Bottom’s Dream – Arno Schmidt (tr John E. Woods) pages 57-71

I have written four blog posts about “Bottom’s Dream”, initial thoughts, Poe references in the first 35 pages, literary references and a critique of Poe’s “Pym” and the use of “etyms”. I will revert back to a  more standard narrative for a while and cover the riches that are to be found, today I look at the section between pages 57 and 71.

Again, I am attempting to add to the riches revealed at the blog “The Untranslated”, not merely transposing the revelations there.

After our characters have climbed through the barbed wire fence, typographically depicted as two lines of xxxxx across the page, they again discuss Poe and his fondness of Spenser’s “The Faerie Queene”;

? wonder if POE was so fond of this >Fairy Queen< because it’s divided into all those cuntos?

Our characters come to a river where the sixteen year old nubile Franziska and her dumpy mother Wilma decide to go for a swim, already having their swimming costumes on underneath their clothes. They begin to undress.

The far left section of the page (the section dedicated to Poe quotes generally – see my post about the page structure) contains the quote;

>A nice morsel from the see< PYM

Aligned to the description of the women undressing. The centre section of the page (the “action”) is here split into two sections, Franziska on the left, Wilma on the right. Franziska’s undressing is, partially, described;

Her flat but bud=dings sat just beneath her collarbones!); suddenly got 2 shameless little nipple=ups; and contentedly stroked at what public=hairlets she had

Wilma described as;

Toppt by giganticoquette nipploosititties; rite Nude Fawnland, left New Foundlong).

The far right hand side of the page (the literary and cultural references) says

>Island of the Narrthorn Hemisphere<; oval from sheer weight (>>a substantial globe<<, >EIROS & CHARMION<

This refers to the Edgar Alan Poe short story “The conversation of Eiros and Charmion”, which opens with the epigraph “Πυρ σοι προσισω” “I will bring fire to thee” from  Euripides. The story is a conversation between Eiros and Charmion, in the afterlife, talking of the destruction of humankind by a comet inflicting a raging fire upon earth;

What minor evils might arise from the contact were points of elaborate question. The learned spoke of slight geological disturbances, of probable alterations in climate, and consequently in vegetation; of possible magnetic and electric influences. Many held that no visible or perceptible effect would in any manner be produced. While such discussions were going on, their subject gradually approached, growing larger in apparent diameter, and of a more brilliant lustre. Mankind grew paler as it came. All human operations were suspended.

The references to Newfoundland, or to women swimming or female body image I could not find, although an enjoyable short “science fiction” story written at a time where the Great Comet was filling headlines, and Biblical prophesies about the world being destroyed by fire;

Yet another day — and the evil was not altogether upon us. It was now evident that its nucleus would first reach us. A wild change had come over all men; and the first sense of pain was the wild signal for general lamentation and horror. This first sense of pain lay in a rigorous constriction of the breast and lungs, and an insufferable dryness of the skin. It could not be denied that our atmosphere was radically affected; the conformation of this atmosphere and the possible modifications to which it might be subjected, were now the topics of discussion. The result of investigation sent an electric thrill of the intensest terror through the universal heart of man.

Sometimes the connections between the main text and the references are not easily solved, however that is part of the thrill of reading this work, read a paragraph (if the sections can be called that) and head off and read something else to get the link or a deeper understanding of the message. Other readers may find the “Eiros & Charmion” link, I did not.

Whilst Wilma and Franziska swim, Dan and Paul discuss various works and the etyms contained in them, taking he smuttiness to a new level whilst the women are absent. First up they talk about “Poe’s fav’rut=piece”, “The Bride of Lammermoor”, the discussion is both about the novel by Sir Walker Scott and the Opera “Lucia di Lammermoor” by Donizetti, the opera being based on Scott’s work.

(The novel appeared in 1819: the DONIZETTI=opera in 35)

The debaters disagree with Poe’s assertions claiming it is one of Scott’s weakest pieces “written in a fortnight<< by the by; according to SCOTT’s own account”. When talking of the opera the far left column talks of Anna Cora Mowatt


Poe attending Mowatt’s readings and reviewing her writings, the following opening appearing in the “Godey’s Lady Book” June 1846, “The Literati of New York City – No. II” (Written by Poe)

Mrs. Mowatt is in some respects a remarkable woman, and has undoubtedly wrought a deeper impression upon the public than any one of her sex in America.

