibility that the words vanish to give transgression a corporal space within a referential network and the same time it directs to the perceptive reality and the death of meaning; blank space is the erotic detour of writing. A similar move happens in Zettel’s Traum: The narrators suffers a heart attack; the erotic detour (followed by a kiss from Franziska!), the corporeal text is expressed by pain, reflecting a different historical and discursive position:
Zettel’s Traum takes the other side of the fundamental transgression, making text hurting, going through a near-death experience so that it is not hard to say that a masochistic reading, a reading that understands the eroticism in textual obstacles and therefore not only tries to solve the enigmas, but as well captures them, moves them to a certain point where subjectivity becomes fluid, as near to death as possible, as real as possible. On the other hand, this is a quote from Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy – the most present part of the book, depicting what is meant, is still interwoven.
The narrator wake by being kissed by Franziska; a few pages before this passage, Daniel Pagenstecher explains, why he never sent letters to her:
Give me Mittageisen
Despite the contradictory affinity of early Tel-Quel-thought and Zettel’s Traum, the most affirming sentence about left-winged political movements in Zettel’s Traum is that “in comparison with the word ‘catholicism’, ‘communism’ sounds like FREEDOM!” Although there were also in Germany revolutionary movements, Christa, an in Bottom’s Dream always absent friend of Franziska, epitomizes contemporary critical and deliberating thought; it is her sentence that gets quoted twice by Franziska: “Give me FANTA or give me DEATH.” This phrase refers to Patrick Henry’s speech emphasizing the American War of Independence, having substituted ‘Freedom’ for a soft drink-brand that was invented in Germany (originally, it was produced with whey), when the German brand of Coca Cola went out of Cola in the Nazi-Era, because of embargos.
It is not only the economical linkage and complicity between the ’68-movements and neoliberal individualism that makes this change from today’s perspective interesting for further research, especially for the end of Zettel’s Traum, where the locked-up group perceives the world through media. It is also that Fanta was invented in Germany during World War II, as the basic material for Coca Cola was missing and the name derives from fantasy: From this point on, the fight in the field demarcated by fantasy and reality, is the revolutionary field. Or, as Brinkmann recalls Burroughs around ’68:
Who has dated the political consciousness up to which time? A grotty, shabby and demised humanism … an ‘idea’ of man that stands before ‘man’ and clouds everything … yellowed photographs .. “and what is it that the phantom cops shout from Chicago to Berlin, from Mexico City to Paris? We are REAL REAL REAL! Real as this rubber truncheon! While they feel in their clouded, animal way, that reality slips away from them.”
Therefore, locking-up as a literally movement in-between picturality and textuality forms not a fundamental transgression that could change the order: But a fundamental, nearly masochistic prohibition that shows the power its uncontrollability. In this regard, the literary text shifted the theoretical approach, although still being read in the latter realm: like my beginning hypothesis demanded.
At last, it is important to name the uncommented things and the necessity for further and methodical connected research on Bottom’s Dream: There are points that came up in my article, but should not get generalized; instead they should get validated in further attempts of. There are for example the role of gender and chauvinism against Wilma, the question of how far the love between Daniel Pagensteiner’s and Franziska is morally acceptable.
Can these irritating points be read in a masochistic light so their harmful existence in the text leads to an inversion of the idea? I would not be too fast and too sure with that. The proposal I gave may be a starting point for further research, but has to be brought to its limits, where it gets ruptured and new ways of reading are made. There is hard work still to do in order to reach that turn. And beyond that, even more.
 Arno Schmidt, Bottom’s Dream. Translated by John E. Woods. Berlin: Suhrkamp 2016, 7. Following, cited as “BD, [page]”
 Jörg Drews, “Arno Schmidt: ‘Zettels Traum’. Ein Kommentar.” In: Bargfelder Bote (1974) Lieferung 9, 15.
 David Hayman, „Some writers in the wake of the Wake”. In: Scott Anderson & David Hayman (eds.), In the wake of the Wake. University of Wisconsin Press 1978, 19.
 ibid. 11.
 Arno Schmidt, “Vorläufiges zu Zettels Traum”. In: Lesungen, Interviews, Umfragen.(=BA/Supplemente, Bd. 2) Bargfeld: Edition der Arno Schmidt Stiftung im Suhrkamp Verlag 2006, 34. Translated by myself.
