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!!!



Bottom’s Dream – Arno Schmidt (tr. John E. Woods) Pages 96-141

It is probably fitting that my first post for 2017 is another progress update on Arno Schmidt’s “Bottom’s Dream”, considering I intend to continue my reading journey through this literary revelation, it will probably take up a substantial amount of my 2017 posts. As I have posted in the past though, I will only add what I feel is relevant content over and above the magnificent resource at “The Untranslated” blog , for context I will of course cover some similar content.

Where I left you last time, I was at page ninety-five (of 1,496!!!) and the reference to Edgar Allan Poe’s “Mesmeric Revelation”.

I say that these – which are the laws of mesmerism in its general features – it would be supererogation to demonstrate; nor shall I inflict upon my readers so needless a demonstration to-day. My purpose at present is a very different one indeed, I am impelled, even in the teeth of a world of prejudice, to detail without comment the very remarkable substance of a colloquy, occurring between a sleepwalker and myself.

The relevance to “Bottom’s Dream” and the narrative at the time I have completely missed. That is a common occurrence with this work, as you attempt to work out the cryptic references you find many a rabbit hole, or the reference escapes you. It is all part of the immersion.

In the narrative, we have Wilma arguing with Paul and Dan about their drunkenness, of course “POE notoriously loved the bottle to excess, it might very well be that in doing so He kept a latent psychosis tolerable under control”, found in the margin.

There is then a substantial reading and reference to Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Island of the Fay”, a very short story, however we have Wilma taking the lead here, taking Dan’s copy of Poe’s works and pointing out; “for darkness fell over all things, and I beheld her magical figure no more”. We move into an in-depth dissection of this short story, the links to Virgil, the beauty of music alone and they draw the sexual allusions to the wonders of nature.

The Poe expertise coming to the fore as we are advised that the second paragraph of “Fay” is the same argument as the last paragraph of the long prose poem “Eureka”. And the two lines of poetry in Fay, in fact from one of Poe’s own poems “City in the Sea”;

So blend the turrets and shadows there
That all seem pendulous in air, _ _ _
While from a proud tower in the town
Death looed gigantically down.

This becomes;

So blended bank and shadows there,
That each seemed pendulous in air –

A discussion takes place about where “Fay” is situated, some historians believe Babylon, however when they ask the Biblically educated Franziska, she claims “SODOM & GOMORRAH”, a link to Poe’s poem “Al Aaraaf” (Section II) “Of beautiful Gomorrah! O, the wave/Is now upon thee – but too late to save”

More discussions about Fay, including how Poe always refers to circular river islands (in Rodman, Landor, Pym and Fay), which are “downrite impussibilities”. Is Poe referring to the “Isles of Circe”?

Dan then draws a chart in the sand, explaining Poe’s writings;


The diagram is used to explain how “Fay” moves through the phases cosmology, wanderer, landscape, flora. The same progress in “The Domain of Arnheim”. For “The Facts in the case of M. Valdemar” it moves from sickness to cosmology. “Landor’s Cottage”, wanderer, landscape, flora fauna. “The Fall of the House of Usher” from voyeur (wanderer), landscape, flora fauna, population and death.

We also have the narrator, Dan presenting his theory of the human psyche, “According to GOETHE’s >Faust<” there are two agents, “According to FREUD of 3…”, according to Dan himself, once “circa=50” there are 4!

A reference to “The night thoughts of midwife Walter Vierneissel anent his lost foetus=ideal, whereby he became naught but a man.< JEAN PAUL” an essay by Jean Paul Friedrich Richter. In that work the writer comes across a wunderkid Christian Heinrich Heineken, who only lived for four years but managed to write a book about Danish history aged three – (“some sorda sharp 3-year-old, with a novel inside”) – thanks to Matt at Goodreads for the link here.

The drawing on the sand of Poe’s writing journey is then used by Dan to cast a spell on Wilma, Paul and Franziska, they are put inside the magic circle, Dan spouts about “an exceedingly rare & curious bbookk in Quarto Gothic” and then recites the following poem


Wilma, Paul and Franziska are then turned into horses, a discussion between “The Old Woman” (Wilma) and “The Young Woman” (Franziska) ensues, generally about stud horses.

Sigmund Freud enters the fray again with a reference “that by >talking it out<, writing it down etc, one can free oneself from all sorda things? So that the ejaculation of a short story? : Would mean the jettisoning of a complex.:?<<” Note – Question marks in the text can have reference to human movement, twisting back and forth between two people in discussion.

“Naiades” make an appearance in the side column, the freshwater nymphs of Greek mythology, their relevance unknown to me, no specific reference to “Undine” the other water nymph featuring heavily in the opening pages, appeared to me, however it could be hidden in the depths of the text.

The Poe translators and their daughter do return to human form. Wilma, with one of her numerous rebuttals;

>>Are You nòt=aware that many poets place positive value on writing >automatically<? That is, on letting their subcon become visible & productive?<< . / (I am aware of it, my angel; but I do not hold the process in high esteem.)/-):

We then have a discussion about Poe’s overuse of the word “lolling”, as these revelations are highlighted they change your reading of Poe and all of a sudden you also notice the over use of certain words “crystal”, “lolling”, Schmidt changing your own perception and reading habits.

Moving onto Poe’s “William Wilson” and there is a reading – to display Poe’s dislike of his own name (there is also a reference to “SCHMIDT”!!!)

Further discussions about Poe’s favourite books, “Undine” (which I have covered before and did read as part of this immersion), “The Bride of Lammermoor” and “Lalla Rukh” by Thomas Moore (this is a 200 page poem, methinksnot reading this one!!! Maybe if I was retired!!) Dan gives us a precis so that will suffice for now.

Book one “The Horrorfield” ends with Dan giving the young Franziska advice “devote oneself, with discipline & diligence, to the preservation, the understanding (later p’r’aps even the production) of works of art”

The section ending with the interaction;


Thanks to Nathan and Matt at Goodreads for helping me out here, Dan is counting to ten in Wendish, Franziska saying “at the same pace and compass” and “always by my side” in Spanish. A pact between the narrator and his sixteen year old subject of his desires, an orgasmic ending to the travels through the field.

Bottom’s Dream – Arno Schmidt (tr. John E. Woods) Pages 80-95


It has been a few weeks since I posted a “Bottom’s Dream” update, however in that time I have managed to make it through a whole fifteen pages, and I would have kept reading without an update here, however I read back through my notes and thought it was time I put the gibberish onto a page and made it public.