She became first known through her recitations. To these she drew large and discriminating audiences in Boston, New York, and elsewhere to the north and east. Her subjects were much in the usual way of these exhibitions, including comic as well as serious pieces, chiefly in verse. In her selections she evinced no very refined taste, but was probably influenced by the elocutionary rather than by the literary value of her programmes.  She read well; her voice was melodious; her youth and general appearance excited interest, but, upon the whole, she produced no great effect, and the enterprise may be termed unsuccessful, although the press, as is its wont, spoke in the most sonorous tones of her success.

The parallels between Scott’s work and Poe’s are discussed including the tapestries that “rattle there as they do in >Usher<” and the sexual allusions start coming thick and fast, for example the Castle in Scott’s work is called “Wolf’s Crag” which becomes “Vulv’s Crack” using Schmidt’s pen. There is also talk of ‘Naid’s Fountain half EGERIA, half UNDINE” (more on “Undine” later).

Dan and Paul go on to discuss Wilma’s recent voting in a local election for her swimming instructor going on to state “The Swiss’re absolutely rite not to let their women vote”, the left column containing a reference to MUMMY, which is the short story by Poe “Some Words with a Mummy”.

A short story about a late-night revival of a mummy that has been brought from the Libyan mountains to America, the mummy, Allamistakeo, comes to life and speaks. Not simply a piece commenting on Egyptology, it also contains biting satire of the current era, excessive drinking and eating. The mummy cannot understand the word ‘politics’  so one of the characters draws a hieroglyphic “ a little carbuncle-nosed gentleman, out at elbows, standing upon a stump, with his left leg drawn back, his right arm thrown forward, with his fist shut, the eyes rolled up towards Heaven, and the mouth open at an angle of ninety degrees.”

The conversation continues with explanations to the mummy about many “modern” items to see if the Egyptians had similar, or better learnings or examples:

We then spoke of the great beauty and importance of Democracy, and were at much trouble in impressing the Count with a due sense of the advantages we enjoyed in living where there was suffrage ad libitum, and no king.

The link to the suffragette movement and the passing comment about Wilma’s vote for her swimming instructor.

The sexual discussions on etyms continues between Dan and Paul and they discuss Poe’s overuse of the word “crystal” and the possible subconscious reasons for such, including an extensive discussion about the possible etyms;


Further discussions take place about Wilma and Franziska swimming and there is a reference to Phryne, allegedly the model for the statue ‘Aphrodite of Knidos” the first nude statue of a woman from ancient Greece. She was also mentioned by Athenaeus as stipping naked and stepping into the sea during the festivals of the Eleusinia and Poseidonia. Her trial is also mentioned by Schmidt, with Hypereides defending her, apparently charged with impiety. When it seemed as if the verdict would be unfavourable, Hypereides removed Phryne’s robe and bared her breasts before the judges to arouse their pity. Her beauty instilled the judges with a superstitious fear, who could not bring themselves to condemn “a prophetess and priestess of Aphrodite” to death. They decided to acquit her out of pity. There are various repudiations of these facts, however given the sexual allusions to young Franziska swimming the references to her beauty and nudity are quite probably the references that Schmidt is alluding to.


By Jean-Léon Gérôme – Uploaded by Popszes on 19 February 2006., Public Domain,

The women then finish their swimming and get undressed, changed, behind some “(very near & sparse) willo brushes”. This aligns to a reference to Poe’s Poem “Eulalie – A Song”

With the moon-tints of purple and pearl,
Can vie with the modest Eulalie’s most unregarded pearl.

Again the middle section is split with Franziska on the left and Wilma on the right, the poetry references aligns with Franziska “beginning of a browninsh pelt” and a further Spenser “The Faerie Queene” reference “>from her yellow haere/christalilne humour dropped down apace<”. Dan’s sexual obsessions with the young Franziska coming to the fore here.

She needs her hair combed and asks Dan, this simple request in Schmidt’s hands becomes;

She was alreddy, mutely, handing me a footlong coalblack comb with an awfullotta teeth; knellt vestally; and held her lo’erd head to me; (subMissively : Your victim! : coif to Your fill!)

The discussion then turns to their favourite books, works, Paul says “New Organon” by Lambert, (Neues Organon by Johann Heinrich Lambert), Franziska mentions a work of art, Raphael’s “Madonna Sixtina”


Before we learn of Dan or Wilma’s favourite works there is a long discussion about Poe’s favourite book, “Undine” by Fouqué and a long discussion about all the possible etyms, it finally becomes “Undone by fuck”.

Later in the week I’ll review Fouqué’s work, a 17th century German Romantic fairy tale.


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