The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr
Penguin Books Limited
, 1999 - Fiction
- 349 pages
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.