When I last left you, on my BD journey, it was due to Arno Schmidt’s reference to Marie Rogét, a reference to Poe’s short story “The Mystery of Marie Roget”. Here’s a look at that Poe work:

The beautiful Marie, much against the wishes of her mother, works at a perfumery, and goes missing for a week, no reasonable explanation is given, but that soon becomes past news as she again disappears, this time she is found floating in the Seine, a victim of murder. After three weeks of investigations and the posting of an extraordinary sum of thirty-thousand francs as a reward, noting is forthcoming, enter our unnamed narrator, the sidekick of Chevalier Auguste Dupin, a detective character first appearing in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, these two are going to solve out murder.

Poe based the story on the real-life death of Mary Celia Rogers in New Jersey and changed the setting to Paris. A story of deduction, elimination it has many parallels to the tales of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes, although Poe’s first “modern detective story” being “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” this story is considered to be the second.

Prone, at all times, to abstraction, I readily fell in with his humor; and continuing to occupy our chambers in the Faubourg Saint Germain, we gave the Future to the winds, and slumbered tranquilly in the Present, weaving the dull world around us into dreams.

Dreams…a Schmidt favourite…the story is lengthy, originally appearing as three serialised parts in “The Ladies’ Companion” published by William W. Snowden. It is peppered with information drawn from various sources, with newspaper articles reproduced, and includes conspiracy theories, for example the corpse was NOT Marie’s;

… — that Marie, with the connivance of her friends, had absented herself from the city for reason involving a charge against her chastity; and that these friends upon the discovery of a corpse in the Seine, somewhat resembling that of the girl, had availed themselves of the opportunity to impress the public with the belief of her death.

After reading a forty page Poe short story I learn that the “Bottom’s Dream” reference was the analytical methods used and the irrefutable proof of the existence of etyms.

Then begins pages after page of discussions of Poe’s works…Fay, Arnheim, Pym, Rodman, Siope, Landor, Rugged Mountains…the discussion turns to a common theme of wandering, as in a labyrinth, the ship hold in Pym, the lost voyager in Arnheim. Moving through to a discussion about the hero’s state of mind , a “thick + peculiar mist”, further relayed as being part of Poe’s semi-consciousness, his heroes “must be >warmly=foggerd< totally be=>visioned<.” Fog of the mind is referenced in the far right column as “(EUREKA: fuck of the mind” …”Eureka” being Poe’s lengthy prose poem.

The next discussions are on the watery themes in Poe’s works and his favourite colours “sunset=hued red=values” and “>>HE once lived on a >Carmin=Street< in New York -<<…(:’nd maybe the name was I reason for his moving=in there:”…”yellow read values of the spectrum monstrosity of color”.

From colours to scents in Poe’s works, “In fact POE ties together his ideas=&=eldola as if he were predestined:” He is “/(As cautious& diplomatic as LEOPOLD BLUM”. (blum being Bloom the protagonist of Joyce’s Ulysses), now I apologise folks, I’m not heading off and reading Ulysses just because Schmidt makes a few references, if I was to do so it would make this “Bottom’s Dream” journey move into the decades!!!

There is a reference to “>Black Goats among Agave<; picture by EBERHARD SCHOTTER”, an artist friend of Schmidt’s, unfortunately I cannot find an image of the painting on the web, otherwise I would have posted it here. I pass on this titbit of trivial information as it is references like this that lead you on wild goose chases, researching to dead ends or useless facts that do not enlighten you any further.

Whilst these discussions are taking place, our four characters are continuing the ambling journey and whilst walking they come across a cow being led by “2 inditchinous maids” with city folk surely thinking that it is being led to the slaughter, but they are “leading…to her forist=cov’reing<< our characters arriving in a village where the four go shopping, food galore:

Verily, there lay the red giant=wursts; pointed at spectatorettes: 16 inches long, & as thick as a fore=arm! plump to bursting with pure sauce=itch;

Whilst in the store they observe others coming in and shopping, all buying the newspaper “BILD”, some cigarettes, they discuss a drink “you kno bytheby, that >quenche< also means twat?” with the side column letting us know “why in CHAUCER of course”

How is this for something that appears unintelligible? A section features a snippet from a book catalogue


This is aligned to:

Altho as the adage has it, >skioch doch na skiaill< But, evidently, We weren’t being rusht yet?/: >>Just no hurry, <<; (He confirmD.Hmmm-): >>What ‘ve Y’ got left in your gunny-sack?-:<</(HANS SACKS,eh?-(But : do women always stare so étalonic=servicingly?,

From this I have deduced our characters are having an alcoholic drink, however I’ve totally missed the Kant reference. How do I think they’re having a drink? Well “skioch doch na skiaill” is from Walter Scott’s “Bride of Lammermoor – A Legend of Montrose”;

‘Then I don’t like it at all,’ said Bucklaw; ‘So fill a brimmer of my auld auntiews’ claret, rest her heart! And as Hielandman says, Skioch Dock na Skiaill’*
*’Cut a drink with a tale;” equivalent to the English adage of “boon companions don’t preach over your liquor.’

Our tale moves onto theorising about Poe’s superego. References to a “garden” aligned to “The Domain of Arnheim”, another Poe short story where the epigraph opens with “The garden like a lady fair was cut”, this is aligned to a discussion between Paul and Dan where Paul is fiddling with his button hole whilst talking to Frau Schurzfliesh; “He was mentally caressing her buttox, the garden of the >ham=in=spheres<,”

The sexual references do not stop, there is a discussion on “menstrual fragruntses” aligned to a section “(BOYLAN holds out a forefinger:> smell=that!</LENEHAN smells glee-fully: > Ah! Lobster & Mayonnaise; ahh! < JOYCE, >ULYSSES<, 534…))

The poem of Poe’s “Al Aaraaf” is referenced, aligned to a discussion where they talk of a passion to walk naked through life, one day with “that capricious creature” and “one last uninterrupted visitation of those >proud orbs that twinkle<”. Poe’s poem is about a star that was discovered that was more brilliant than Jupiter that appeared for 17 months in 1572 and suddenly disappeared, (a place between paradise and hell).

More references to Poe’s “ignition” words, his second being “sinuous” associated with “>Sinus<? : both breast and loin” or simply “sin” and then marriage, it is “>offending your hole clientell for the sake of one customer<.”

I finished today’s reading at the references to Poe’s short story “Mesmeric Revelation” which I will read and start my next instalment in this lengthy journey. Maybe the next post I will pass page 100!!!



Bottom’s Dream – Arno Schmidt (tr. John E. Woods) Pages 71-80

On the surface, it appears to have been a slow week on the “Bottoms Dream” progress charts, a mere nine pages…at this rate I should be done sometime in 2019!!!