 The main thoughts of this text came up in the seminar literary theories held by David Vichnar in winter term of 2014/15 at Charles University; later, I developed the thoughts for a German article in the Bargfelder Bote, a project alike A Wake Newslitter, and got published as “Zettel’s Traum und Tel Quel im Kontrast” from which I retranslated parts for this text. cf. Bargfelder Bote, Lfg. 397-398, Februar 2016, pp. 3-25.
 Arno Schmidt, Bottom’s Dream. p. 20.
 The radio session was noted by his wife Alice Schmidt, firstly published 1977, in the complete works it is at: Arno Schmidt, Lesungen, Interviews, Umfragen. Bargfeld: Edition der Arno Schmidt Stiftung im Suhrkamp Verlag 2006 (=Bargfelder Ausgabe. Supplemente Bd. 2). p. 31-72.
 Jörg Drews, Arno Schmidt: “Zettels Traum”, Seite 1 (ZT 4).. See also: Lorenz, Christoph F.: Leitmotivik als tektonisches Prinzip im Spätwerk Arno Schmidts. In: Arno Schmidt. Hrsg. von Heinz Ludwig Arnold. München: Edition text + kritik 1986. S. 141–159 p. 146. See also this Blog, which is a commenting reading of ZT that stopped after the first pages, by Fränzel, Marius: Zettel‘s Traum lesen. http://www.zettels-traum-lesen.de/ (accessed 19.02.2015).
 The luminary of bulls is associated with the titan Helios, as it is named in a text called “The attempt of making Finnegans Wake readable”. It perfectly points out the difficulties of following the intertextual threads: Here it goes from ZT to a text by Schmidt in which he creates four voices (with different opinions) analyzing Finnegans Wake, in this case with Campbell and Robinsons Skeleton Key to Finngegans Wake at hand, leading back to a certain interpretation of mythology. Schmidt, Arno: Der Triton mit dem Sonnenschirm. (Überlegungen zu einer Lesbarmachung von FINNEGANS WAKE von James Joyce). In: Bargfelder Ausgabe. Eine Edition der Arno-Schmidt-Stiftung. Zürich: Haffmans 1991. S. 31–70. p. 43 (due to space reasons, I give only my translation: “And I haven’t understood what ‘búlly famous’ shall mean untill today . . . . . (suddenly enlighted): or maybe ‘bulls’; the ‘cattle of Helios’? And may it be only because German translators always say ‘oxen oft he sun’.“
 Gunar Ortlepp & Arno Schmidt, Gunar Ortlepp über Arno Schmidt: “Zettels Traum”. APROPOS: AH!; PRO=POE. In: Der Spiegel (20.4.1970). http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-44944192.html (17.2.2015). S. 225–233. p. 225: orig.: „Ich würde empfehlen: Der kluge Rezensent sagt ein Jahr lang gar nichts. Er sagt nur, daß es so etwas gibt.“ [transl. by myself, T.K.]
 Friedhelm Rathjen, Arno Schmidt lesen! Orientierungshilfe für Erstleser und Wegweiser im Literaturdschungel. 1. Aufl. Emmelsbüll-Horsbüll: Edition ReJoyce 2014 (=Edition ReJoyce 52). p. 157. [orig. German; transl. by myself, T.K.]
Bargfelder Bote (2016). Lieferung 400.
 Jan-Frederik Bandel, “’Mirror, mirror on the wall …’ Lewis Carroll, Arno Schmidt, Abraham Ettleson und die Komik des Verstehens.” In: Kultur & Gespenster 17, Spring 2016. pp. 259-281, 260. Transl. by myself. Original: „Und Arno Schmidt hat mir seiner “Studie über Wesen, Werk & Wirkung Karl May’s”, Sitara und der Weg dorthin (1963), dann vor allem in seinem monumentalen Theorieroman Zettel’s Traum (1970) nun nicht fiktiv entstandene, sondern bibliografisch fassbare Texte erst von May, dann von Edgar Allan Poe einer durchaus „wild“ zu nennenden Psychoanalyse unterzogen ( mit den bekannten Resultaten, May habe in seinen Werken Symptome seiner Homosexualität, Poe etwas komplexere eines koprophilen voyuerismus abgebildet, analytisch fassbar in Landschaftsbeschreibungen, Figurenkonstellationen usw., vor allem aber in einer unbewusst aufgeladenen Sprache, in, wie es in Sitara heißt, „charakteristischen, verräter=rischen buchstabeneinschleichlingen …, den fonetischen Karikaturen, den Wort=nicht=wurzeln sondern=alräunchen unbeaufsichtigt vagabundierender Vorstellungen“). Wenn sich Schmidt dabei, in einer Art Postskriptum zu seinem May-Buch, als „ausgesprochener Klarglas=Witzbold“ zu erkennen gibt, so doch ausdrücklich nur, insofern er, komischen Effekten überaus zugänglich, dem „Gemisch von schöpferischer Zertrümmerung & pnatagruelischer Offenbarung“ nicht habe widerstehen können.“
 Arno Schmidt, Zettel’s Traum, 21: „Abkürzungen & Siglen sind dèswegen am Platze, weil sie fast immer unvorbelastet sind.“ Note:.
