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!!!

Undine – Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué


Arno Schmidt’s “Bottom’s Dream”, which I am slowly making my way through, in the early sections there are several references to Friedrich Heinrich Karl de la Motte, Baron Fouqué’s most popular work “Undine”. As part of my unravelling and immersion into Schmidt’s book, I purchased and read the novella from the German Romantic period.  First published in 1811, the same year as Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” (originally titled “Elinor and Marianne”) and a year before the German brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published their “Children’s and Household Tales”, “Undine” tells the tale of a watersprite, a nymph with the unique ability to assume the human form.

Following the well-worn Romantic theme of female characters being chaste, subservient, obedient, chaste, coquettish slaves, “Undine” tells of Sir Huldbrand of Ringstetten, a knight who lives in a castle near the source of the Danube. A chivalrous man who travels into a “very wild forest, which, both from its gloom and pathless solitude as well as from the wonderful creatures and illusions with which it was said to abound, was avoided by most people except in cases of necessity.” He does so on the wishes of a noble woman, Bertalda. In the forest he comes across a fisherman, his wife and their adopted daughter, Undine.

The knight interrupted the fisherman to draw his attention to a noise, as of a rushing flood of waters, which had caught his ear during the old man’s talk, and which now burst against the cottage-window with redoubled fury. Both sprang to the door. There they saw, by the light of the now risen moon, the book which issued from the wood, wildly overflowing its banks, and whirling away stones and branches of trees in its sweeping course. The storm, as if awakened by the tumult, burst forth from the mighty clouds which passed rapidly across the moon; the lake roared under the furious lashing of the wind; the trees of the little peninsula groaned from root to topmost bought, and bent, as if reeling, ober the surging waters. “Undine! For Heaven’s sake, Undine!” cried the two men in alarm. No answer was returned, and regardless of every other consideration, they ran out of the cottage, one in this direction, and the other in that, searching and calling.

As a young girl Undine had appeared at the fisherman’s door, to naturally replace their daughter who had fallen into the lake and disappeared. As a young girl Undine (who chose her own name to be used for christening) spoke of golden castles and crystal domes. Whilst both the nameless fisherman and his wife (who is a lightly sketched character) question Undine’s sanity they are not aware that she is in fact a water nymph who has taken human form. She lacks a soul, but can gain one by marrying a mortal – and conveniently for our tale the knight in shining armour, literally, rides into her world.

A mysterious tale with water, moisture references throughout, as Undine marries the knight and her evil uncle, who lives in creeks, fountains, lakes attempts to get Sir Huldbrand to “forsake” Undine near water so she will lose her human soul and return to life as a watersprite. Light romanticism with allusions to sexual activity, the illustrations are more risqué than the text itself, here is the opening paragraph from the chapter titled “The Day After The Wedding”:

The fresh light of the morning awoke the young married pair. Wonderful and horrible dreams had disturbed Huldbrand’s rest; he had been haunted by spectres, who, grinning at him by stealth, had tried to disguise themselves as beautiful women, and from beautiful women they all at once assumed the faces of dragons, and when he started up from these hideous visions, the moonlight shone pale and cold into the room; terrified he looked at Undine, who still lay in unaltered beauty and grace. Then he would press a light kiss upon her rosy lips, and would fall asleep again only to be awakened by new terrors. After he had reflected on all this, now he was fully awake, he reproached himself for any doubt that could have led him into error with regard to his beautiful wife. He begged her to forgive him for the injustice he had done her, but she only held out to him her fair hand, sighed deeply and remained silent. But a glance of exquisite fervour beamed from her eyes such as he had never seen before, carrying with it the full assurance that Undine bore him no ill-will. He then rose cheerfully and left her, to join his friends in the common apartment.

undine1The fantasy fairy tale language a pleasure to read, bringing back childhood memories of similar tales (although I’m not sure I had tales like these to read, ageing memory getting me!!!) And reading this work with an Arno Schmidt bent made some of the references to “Crystal” (see an earlier “Bottom’s Dream” post about the etym there) did make me smile.