The nine pages of narrative contain further discussions on Poe’s works and a lot more references to “Undine” by Friedrich Heinrich Karl de la Motte, Baron Fouqué, the work I reviewed during the week, “the entire work bubbles=over with the most obfayus water symbolism”. As Arno Schmidt advises (through the narration of Dan) “For one Fouqué there are fifty Molières”.

The debate about Poe’s works contains the instruction “reread, in cold blood, the end of >ELEONORA< sometime: there’s no longer hymnic prose but rather a very culious meowing with a heavily swollen tongue<<”. So, Poe’s “Eleonora” I read:

They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.

A nice early quote to align with Arno Schmidt’s references to Freud’s “Interpretation of Dreams” and to his (narrator Dan’s) theory of etyms.

A story where the narrator tells of his undying love for his cousin Eleonora, although he tells us he is made in later life we are meant to understand that he is sane in the earlier sections of his story. The tale set up for the reader to wonder, what is the source of our narrator’s madness?

The loveliness of Eleonora was that of the Seraphim; but she was a maiden artless and innocent as the brief life she had led among the flowers. No guile disguised the fervor of love which animated her heart, and she examined with me its inmost recesses as we walked together in the Valley of the Many Colored-Grass, and discoursed of the mighty changes which had lately taken place therein.

The valley where our narrator and Eleonora live has become stunning since they have declared their love for each other, voluminous clouds, murmurs that swell, flowers grow where none had been known before, the tints of the green carpet deepen, ruby-red asphodels spring up…the etyms are rife.

SPOLIER ALERT for this short story, another Poe one AND “Undine” – “Eleonora” is the tale of two wives, as is the other Poe references story “Ligeia”.

“Ligeia” opens with an epigraph by Joseph Glanvill, a quote which will be referenced several times throughout the story itself;

And the will therein lieth, which dieth not. Who knoweth the mysteries of the will, with its vigor? For God is but a great will pervading all things by nature of its intentness. Man doth not yield himself to the angels, nor unto death utterly, save only through the weakness of his feeble will.

Very similar to the story of “Eleonora” this story tells of an undying love for Ligeia, whose physical features are described in vivid detail in the opening sections;

Those eyes! those large, those shining, those divine orbs! they became to me twin stars of Leda, and I to them devoutest of astrologers.

Another case of passionate writing about a woman the narrator dearly loves;

Of all the women whom I have ever known, she, the outwardly calm, the ever-placid Ligeia, was the most violently a prey to the tumultuous vultures of stern passion. And of such passion I could form no estimate, save by the miraculous expansion of those eyes which at once so delighted and appalled me — by the almost magical melody, modulation, distinctness and placidity of her very low voice — and by the fierce energy (rendered doubly effective by contrast with her manner of utterance) of the wild words which she habitually uttered.

This story containing the opium infused ramblings of a man grieving through the death of both of his wives, including all the trademark horror we (incorrectly) associate with all of Poe’s works, gothic castles, moving tapestries, flickering shadows, spirits and more.

And to continue the sexual references and Dan’s obsession with the young Franziska, there is a brief discussion about her bedding, which then aligns (in the far-right column) to the following text;


A text that refers again to Fouqué’s “Undine”.

A break in the narration with a new section commenting with “>CROSSING THE BROOK,”, in the far right column there is the following reference “(WILLIAM TURNER; ɪ of my favorites)”



Other literary references abound in the section with discussions with Franziska referring to “Callistris” (which = penis in Rabelais), there’s a passing reference to “those eternally dripping moons” in Poe’s poems and the book by Oppolzer “Canon of Eclipses”, a work published in 1887, which is a compilation of 8,000 solar and 5,200 lunar eclipses between the years 1,270 BC and 2,161 CE. Of course this is a sexual reference, with Dan talking of an eclipse being the same as “>something lacking< – : impotence.”

Further Poe discussions, educational talks to Franziska, as we know our other three characters are all Poe experts, mentioning for Poe it was always summer “winter does not exist”, “even in spots where it should be coldasst, at the pole, it just keeps getting’ hotter!<<” and the fact “>That in His work children appear nowhere & never…<< and “He never assigned a >short’n’plumpy< to be a heroine” – with a reference back to Lady Ligeia again.

We then have two of Poe’s lengthier works references, the prose poem “Eureka” and the story “The Mystery of Marie Roget”, that means a fair amount of Edgar Allan Poe reading over the coming week, two stories not being enough, the other two, more substantial works, are next up on my reading agenda, hence nine pages in a week!!!

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.

Bottom’s Dream – Arno Schmidt (Tr John E Woods) – Etyms

Let’s take a look at the language structure of “Bottom’s Dream”, the narrative is straightforward enough, Paula and Wilma Jacobi, Edgar Allan Poe translators, together with their sixteen-year-old daughter Franziska, visit Poe expert (and narrator) Dan Pagenstecher and they discuss Poe (besides Franziska who adds the occasional comment, but is generally the virginal sexual allure for Dan).

Early in “Bottom’s Dream” Dan argues;


EDIT – I suppose I should attempt a translation or explanation. Dan is telling us that Freud’s “interpretation of Dreams” presents the theory that the subconscious presents words which may have several simultaneous meanings, he calls these new wordlike formations ETYMS. The upper level of the subconscious speaks etym (as a language like English, Wilma calls them “roots”, Peter “homonyms” and Franziska “rhymes”.

Instead of these ‘etyms’ being hidden, as in other works, Arno Schmidt has filled the 1493 pages with sexual references galore, taking other well-known texts and pointing out the subconscious references. To make this explanation a little simpler, here are a handful of examples:

gentitalman, secunts, up=>porn<=tune, I’ve been >stiff< My hole life long.

Esther Yi, has recently referred to this feature of Schmidt’s book in a recent “The New Yorker” article and interview with translator John E. Woods.

Whilst this feature of the work is enjoyable, amusing and provocative it can also come across as plain smutty, and in 2016 as dated, sexist and immature. However, using the theories of Sigmund Freud, more specifically referencing “Interpretation of Dreams” the ‘etym’ theory suddenly pervades all of your reading.

The theory then leads to multiple interpretations of writer’s works, calling into play the author’s character, unconscious influences, of course this book exposing a plethora of Edgar Allan Poe references it is not exclusively tied to such, with almost every page referencing some other work. At this stage I have read a number of other books connected to Poe or referenced in “Bottom’s Dream”, such as “Undine” by Friedrich Heinrich Karl de la Motte Fouqué (a review will be forthcoming), Spenser’s “The Faerie Queene” (Years ago, I’m NOT re-reading it), Tobias Smollett’s “The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker” (I’ve read this a number of times as Smollett was an influence on Dickens and I used to be an avid Dicken’s reader),  I have Jules Verne’s “An Antarctic Mystery”, “The Monikins” by James Fenimore Cooper, of course Sigmund Freud’s “Interpretation of Dreams” to read. I’ve dabbled in numerous works, a couple that I’ve read quite a large selection from are “Dissertations upon the apparitions of angels, daemons, and ghosts, and concerning the vampires of Hungary, Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia” by Augustin Calmet, J.L Stephens’ “Incidents of Travel in Egypt, Arabia, Petraea and the Holy Land”, the internet proving to be a boon for the research.

