December 6, 2012

The Life And Opinions Of the Tomcat Murr by E. T. A. Hoffmann

Mystical German Romantism mixed with sharp social satire - that's what The Life And Opinions Of the Tomcat Murr is! The book consists of the memoirs of Murr himself, who used pages from another book (which happens to be about the life of his once-master, a musician and a kapellmeister) as a blotter and put them between the lists of his work. By the mistake of the publisher (from whom we get a lot of apologies about this in the beginning) the book was printed to include both the cat's memoirs and the blotter pages. That's why we really have two very differently written books in one here - romantic and satiric.

The satirical parts are written by Murr, a self-educated intelligent cat, who wants to preserve the story of his life as an admonition for the next generations. He describes his childhood, his growing passion for books and poetry, then his first love, family problems, his attempts to find his place in the higher society and his friendship with a poodle. He reasons about everything he experiences and pretty often puts himself as an example for everybody. He is very cute and human-like, and his parts are usually very funny.

The romantic parts are written by a biographist of Johann Kreisler, once a kapellmeister at court, a very sophisticated and talented musician. The action takes place in a small fictional German province, which formally doesn't have an king any more, but which citizens pretend that their king is still a real king, so they have a real court and real court intrigues. There is everything in this story - love, madness, an old crazy alchemist/scientist/magician/organ master, murders, refined feelings - everything. And the further you read the more you knew about all the complicated characters of this story and the better you see what is really happening there at the court.

The book is a patchwork of the two stories, each bit with no logical beginning or anding. So when you begin to read the book, it takes quite a while to understand who is who and what is happening, but when you are well into it, you can't put it down. The book is just fascinating ans it's definitely a masterpiece.

The Life And Opinions Of the Tomcat Murr is a book from my Classics Club list


  1. It's a fascinating book, isn't it? Completely ridiculous, admittedly. All sort of recurring Hoffmann ideas are poured into this novel.

    1. Ridiculous is a very appropriate word here! And partly because of this is it so fascinating!


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