The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr

Front Cover
E.T.A. Hoffmann
Penguin Books Limited, 1999 - Fiction - 349 pages
17 Reviews
It was E.T.A. Hoffman (1776-1822) who first explored many of the themes and techniques which were later used by writers from Dickens to Dostoyevsky, Poe to Kafka, Baudelaire to Marquez. His career reached a glorious climax in The Tomcat Murr, perhaps the strangest novel of the nineteenth century. Hoffman was a follower of Cervantes and Sterne, a pioneering 'magic realist', fascinated by Gothic horror, extreme mental states and supernatural events. A talented composer and painter, he portrayed himself in the guise of Johannes Kreisler - the hypochondriac, moody but brilliant musician. In this astonishing book, a vain and very bourgeois tomcat sets out to write his memoirs, using a biography of Kreisler as a blotting pad. By a printer's error, the two lives become spliced together into a bizarre double narrative. A supreme example of literary bravado, The Tomcat Murr is also shot through with the warmth, humanity and almost uncanny ability to captivate his readers which make Hoffmann the greatest of German storytellers.

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Hard to read but definitely worth it. - Goodreads
Also, unsatisfying ending much! - Goodreads
Though ending was very disappointing. - Goodreads

Review: The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr

User Review  - Deanne - Goodreads

Good but it could have been better if the two stories didn't keep breaking off when the story was getting interesting. The story about the music master was the more convoluted plot, with strange characters and plot devices which appear frequently in books of this age. Read full review

Review: The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr

User Review  - Hugh Ashton - Goodreads

A truly extraordinary book. It appeals to my sense of a fiction within a fiction, which is a device I've used myself for my Sherlock Holmes books, and I've always enjoyed this sort of complexity. The ... Read full review

About the author (1999)

Anthea Bell translated E. T. A. Hoffman's The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr for Penguin Classics and has received a number of translation awards.


Anthea Bell translated E. T. A. Hoffman's The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr for Penguin Classics and has received a number of translation awards.


Jeremy Adler is Professor of German at King's College London. He studied German at Queen Mary College (University of London) and was a Lecturer in German at Westfield College before being awarded a Personal Chair. He is a sometime fellow of the Institute of Advanced Study, Berlin, and a sometime scholar of the Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel. He has written a book on Goethe's novel The Elective Affinities (1987) and (with Ulrich Ernst) has produced a catalogue of visual poetry, Text als Figur (third edition, 1990). He has published several volumes of poetry, including The Wedding and other Marriages (1980), The Electric Alphabet (1986; second edition, 1996, internet edition, 1997) and At the Edge of the World (1995). Jeremy Adler is married and lives in London.

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