Onto the narrative front, the four main players here have continued to walk across the “Horrorfield” and have again crossed the barbed wire (as they did in the grand opening on Page 1), this time Dan’s allure to Franziska obviously stated:


See the ‘etyms’ there?

As I posted last time, this is a work so rich with reference a single post per week is hardly sufficient to cover the material, however making the time to write up a post is also a dilemma. I do know of other readers using my journey to assist them through this book, so I will continue to post, so long as it differs from the Untranslated’s material, no point in repeating something just because it’s been published in an different language!

I have also been asked to show a shot of my reading set up. Each time I sit down to read I need the iPad (to reference terms) and have handy various reference books, primarily the full works of Edgar Allan Poe, there is my Moleskine (pink for Schmidt), a pen, and you will note the book itself has two “bookmarks” one to mark the page I’m on, another to mark the part of the page I’m on, I am using a “zettel” at the moment, with a few notes scrawled on it, however that’s also why I have a notebook…oh and I use an old ceramic salt grinder to hold up the book on the left hand side, to stop the spine from splitting.

I have been shopping around for a new desk – madness, buy a book and redesign the house around it!!!



Bottom’s Dream – Arno Schmidt (translated by John E. Woods) – week three


Post number three for my journey through Arno Schmidt’s “Bottom’s Dream” and already I’m thinking that weekly posts are simply not frequent enough. I don’t think an exercise like the amazing read along (alone) conducted by “The Untranslated” would add extra value, as why recreate the same style of notes simply because the book has been published in English?

From a narrative sense the first fifty pages the characters Daniel Pagenstecher (the host and first person narrator – at times), Paul and Wilma Jakobi all argue, debate, Edgar Allan Poe’s works. Meanwhile Paul and Wilma’s daughter Franziska, a sixteen year old virgin, flutters her eyelashes, brushes her hands against Dan, rolls a ring, and generally allures Dan’s sexual urgings. Outside of that it is all labyrinths and wild goose chases, research into obscure texts, a 1,500-page cryptic crossword;

According to Michael Schneider, most research follow’s Schmidt’s own recommended approach to his writings: namely, that the reader should calculate, decipher, and measure the real reference in his texts. According to Lutz Prütting, this approach to his texts, informed by literary realism, has reduced the enigmatic character of Schmidt’s texts to the level of a crossword puzzle for which there is only one solution. (Introduction of Arno Schmidt’s Zettel’s Traum: An Analysis by Volker Langbehn)

and I am not too sure that there is “one solution”, reading this book is a personal experience, where some references will make you jump with joy and delve into some arcane text, other just frustrate you as you don’t even know what they mean, and yet others simply passing you by.

I currently have eighteen pages in one notebook, references or simply snippet’s I’ve enjoyed, and with two blog posts to date I’ve probably covered about six of those pages without going into the depth the work requires.

Today’s post, from a narrative point of view, continues with the theme of Edgar Allan Poe’s only novel “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym” and the references that Poe possibly used, for his fictional travel journal. I will also look at a few other references that have appeared outside of Poe. Another post in the coming days to look at one of the (many) themes.

Last week I simply looked the language of the Tsalal, featured in Pym, the possible connection to Hebrew and how could have Poe known such. This week, more on Pym, where did Poe get the concept, the structure?

There is obviously a raft of research on Edgar Allan Poe, and there may be scholarly learnings that have strengthened or even debunked the theories espoused by Arno Schmidt in “Zettel’s Traum”, originally published in 1970, let’s not forget there was no Google back then.

The conversation between the Poe experts, in “Bottom’s Dream” extends to discussing the similarities between J.L Stephens’ “Incidents of Travel in Egypt, Arabia, Petraea and the Holy Land”, the Preface;

The author has compiled these pages from brief notes and recollections, and has probably fallen into errors in facts and impressions, which his occupations since his return have prevented his inquiring into and correcting. He has presented things as they struck his mind, without perplexing himself with any deep speculations upon the rise and fall of empires; nor has he gone into much detail in regard to ruins.

The preface to “Pym”;

One consideration which deterred me was, that, having kept no journal during a greater portion of the time in which I was absent, I feared I should not be able to write, from mere memory, a statement so minute and connected as to have the appearance of that truth it would really possess, barring only the natural and unavoidable exaggeration to which all of us are prone when dealing with events which have had powerful influence in exciting the imaginative facilities.

The end Note of Stephens’ book containing hieroglyphics:


The end Note of Pym also containing symbols, hieroglyphics, translated as “The region of the south”.

Another connection to the satirical travel novel, is brought to our attention; James Fenimore Cooper’s “The Monikins”. The Monikins, two nations of monkeys living near the south pole (the setting is similar to Pym), the Leaphigh (England) and the Leaplow (United States). The Leaphigh are aristocratic and have long tails, the Leaplow are Republican with docked tails who wear prosthetics when on diplomatic visits. The story is narrated by Captain Noah Poke;

(Just like Capt’n POKE ; (and what might >poke< and >poker< be? , I can only say) ; >>P1 ! – <<

Remember “P1:” refers to Volume One of “A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English”.

James Fenimore Cooper crops up again with a reference to “Leatherstocking” who “dies more’r’less as a virgin”, the Leatherstocking tales being “The Deerslayer” (1841), “The Last of the Mohicans” (1826), “The Pathfinder” (1840), “The Pioneers” (1823)” and “The Prairie” (1827). The main character in the series being Natty Bumppo;

how far along, would Y’say, does a man havta be to baptize his cock o’ the walk >NATTY BUMPOE<?

And the far-left column (remember “P1”);


Which leads me to the “Holes at the Poles” reference, a theory that appears in Pym and is also espoused by Jeremiah N Reynolds in his book “Symzonia: A Voyage of Discovery” more 1820’s fictional travel literature. You can imagine what Schmidt does with the “Holes at the Poles”;

But at the mention of the >South=pole< ev’ry man, at least, senses a >rod=downunder<!)

We do have further discussion about Pym being set in the south, the “nether” regions, the crevices and crannies, whilst the north would have indicated a breast fetish. The “holes at the poles” theory giving Arno Schmidt all of the sexual references he needs to present more and more sexual innuendo. The frequent sexual allusions are linked to Freud, another common thread that is raised throughout, and of course dreams, but more on that in another post.

