Bottom’s Dream – Arno Schmidt (tr. John E. Woods) Pages 141-170


More of my journey into the realms contained in Arno Schmidt’s “Bottom’s Dream”, it’s been three weeks since my last update on my progress and in that time I’ve managed to make it through a whole twenty-nine pages!!!

I’m onto Book II, “In The Company of Trees”, and the butterfly theme continues straight off the bat, the section opening with “A satyr asaunter” and as Dan, our narrator, undoes a button on his short, he welcomes the ladies to do likewise, the sexual banter between him (in his 50’s) and the sixteen year old nymph Franziska continues, gaining heat each page we encounter. The narrative is unusually simple here with the four characters coming across “the path of Blue Stones”, Dan inviting Franziska to put a large heavy green one in her pouch (not just a simple agate), Wilma continually butting into the conversation, here Franziska urges here to get the “simple stone”. After Franziska finds a fallen bird’s nest there is a long discussion on “moonstones” aligned to a reference “WILKIE COLLINS”, his novel “The Moonstone” published in 1868, another work widely considered to be the first detective novel.

The discussions continue about beliefs during Poe’s era, of volcanic eruptions on the moon, causing precious stones to appear on earth. There is a note “MUSPILLI/ELIE DE BEAUMONT proved in 1831 that the massif in Ceylon’s interior must be part of the moon fallen to earth!”

A warning that we shouldn’t apply our current wisdom to Arno Schmidt’s of 50 years ago, just as our narrators are not to apply their to Poe; “Y’ dare not apply Your wisdom of 1900=sixty=x to POE.”

We learn from this reference and a later reference to Rückert, the 100th anniversary of his death, that the current year is 1966.

Franziska asks if anybody has been hit and killed by a meteor “according to the BRITCANNICA (which surely must kno) and aborigine in Mhow=India was struck dead by 1 in 1827)”

The moon eruptions are referenced to Poe’s “The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall” (a story that appeared in Section I – a balloon traveller to the moon), this reference contains quotes from the story about moon eruptions.

With the sexual allusions continuing, Franziska sings “To linger at Your side would not be right: yet gazing from afar is wrong!”…Dan commenting…”wading in the highest grass ; had raised her skirtlet (& offered Me newditty so dainty : ?)”. Here is the reference to the poems of Friedrich Rückert, I scanned to poems that are published on line, at poemhunter, but couldn’t find the specific reference, although all his poems published there are about adoration, and love.

Our four characters during their walk climb a “plankt chamberlet” to admire the view (more on these structures can be found at The Untranslated’s blog). The view leads to a lengthy discussion on the etymology and Poe’s usage of the word “panorama”.

There is a history of pamorames, diorama, mareoamas, cycloramas, pleoramas and more, with a reference to Jules Verne’s “Voyage Au Centre de la Terre” and a panoramic reference on P111 (this would of course depend on the edition of Verne’s book that you are reading!!!

The ongoing debate of etyms, the subconscious use of words, is used on the word “panorama”, here is a snapshot of such taken from page 168 (BD):

panoramaIn 1792 “ROBERT BARKER of EDINBURUGH built the world’s first PANORAMA”.

We then have a discussion about waxworks “CHARLES DICKENS, > Master Humphreys Clock< : Whix=is véry important!<<”

And Don Quixote enters our narration with a discussion of the farce where Don Quixote enters an inn mistaking it for a castle, with damsels awaiting him. Back to Poe and links to the stories “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains” and that leads onto “Landor’s Cottage”.

The last twenty-nine pages not as challenging as the first one-hundred and forty, although I’m not 100% sure if that is because I am becoming used to the writing style, or if the tale itself is becoming simplified, or the references to Poe’s works and the quotations are taking up a lot more of the work, it could also be my deeper knowledge of Poe’s stories and poems, or simply know the references and have to look up less!!!

As the journey continues I hope to be able to bring you more frequent updates, it may mean shorter posts, it may mean further distractions from my other reading, which is unfortunately falling behind, my “to be read” piles I have recently savagely culled, adding a focus on more erudite works and Australian poetry. Although I fully intend to participate in reading the longlist for the upcoming Man Booker International Prize and as many works as possible from the Best Translated Book Award, as I do each year. I do have Pierre Senges’ “Fragments of Lichtenberg” (translated by Gregory Flanders) sitting there distracting my dedication to Schmidt, at least that work can travel to and from work with me each day, something to read on my commute. I’m yet to take “Bottom’s Dream” onto the suburban train, I think my backpack it too small anyways!!!



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