Addition: Lately, feminist celebrity Alice Schwarzer lauded Arno Schmidt for having invented the capital ‘i’ within words to mark two genders, i.e. ‘heroIne’. Nearly every job-title in German can be gender-neutralized by this, because nearly every job-title is in its traditional form male, but can be inflected with the suffix ‘in’ to make it refer to female persons. Writing the ‘in’ with a capital letter is seen as gender-neutral language, although it could be criticized for not referring to trans- or intersexual identities. Cf. Bargfelder Bote, Lieferung 405-407 (2016), 43.
 cf. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophische Untersuchungen. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 2008 (=Bibliothek Suhrkamp 1372). §43.
 Arno Schmidt, Zettel’s Traum, 181; in Bottom’s Dream: „witchy=cuntry“.
 Lenz Prütting, Eintrag “Schmidt, Arno” in Munzinger Online/KLG – Kritisches Lexikon zur deutschsprachigen Gegenwartsliteratur. http://www.munzinger.de/document/16000000501 Note: translated by myself.
 Ffrench, Patrick & Roland-François Lack, “Introduction.” In: Ffrench & Lack (eds.), The Tel quel reader. London, New York: Routledge 1998, 3.
 Ibd. p. 2.
 Philippe Sollers, “Writing and the experience of limits.” New York: Columbia University Press 1983. 1968 (=European perspectives). Translation by myself: „It depends on every parts and ways that a moving world wants to be changed.“
 Ffrench, Patrick & Roland-François Lack, “Introduction,” 4.
 Philippe Sollers, “The Roof: Essay in Systematic Reading.” In: Writing and the experience of limits. New York: Columbia University Press 1983, 103–134.
 Ibid, 103.
 Ibid, 104.
 Ibid, 104.
 Ibid, 106.
 Ibid, 110.
 Ibid, 110.
 Ibid, 113.
 Ibid, 114.
 Ibid, 115.
 Ibid, 119.
 Ibid, 131.
 Ibid, 132.
 Julia Kristeva, “The Novel as Polylogue.” In: Desire in language. A semiotic approach to literature and art. New York: Columbia University Press 1980, 159.
 Cf. Hermann Peter Piwitt, “Monstrum mit Monopol? Hermann Peter Piwitt über Lettaus Handbuch ‘Die Gruppe 47’.” In: Der Spiegel (2.10.1967): 174–177.
 The relation of panoramas and literary texts gets extensively reflected. cf. BD, 152.
 Michel Foucault, “Distance, Aspect, Origin.” In: The Tel quel reader, eds. Patrick Ffrench & Roland-François Lack. London, New York: Routledge 1998, 99.
 Philippe Sollers, The Park. New York: Red Dust 1977, 51f.
 Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. Vol. I. London: Dodsley 1760, XII,73f.
 Arno Schmidt, Zettel’s Traum. p. 474 / Z. 468. Orig.: “im Vergleich mit dem Wort ‚Katholizismus‘ klingt ‚Kommunismus‘ immer noch wie FREIHEIT!“
 Ibid, p. 326 / Z. 324 and p. 949 / Z. 882. Orig.: “Gib mir FANTA oder gib mir TOD!“
 Rolf Dieter Brinkmann, Der Film in Worten. Prosa, Erzählungen, Essays, Hörspiele, Fotos, Collagen, 1965-1974. Rowohlt 1982, p. 224. Orig.: “Wer hat das politische Bewußtsein zurückdatiert bis in welche Zeit? Ein mieser, lumpiger abgelebter Humanismus … eine ‚Idee‘ vom Menschen, die vor dem ‚Menschen‘ steht und alles eintrübt … vergilbte Fotos … ‚und was schreien die Phantom-Bullen von Chicago bis Berlin, von Mexico City bis Paris? Wir sind WIRKLICH WIRKLICH WIRKLICH! Real wie dieser Gummiknüppel! Während sie auf ihre trübe tierhafte Art spüren, daß Realität ihnen entgleitet.” Translated by myself.