Another interesting note, Pym, lands on the islands of Tsalal on 19 January (according to his journal), Poe’s birthday, “Ergo the hero is born”.

Outside of comparisons between other contemporary texts and “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym”, a few pages are dedicated to the possible childhood influences on Poe, as he grew up “sitting in his little washbasket resting in the wings”, watching his mother perform, subconsciously the basket becoming the shape and construction as the canoe Pym uses when he escapes the savages. The basket also appearing in Poe’s “The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall”.

This short story is based in Rotterdam where a flying machine, like a “balloon manufactured entirely of dirty newspapers”, “instruments, resembling sheep-bells, which kept up a continual tinkling to the tune of Betty Martin.” Blue ribbons holding a suspended “drab beaver hat” owned by Hans Pfaall who had been missing for five years, presumed dead.

We learn of Pfaall’s disappearance five years previously, in a balloon, charged with a gas whose density is “37.4 times less than that of hydrogen” – (that washbasket manifesting as a balloon basket) – Pfaall’s mission is to fly to the moon.

Hans Phfaall could easily be decoded in Norwegian (aligned with “mast/ubaroty) tree from early childhood ; > we erected (a kind of framework) about the bow…the necessity of a yard (and you can check in P1 as to what >yard< means):”

Other influences on Poe from the theatre are referenced. Did Poe know of Imre Thököly (A Prince of Transylvania), early in “Bottom’s Dream” Dan presents Paul “an old medal commemorating Imre Thököly, a Hungarian noble who led a Protestant uprising against the Austrian Habsburgs.” (from The Untranslated blog), later in our book, Imre=Eymeric (de Gironne) as mentioned in “The Fall of the House of Usher”, Usher’s bookshelves containing ‘Drectorium Inquisitorium”’ by the Dominican Eymeric de Gironne, a work defining witchcraft, describing means to find witches.

Another literary reference… “ETA HOFFMANN”, a Prussian author of horror and fantasy, and Calmet’s “>Dissertation on the Vampires of Hungary<” translated into English in 1750.

Eta Hoffmann apparently attributing the wealth of the characters in his works to impressions and images when travelling in a mail-coach “as a tiny tot at his mother’s breast”

Let’s see if I can make enough time to write up a post about the childhood references, the dream references, Freud and the term “etyms”, the language style. Outside of that I am still thoroughly enjoying the depth of riches this book presents, you cannot read a single page without delving into some other literary work, the mosaic of Schmidt’s “zettels” slowly creating an image, a blurry landscape of knowledge one where the “reader has to search for his or her own truth” (Volker Langbehn).

Bottom’s Dream – Arno Schmidt (translated by John E. Woods) – the first 35 pages

bottomsdreamThirty-five pages into my “Bottom’s Dream” adventure (it starts on page 11) and the number of subjects I could address in my second blog post are many, etymology, etyms (another day), dream analysis, Freud, sexual allusions, slang and so much more all filling my bulging notebook. The book is an absolute wonder of riches, if you take the time to dwell.

Last week I looked more at the structure of the novel, the idiosyncrasies of the language, abbreviations, the connection to Edgar Allan Poe and the other literary references. Today I will explore the Poe link a little further, simply pointing out numerous Poe references that take place between pages 26-42.

As previously mentioned the main characters in “Bottom’s Dream” are Daniel Pagenstecher, an Edgar Allan Poe expert, Paul and Wilma Jakobi, Poe translators, and their sixteen-year-old daughter Franziska. Much of the text I have read to date is taken up with debate amongst the characters about Poe’s writing.

Note – for all of my “Bottom’s Dream” posts it may appear as though there are typos in the quotes, I have transcribed them exactly as they appear in the text, there are numerous word plays throughout, with smaller references to the main text a number of these may not appear relevant, however I will do my best to keep them in tact here.

Since my last post the Poe discussion continues, we have Wilma, on page 26, referring to “QUINN”, who is Arthur Hobson Quinn, author of “Edgar Allan Poe: Critical Biography”. Who is debunked as an “>ordinarius< – (as the pedestrian name itself reveals) – is a >common< man! – nothing more than an >elevated teacher< for tots about 20:”…”Granted, most ‘re well-suited to the cold, wan effrontery of periodically publishing their collected lectures, and having these, rather superfluous, products declared to be books: the frostiest notion ever to come into a paper head.<<”

Two pages later another Poe critic, Marie Bonaparte (“MB from here on”) entering into the debate between Wilma and Paul, whilst, the much older, Dan woos the young daughter Franziska with a magic ring.

>>D’Y” know that scholars ‘ve fallen over=dead? : for joy; upon receiving sev’ral sought:after ref’rence=or other= works just outta the=blue?!<<

A quick reference is then made “Fate, (whose name is also sorrow) HELEN ii)” being a reference to Edgar Allan Poe’s “To Helen” a poem that takes place between midnight and dawn, with a walk in an enchanted garden full of thousands of blooming roses.

Poe’s alcoholism is also brought to our attention, not simply through references to various tales, but through a left column reference:

(H)alcyon daze
alk : elk
alcohol? The old Goth of Germany
would have understood it; who used
to debate matters of importance to
their state twice  : once when drunk
& once when sober – sober that they
might not be deficient in formality –
drunk, lest they should be destitute of
vigour!< (LETTER TO B – . ))

This quote is aligned to one in the far right column, which reads:

FAULKNER / GÜNTER (not Agnes) /
FOUQUÉ (especially in old age) /
(.he could swill dreadfully!<;
Herzog K A, envious) / JEAN PAUL
(: and the street urchins ran scree=
hèeching after the great=staggerer : !) /
BÖCKLIN’s statement on wine, (which
even FREUD, obviously embarrassed,
includes) / ANDSOFOORTH ii : All
POEtationists! (>full as a po(e)t<,
P I for >drunk<).

A whole section dedicated to writers of renown who enjoyed a drink or two (Goethe a swiller?)!! A little later…”POE veryvery=tidily converted his dipsomania into literature:?” (don’t forget “P I” refers to Volume One of “A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English”).

