Reading Zettel’s Traum: Week 7, pp. 62-71

The discussion about what makes a book a favourite continues. Pagenstecher dwells on Walter Scott’s historical novel The Bride of Lammermoor, which was admired by Poe. Daniel draws Paul’s attention to the fact that the name of the main character, Edgar Lord Ravenswood, contains Poe’s name and the title of his most celebrated poem. The fictional castle Wolf’s Crag left to Edgar as inheritance by his father becomes through the etym reading of Pagenstecher “Vulvs Crack”.

The next subject of their conversation is the abnormal frequency with which Poe uses the word “crystal” when describing water. They digress into the problem an English speaker runs into when pronouncing the name of Immanuel Kant. Pagenstecher has a scurrilous pun on the ready “a manual cunt”. He goes on to wonder what would happen if Goethe’s last name was “Fick” (German for “fuck”). In that case, the Germans would have to say things like: “Great Fuck said” or “Fuck’s Faust”.  After this detour a host of etyms related to “crystal” are considered; for example, such Latin words as cristula, crissal, crista, cristae, crissum.  Next, we read a passage from Poe’s essay The Rationale of Verse, in which the author uses a crystal to prove his point that “[v]erse originates in the human enjoyment of equality, fitness”. A case of “crystal fetishism” described by sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld is also mentioned here. The meandering exploration of the various “crystal” etyms leads to the mock generalisation about the early spread of Christianity: to wit, that it was due to the Romans’ wish to rapturously adore labia (“von Deren SchamLippen schwärmen”).

Wilma and Franziska finish bathing, get out of the water, and get dressed. Pagenstecher’s statement about the chastity belt being mentioned in The Book of Isaiah (3.20) does not seem to be true, at least not in the English translation, unless the sashes here has a different meaning from what we’re used to:

In that day the Lord will snatch away their finery: the bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces, 19 the earrings and bracelets and veils, 20 the headdresses and anklets and sashes, the perfume bottles and charms, 21 the signet rings and nose rings, 22 the fine robes and the capes and cloaks, the purses 23 and mirrors, and the linen garments and tiaras and shawls.


Raphael, The Sistine Madonna

When asked by Wilma what they two were talking about while she and her daughter were splashing in the river, Pagenstecher discloses the topic of a favourite work of art, be it a painting or a book, and the hidden reasons for it being such. When asked about their favourite Cuntswerke (Kunstwerke “works of art”  + etym cunt) Wilma mentions Franziska’s appreciation of Raphael’s Madonna Sixtina. Pagenstecher immediately comes up with his etym-based explanation: sixteen, Sex=Teener.

Poe’s fascination with Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué’s novella Undine provides ample fodder for Daniel’s further promotion of his theories. The word Undine brings forth such etyms as undies, undercurrent, inundation, nudation, whereas the writer’s last name yields the predictable “Fucké” and “Ficket”. The etym-transformation of “Undine by Fouqué” gives us “Undone by Fuck”, and Poe’s notorious pronouncement “for one Fouqué there are fifty Molières” becomes “For 1 fuck there are 50 molls”.

to be cuntinued

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2 Responses to Reading Zettel’s Traum: Week 7, pp. 62-71

  1. Steve Moore says:

    This running summary/annotation will be invaluable when the English translation finally comes out. I’ll probably print them all out as a crib while reading it.

  2. I’d like to hope there will be some use to what I’m doing, but I have to confess that I’m skipping a lot of stuff. The reason is simple: if I tried to analyse and explain every allusion, every reference and every pun in this monstrous text, I would have been bogged down on the first pages and would have given up the whole enterprise. This, by the way, was the mistake of the German blogger who attempted a similar read. Complete annotations to Zettel’s Traum would require years of concerted effort of a group of scholars and would run to several thousand pages.

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