“You must know, my loved one, that there are beings in the elements which almost appear like mortals, and which rarely allow themselves to become visible to your race. Wonderful salamanders glitter and sport in the flames; lean and malicious gnomes dwell deep within the earth; spirits, belonging to the air, wander through the forests; and a vast family of water spirits live in the lakes and streams and brooks. In resounding domes of crystal, through which the sky looks in with its sun and stars, these latter spirits find their beautiful abode; lofty trees of coral with blue and crimson fruits gleam in their gardens; they wander over the pure sand of the sea, and among lovely variegated shells, and amid all exquisite treasures of the old world, which the present is no longer worthy to enjoy; all these the floods have covered with their secret veils of silver, and the noble monuments sparkle below, stately and solemn, and bedewed by the loving waters which allure from them many a beautiful moss-flower and entwining cluster of sea-grass. Those, however, who dwell there, are very fair and lovely to behold, and for the most part, are more beautiful than human beings. Many a fisherman has been so fortunate as to surprise some tender mermaid, as she rose above the waters and sang. He would then tell afar of her beauty, and such wonderful beings have been given the name of Undines. You, however, are now actually beholding an Undine.”

As Sir Huldbrand learns of Undine’s background and they travel back through the haunted forest to advise Bertalda that no harm has befallen the hero, the story turns into a romantic love triangle, as we know Sir Huldbrand cannot forsake Undine (she is totally in his power) near water or she will lose her soul and Bertalda had romantic feelings for the knight prior to his departure and the interruptions by Undine’s uncle Kühleborn we know this tale is not going to end happily.

But in a region, otherwise so pleasant, and in the enjoyment of which they had promised themselves the purest delight, the ungovernable Kühleborn began, undisguisedly, to exhibit his power of interference. This was indeed manifested in mere teasing tricks, for Undine often rebuked the agitated waves, or the contrary winds, and then the violence of the enemy would be immediately humbled; but again the attacks would be renewed, and again Undine’s reproofs would become necessary, so that the pleasure of the little party was completely destroyed. The boatmen too were continually whispering to each other in dismay, and looking with distrust at the three strangers, whose servants even began more and more to forebode something uncomfortable, and to watch their superiors with suspicious glances. Huldbrand often said to himself: “This comes from like not being linked with like, from a man uniting himself with a mermaid!” Excusing himself as we all love to do, he would often think indeed as he said this: “I did not really know that she was a sea-maiden, mine is misfortune, that every step I take is disturbed and haunted by wild caprices of her race, but mine is not the fault.”

Throughout the male hero does not take responsibility for his actions, falling for a stunningly beautiful woman, asking her to marry, taking her to a new home, sharing his love with another woman and “mine is not the fault”!!! An interesting tale with the forlorn swooning woman falling for the knight, gaining a soul, holding control through the evil spirit intervention, however wanting to keep her human soul, she is wholly dependent upon the male lead, she is his subservient, obedient, coquettish slave. Often falling into tears to manipulate the hero on horseback the water nymph never takes control of her fate, knowing she is trapped by the curse that the male can forsake her at any time.

This chivalrous tale has an interesting ending (which I will not give away) and one that is a little more pleasant than the ending of the Grimm Brother’s tale “Mother Trudy” – a tale I read as it was referenced Clemens Meyer’s “Bricks and Mortar” (translated by Katy Derbyshire), a recent translated release. The Grimm tale ending as follows:

And with that, she turned the girl into a block of wood and threw it on the fire. And when it was blazing, she sat down beside it, warmed herself up, and said: “Now that really does give off a nice bright light.”

The edition of “Undine” I purchased is published by Dedalus European Classics and interestingly a translator is not credited, the introduction telling us “in 1897 alone, two new translations were published, of which the present is one.” A tale that brings the innocence of nature to life through a character and the suffering that is humanity befalling her as she gains a soul, Undine moving from innocence to sorrow simply through marriage, or through gaining a human soul.

A worthwhile transgression from the reading of “Bottom’s Dream” and I am sure there will be many more references in Schmidt’s novel that I will come across in my journey…..back to it.

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!!!