In this section there are references to Poe’s stories “The Cask of Amontillado” and “King Pest”. “The Cask” story telling a chilling tale of revenge in the catacombs in return for a taste of Amontillado, alcohol used as a trap. In “King Pest” two penniless drunken seamen, do a runner from an ale-house, the Jolly-Tar. Whilst escaping the landlord of the ale-house they run into the dark quarantined areas of London, during the outbreak of the plague. They break into a house where six people are sitting around a table drinking punch, all deformed in some way, and dressed in various stages of death garb (cotton, muslin, shroud, even a coffin);

“A sentence! – a sentence! – a righteous and just sentence! – a glorious decree! – a most worthy and upright, and holy commendation!” shouted the Pest family altogether. The king elevated his forehead into innumerable wrinkles; the gouty little old man puffed like a pair of bellows; the lady of the winding-sheet waved her nose to and fro; the gentleman in the cotton drawer pricked up his ears; she of the shroud gasped like a dying fish; and he of the coffin looked stiff and rolled up his eyes. (Poe “King Pest”)

A number of quick successive references to Poe and alcohol, a story where a victim is led to his demise by the offer of alcohol, a story where two drunk rogues, drinking punch from skulls are charged with treason and ordered to be drowned in a puncheon of ale. And then we have “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket” where alcohol is in play when his life decision to sail the waves takes place, and of course being on the high seas the drinking is quite frequent.

As you can see there are innumerable references, plays on the word “Poe”, throughout “Bottom’s Dream”. When discussing the number of Poe translations that have flooded the market: “That p’tickular lemon’s been squeezed so=dry!” the far right column tells us to “(try POEmegranate<”.

Edgar Allan Poe’s only novel, “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket”, which I reviewed yesterday, is referenced quite heavily in “Bottom’s Dream”. We have the terms “Anamoo-moo”, and “Lama-Lama!” quite frequently referenced, and in “Bottom’s Dream” there is debate amongst the main characters as to Poe’s knowledge of Hebrew;

(? – : that POE didn’t kno a stroke of Hebrew?)


The >language of Tsalal< is, quite=simply, an, intentionally slightly=corrupted, Hebrew; furnished with the reduplicate endings of the South=Sea languages ; > Ukele=le Tameia=meia, Bora=Bora<.<<


>I do not purpose to interpret the various names or cries of these natives of the black isle, which flows with rivers of blood : to do that, we should need POE’s own associations, and these no one can supply! All we can say is, that cries like Anamoo=moo & Lama-lama remind us of infant babble<?<<

And there are interpretations of the native’s words as used in “Arthur Gordon Pym”;

Lama=lama “>> >Meat<, Dearwilma : luts’n’slutsa meat.” tekeli=li “>> ‘f You’ll check a list of Hebrew >colors<, You’ll find a >tekelth<- (with tee-aitch at the end) – which LUTHER falsely & on principle was wont to translate as yellow, bright yellow, yellow work, yellow silk< – it was at any rate >most radiantly =bright< of the – sapphire<.


how could’ve POE come up with this baroque invention?…

There are quite a few pages, reference and sections dedicated to the language of Tsalal, the language of the natives in “Arthur Gordon Pym”, including a debate about the possibility of Poe drawing these words, tales from THE BOOK OF MORMON as well as an argument that he would have received the information “of things Hebraic=etc from?<< CHARLES ANTHON. Besides a period where the three Poe experts are speechless, there is also a conclusion that for Tsalal, there are multiple meanings, “whole quintets of meanings resound in a muddle”.

As you can see this work is a book deeply embedded with Edgar Allan Poe scholarly knowledge, I suggest any future readers ensure they have the full collected works, poetry, short stories, the novel length prose poem “Eureka” and the novel “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket”. The character’s discussions referencing Poe’s works that are relevant to their discussions at the time.

Today I haven’t referred to any of the other features of the first pages of this monumental work, the word play, etymology, dreams and so much more. To date a wonderful journey into a complex, multi layered and revelatory work, a journey I am thoroughly enjoying. I am aware that some of these posts may appear a little droll, however my learnings can only assist future readers of the book, even if it is for them to dismiss my thoughts as frivolous, or it may give them a handle to pursue more than I am personally able.

Next week I can assure you that I will have more interesting references than simply the Poe links, as I’ve recently been reading about Hungarian vampires, witchcraft, and how could have Poe been knowledgeable in all these works, was it through his life as a youngster in the theatre with his mother? More another time.

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket – Edgar Allan Poe

pymNot your usual book to feature here, however with a heavy connection to Arno Schmidt’s “Bottom’s Dream” I made the effort to read Poe’s longest work from start to finish. For people not familiar with “Bottom’s Dream” it is (loosely) the story of two Edgar Allan Poe translators, their daughter and a Poe expert.

“The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket” was Edgar Allan Poe’s only novel, first published in July 1938, it opens with a Preface explaining how two instalments were interpreted by Poe and published in the Southern Literary Messenger, and that the tale from there onwards is written in the hand of Arthur Gordon Pym himself. Although the whole collection is written in the first person, the real reason for the non-serialisation of the work being Poe’s leaving his role at the Messenger.

The early chapters introduce us to Pym and his attraction to rollicking adventures on the high seas. His initial attraction to a career on the seas, a whaling ship, starting when he decides with a highly intoxicated friend, Augustus, to head out to sea in the middle of the night. Their little boat is destroyed by a whaling ship and they are subsequently rescued:

Hardly had I come to this resolution, when, suddenly, a loud and long scream or yell, as if from a throats of a thousand demons, seemed to pervade the whole atmosphere around and above the boat. Never while I live shall I forget the intense agony of terror I experienced at that moment. My hair stood erect on my head – I felt the blood congealing in my veins – my heart ceased utterly to beat, and without having once raised my eyes to learn the source of my alarm, I tumbled headlong and insensible upon the body of my fallen companion.

This adventure only fuels Pym’s further desire to travel the seas and, against his grandfather’s wishes, he stows away on another whaling vessel, in the hull, where he becomes trapped due to a mutiny on board.

I have been thus particular in speaking of Dirk Peters, because, ferocious as he appeared, he proved the main instrument in preserving the lie of Augustus, and because I shall have frequent occasion to mention him hereafter in the course of my narrative – a narrative, let me here say, which, in its latter portions, will be found to include incident of a nature so entirely out of the range of human experience, and for this reason so far beyond the limits of human credulity, that I proceed in utter hopelessness of obtaining credence for all that I shall tell, yet confidently trusting in time and progressing science to verify some of the most important and most improbably of my statements.