Elf originale Radio-Essays, 748 Minuten. SWR 1955-1961. Die in Dialogform verfassten Texte sind eigentlich Hörspiele und Auftragsarbeiten für den Rundfunk: Alfred Andersch, ein großer Schmidt-Verehrer, war 1955 Leiter der Redaktion Radio-Essay beim Süddeutschen Rundfunk Stuttgart geworden und bat Schmidt sofort um seine Mitarbeit. Schmidt begriff dieses Angebot zuerst als hochwillkommene Einnahmequelle, dann aber mehr und mehr als Erprobung der von ihm geliebten erdachten Gespräche. Sein erstes Hörspiel behandelte den Hamburger Barockdichter Brockes, die Regie führte Martin Walser. Andersch war vom Text begeistert und verabredete mit Schmidt, alle halbe Jahre einen neuen Essay you ihm zu produzieren. Die Themen schlug Schmidt vor. cpo veröffentlicht jetzt aus dem Archiv des SWR 11 originale Hörspiele aus den Jahren 1955-1961 über Brockes, Klopstock, Moritz, Wieland, Meyern, Karl May, Dickens, die Geschwister Bronte, Oppermann, Tieck und Joyce, in letzterem wirkt Schmidt sogar selbst als Sprecher mit.
Rezensionsnotiz zu Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 25.08.2004
In Buchform lagen Schmidts Schriftstellerporträts, die dieser ursprünglich für den Süddeutschen Rundfunk verfasst hat, längst vor, nun kann man sie auch im Originalton hören, freut sich der "czz" zeichnende Rezensent. Entstanden sind sie Mitte der 50er Jahre, weiß "czz", behandelt werden Autoren zwischen Frühaufklärung (Brockes) und Moderne (Joyce), auch Karl May habe seinen Auftritt oder H.A. Oppermann, an den sich heute niemand mehr erinnern könne. Mit dabei sind noch die Schwestern Bronte, aber auch Moritz, Wieland, Tieck, die, so der Rezensent, in Schmidts Debattierclub wie moderne Intellektuelle agieren. Allgemeiner Zug der Schriftstellerporträts sei überhaupt der platonische Dialog, der sich in einer (fiktiven) Disputation zwischen einem reifen Literaturkenner und seinem eifrigen Adepten entspinnt. Das ganze mit analytischem Witz, ätzender Schärfe und radidramaturgischem Pfiff, schwärmt "czz", kurz: ein unbedingtes Hörvergnügen.
Rezensionsnotiz zu Süddeutsche Zeitung, 05.05.2004
Ha! Arno Schmidt! Willi Winklers Besprechung der "Elf originalen Radio-Essays" gleicht einem einzigen spitzbübisch-freudigen Ausruf - es war wohl so recht nach des Rezensenten Geschmack, was der schelmische "Hermetiker" Schmidt mit seiner gutbezahlten Radiozeit anfing, zur Freude seiner kleinen, aber hochkarätigen Fan-Gemeinde. Nämlich die Großen klein machen ("Weniger Goethe!", "Benn schwatzt!"), und die Kleinen groß. "Nur mindere und vor allem minder geachtete Autoren ließ er gelten", schreibt Winkler und findet das "anstrengend" und großartig: "Durchwachsenes Zeug insgesamt, aber jeder einzelne Text grob gerechnet drei Empire State Buildings über der literaturkritischen Jahreslese 1994-2004." Winkler schwärmt von der Obskurität des Schmidt'schen Kanons, von den "aufwändig instrumentierten Selbstgesprächen", mit denen er die Hörer verblüffte. Und zieht schließlich das Fazit: "Die Adenauer-Ära mochte schlimmste kulturelle Repression sein und ästhetisch so selbstzufrieden wie die Gruppe 47, es gab immerhin die Widerstandszelle Arno Schmidt."Lesen Sie die Rezension bei buecher.de