The novel has numerous highly co-incidental events and an unreliable narrator. For example, at one stage a note, written in blood is blank on one side, later we learn the note was written on the back of a letter. Characters who perform some act “many years later” are suddenly dead a few pages later. We also have extreme stretches of the imagination (“quite out of the range of human experience”?), at one stage Pym orchestrates the overthrow of the mutineers by disguising himself as a corpse:

As soon as I got below I commenced disguising myself so as to represent the corpse of Rogers. The shirt which we had taken from the body aided us very much, for it was of singular form and character, and easily recognizable – a kind of smock, which the deceased wore over his other clothing. It was a blue stockinet, with large white stripes running across. Having put this on, I proceeded to equip myself with a false stomach, in imitation of the horrible deformity of the swollen corpse. This was soon effected by means of stuffing with some bedclothes. I then gave the same appearance to my hands by drawing on a pair of white woollen mittens, and filling them in with any kind of rage that offered themselves. Peters then arranged my face, first rubbing it well over with white chalk, and afterward blotching it with blood, which he took for a cut in his finger. The streak across the eye was not forgotten and presented a most shocking appearance.

We then move into the world of cannibalism, searching for lost archipelagos in the South Seas, a trek towards the Antarctic and the discovery of Tsalal (more on that name later), and the “savages” that inhabit the islands, and their language;

In truth, from everything I could see of these wretches, the appeared to be the most wicked, hypocritical vindictive, bloodthirsty, and altogether fiendish race of men upon the face of the globe.

It is the language of the “savages” of Tsalal, and the name of the islands, that I visited this work in the first place. “Bottom’s Dream” by Arno Schmidt, for at least the first twenty-five pages frequently uses the term “Anamoo-moo”, in fact the opening words (in the far left column) of the whole book are “: >Anna Mooh=Mooh!< -“

After searching about for some time, we discovered an inlet, which we were entering, when we saw four large canoes put off from the shore, filled with men who seemed to be well armed. We waited for them to come up, and, as they moved with great rapidity, they were soon within hail. Captain Guy now held up a white handkerchief on the blade of an oar, when the strangers made a full stop. And commence a loud jabbering all at once, intermingled with occasional shouts, in which we could distinguish the words Anamoo-moo! And Lama-Lama! They continued this for at least half an hour, during which we had a good opportunity of observing their appearance.

The sum total of the native’s language throughout Pym’s adventures are as follows, I’m documenting them here for future reference in case Schmidt throws another one or two in there:

Wampoos (great women)
Yampoos (great men)
Too-wit (the chief)
Mattee non we pa pa si (“no need for arms where all were brothers)
Tekeli-li Tekeli-li
Nu-nu (one of the natives they capture)
King Tsalemon or Psalemoun (ruler of the islands), and

The commencement of the words Tsalemon and Tsalal was given with a prolonged hissing sound, which we found it impossible to imitate, even after repeated endeavors, and which was precisely the same with the note of the black bittern we had eaten upon the summit of the hill.

J.V. Ridgley (Columbia University) has published an article in the Edgar Allan Poe Society Journal “Poe Studies” (Vol III) (1970) with the following definitions of the words:

Anamoo-moo: from hana (to shine, to glow) plus mumu (to collect together, a swarm); hence, a collection of shining objects.

Lama-Lama: from lamalama (many lights, much light).

Too-wit: possibly tui, which Tregear gives as “a king, a governor.”

Klock-Klock: no word for “village” located which resembles Poe’s spelling; possibly an imitation of “click” sounds.

Wampoos/Yampoos: Tregear translates pu as “tribe”; the prefix somewhat resembles hau, meaning “illustrious, royal, commanding.”

Mattee non we pa pa si: mate is a common word meaning “to kill, to die”; papa can mean “race, family.” The other words are probably not Polynesian. Poe renders the sentence as “there was no need for arms where all were brothers.”

Tekeli-li: under ririri Tregear gives tekelili (to shiver, to shake). But splitting Poe’s word into tiki (god) and lili (angry) would also fit the context.

Nu-Nu: Tregear gives several translations under nunu, none of which is particularly relevant as the name of this native.

Tsalal and Tsalemon/Psalemoun: not Polynesian, but drawn from a transliteration of the “Ethiopian [Geëz] verbal root” discussed in Poe’s concluding “Note.” The source here was Gesenius’s Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon (Boston, 1836).

“Tsalal”, as pointed out to me by @ReemK10 on Twitter, from KJV Old Testament Hebrew has three meanings;

A verb (1) to be or become or grow dark
a. (Qal) to become of grow darker
b. (Hipil) to shadow

A verb (1) to tingle, quiver
a. (Qal)
1. To tingle (of ears)
2. To quiver (of fear)

A verb (1) (Qal) to sink, be submerged

Initially I was leaning towards the “sink, submerged definition, given the archipelago is like an Atlantis, however when the whole Poe novel is read, the first definition of darkness and shadow definitely is a more likely fit.

Poe’s novel also includes hieroglyphics, for obvious reasons I cannot reproduce them here (I possibly could if I looked at all the Windings font’s but that’s way too hard), I await the Schmidt reference.

There are a number of sections in Poe’s novel that are quite tedious, a few successive chapters where the location of their boat, the temperature, the winds and currents are discussed in detail, the book moves from a boy’s adventure yarn to a ship’s log! As Poe was paid $3 per page, when the work was serialised, although these sections weren’t part of the serialisation) these may be Poe fattening out the tale to a decent length, they may also be to attract the readers of whaling and shipping tales, personally I found them quite droll.

The book itself has a sudden and mysterious ending, adding to Poe’s oeuvre of the mysterious, this was one element I found enjoyable, although often criticised. A work that, although flawed, reinforces the multiple, overlooked, talents of Edgar Allan Poe and a work that shows the typecasting of Poe as a writer of mystery and intrigue is too shallow.

Jules Verne uses this novel as the starting point for his work “An Antarctic Mystery”, apparently scholars Partick F. Quinn and John J. McAleer have noted parallels between Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” and this book. In Yann Martel’s “Life of Pi” the tiger on the liferaft is called Richard Parker, a character from Pym and the list goes on and on.
Whilst not being anywhere near a scholar in any form of writing, nor having much previous exposure to Edgar Allan Poe, all of my thoughts and comments are to be taken with a grain of salt, I merely read the work as a reference tool for my long-term ambition of reading (and understanding a little more) Arno Schmidt’s “Bottom’s Dream”, am I any the wiser? I know I enjoyed the novel, I think the “thrill of the chase” understanding the tongue of the Tsalal natives draws a few parallels to Schmidt’s work, only time will tell if the effort was worthwhile.


Bottom’s Dream – Arno Schmidt (translated by John E. Woods) – Initial thoughts

bottomsdreamYesterday was the anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s death, he died on 7 October 1849 aged forty. Making this an appropriate day to put together my first thoughts on Arno Schmidt’s “Bottoms Dream”.

Why the link to Edgar Allan Poe? More will be revealed shortly.

Let’s start off with my initial thoughts of this massive work. As most visitors here would know this book is massive, besides running to close to 1500 pages, each page is A3 in size.

Upon opening this work you are confronted with a language that appears to not be English. You then very quickly notice that each page is split into various shapes and columns. First thoughts obviously being oh my god, what is this? How on earth will I be able to read this? Answering yourself is simple you cannot explain this book and it will be read with extreme difficulty. That is not to say that it won’t be an enjoyable journey through this monolith, an eye opening experience in German (and world) literature.

I had been fortunate enough to spend time researching this book before it arrived on my doorstep, and what a massive package that was. Research lead me to “The Untranslated” blog where the owner had spent months on end reading, in German, this book and explaining the intricacies. I can assure you it is a very useful reference site.

Whilst I have no intention of replicating the detailed explanations at the untranslated blog, for those intending to take on this work, here’s a few brief explanation as to the structure, characters, language etc.

Firstly, the structure: The page is split into three columns (on the majority of pages), the left column primarily containing discussions about and quotes from Edgar Allan Poe’s collected works, the right column primarily containing quotes from other works of literature, myth or newspaper clippings and the centre column containing the main narrative. However these columns, at times, overlap, the page is a canvas.

Next up the main characters: we have Daniel Pagenstecher, an Edgar Allan Poe expert, Paul and Wilma Jakobi, Poe translators and their sixteen-year-old daughter Franziska. Throughout the text the characters are abbreviated they become P, W, F, D, Dän, Franzel, Fr, or DP. Having said that DP is also a “displaced person” or “Writer-Priest” – for more detail see The Untranslated blog – There are two types of writer’s “DP’s are averse to technical progress and innovation; they ‘flee civilisation’, but by doing it they also reject science and the very spirit that enables them to write in the first place: “to all intents and purposes these DP gentlemen would prefer to completely abandon >spirit< as week=fantastic and lecherous (geil) little creature: and write just >automatically<.” This refers to Poe – and note it is quoted from a blog post and not James Wood’s translation of the book. “The second category is Mosaikarbeiter (Mosaic Worker). Schmidt is one of those and artisan who creates texts from already available tesselae rather than through some mystical inspiration.

Which leads me to the “mosaic tiles” that Schmidt uses here. The book’s original title is “Zettel’s Traum”, a Zettel being an index card, Schmidt writing and collecting over 130,000 Zettel’s which were used in the construction of this text. So why Zettel = Bottom in the translation? The character Bottom from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by William Shakespeare speaks the epigraph to this “novel”. (I have copied this letter for letter so if there are typos I have copied them).

>>I have had a most rare vision! I have had a dream – past the wit of man to say what a dream it was. Man is but an ass if he go about to expound this dream. Methought I was – there is no man can tell what. Methought I was, and methought I had – but man is put a patched fool if he will offer to say what methought I had. The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report whay my dream was. – <<

And the German translation of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” had the character Bottom translated as “Zettel”.

Onto the story itself, it commences with Paul, Wilma and Franziska, just before dawn, heading across “Horrorfield” after croxxing the barbed wire represented as follows:


The horrorfield is full of rusty barbed wire, thistles, that they will come across later, which detract campers and there are cows (a few quotes to give you the idea):

(Cows & clouds : symbols of one another)

:>Ana moo=moo!<

Cause I bull calf came bounding over; and in delite at this rare visit lifted up an amorfuss cry:!

If you are going to tackle this book I do suggest you have a dictionary handy, as well as other reference materials. Within the first few pages I had learned that a “dragoman” was an interpreter, translator and official guide between Turkish, Arabic and Persian speaking countries. Translation is part of the story, Paul and Wilma are Poe translators, there it is an important element, even if it is a tireless activity, “before I could distinguish twixt >dragoman< and >dromedary<”

Another essential reference is the collected works of Edgar Allan Poe, for example within the first pages (second page) we have “My wanderings amid such scenes have been many & fur=surching (FAY)” is a reference to “The Island of Fay” by Poe. Which in part reads:

The other, or eastern end of the isle was whelmed in the blackest shade. A somber, yet beautiful and peaceful gloom here pervaded all things. The trees were dark in color and mournful in form and attitude – wreathing themselves into sad, solemn, and spectral shapes, that conveyed ideas of mortal sorrow and untimely death. The grass wore the deep tint of the cypress, and the heads of its blades hung droopingly, and hither and thither among it, were many small unsightly hillocks, low, and narrow, and not very long, that had the aspect of graves, but were not, although over and all about them the rue and rosemary clambered. The shade of the trees fell heavily upon the water, and seemed to bury itself therein, impregnating the depths of the element with darkness. I fancied that each shadow, as the sun descended lower and lower, separated itself sullenly from the trunk that gave it birth, and thus became absorbed by the stream; while other shadows issued momently from the trees, taking the place of their predecessors entombed.

Yes – within two pages of “Bottom’s Dream”, I have headed off and read a five-page short story by Edgar Allan Poe. As you can see the mood of the traveler’s scenery is depicted by a few short words in the left hand column, prompting you to branch off and read Poe. This story aligns with “>>so I day in green pastures ‘ll do him good; get his mind on other things._ niletest=blouse?-<<” exploring the wonders of nature.

Other reference material is required, for example the right column, second page, refers to Archimago, the sorcerer from Spencer’s “The Faerie Queen” (fortunately I have a copy) aligning with a reference to Wilma’s “bosom” and on the first page there is a quote “did diuide her daintie paps” (refers to young pert breasts) aligning with the dress description of the sixteen-year-old Franziska. The work full of sexual innuendo, in fact the discussion of sexual subjects are references as “S” to keep the virginal ears of F away from the subject.

As I have already mentioned, this is deeply rooted in language, for example the fourth page refers to the word ‘goosebumps, “The Ancient Romans?:- They didn’t kno the feeling: They didn’t have a word for it!<<” Each sentence you read you are dwelling on references, you are reveling in the wonder of language, the tone, the sound, reading this aloud becomes a ritual and you fall into a spell of the text, even if you do not have a clue what is going on.

I know that I am in for an amazing journey here, it will be a long long one and it will have bumps and delays, but already the style, the referencing, the delving is doing wonders for my other reading exploits. Given the sheer size of this book it stays on a large table, with a notebook and Collected works of Poe nearby, and therefore as I travel to work each day I read another book. At the moment I am reading more poetry and essays as the shorter form being more flexible when having to switch from one text to another.

Back to Edgar Allan Poe, let’s finish the first journey through a few pages of Arno Schmidt with a quote by Schmidt, about Poe, in “Bottom’s Dream”:

– Let us agree to the following : he was an interesting writer; and unusual human beings are always somewhat rare : one may boldly term as >original< that person of whom there are a mere=thousand like him, and have him stufft after death,<</: