Reading Zettel’s Traum Suspended

Medieval_sysiphus.jpegI started reading Arno Schmidt’s legendary magnum opus about a year ago.  I knew quite well that it was an enormous challenge not least because German is the weakest of my reading languages, although the “germanness” of Schmidt’s language in this book frequently emulates the “englishness” of Joyce’s in Finnegans Wake. By keeping my reading diary I’ve managed to stay on course until now. What is more, I’ve got somewhat accustomed to all the quirks and joyful transgressions of Schmidtian writing, and the scavenger hunts he has been constantly sending me on have been a lot of fun too, as all my favourite books such as The Recognitions, Terra Nostra, Los Sorias and Gravity’s Rainbow have stimulated my curiosity in a similar way. But, as with any cerebral pleasure, there is a serious downside to a thorough and attentive reading of Zettel’s Traum: the amount of time invested in the effort. While assiduously deciphering the Rosetta stone of Schmidt’s text, I was robbing myself, and consequently my readers, of other great books that had to be made known on my blog. I naively thought that I would manage to have it both ways until I realised that I was facing a serious dilemma: either abandon all my reading and dedicate myself solely for the reading and exegesis of Zettel’s Traum for at least a year (otherwise, at the present pace, it would take me four more years to finish the book) or to address all the backlog of the untranslated literature I’ve been meaning to review, some of it truly marvelous. I have decided in favour of the latter. This, however, does not mean that I have abandoned my project altogether: anything can happen, and I might resume my Sisyphean labour, especially when John E. Woods’ translation finally becomes available and, hopefully, throw some light on the numerous obscurities of the original. I know that there is a group of faithful readers who have been diligently following all my posts and  have encouraged me with their comments. Thank you all! Without your support I would probably have stopped much earlier. I know that there is at least one reading group of Bottom’s Dream already established on Goodreads under the auspices of Nathan “N.R.” Gaddis, who, for all I know, may be the present-day reincarnation of Borges. When you finally get your copies, you may want to join this or a similar cenacle, for I am sure you will get more out of the book by reading it along with others. As for my copy, to the shelf it goes (the lowest one, firmly resting on the floor, of course!) until better times as I am already reaching for the next untranslated book to be reviewed here.

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12 Responses to Reading Zettel’s Traum Suspended

  1. KSHomer says:

    I’m one of those who’s enjoyed your Herculean labors so far but I am also glad you’ll be able to review more untranslated literature. I’m looking forward to the new posts!

  2. winstonsdad says:

    Look forward to your next choice I’m hoping to get my hands on the English edition of bottom’s Dream when it comes out

  3. And banannare says:

    Don’t stop bro! I subscribed just for these posts

  4. Miguel St. Orberose says:

    Compliments on this tremendous effort! Fortunately the novel is finally being published into English soon so readers can discover the rest of the book on their own from now on. I can’t wait for your future reviews and discoveries! More untranslated fiction – yes!

  5. Marc Myers says:

    Very sad to lose this thread, but, again with the English translation coming out of the trees, this is a great start to reading the book. Thanks again!

  6. Marc Myers says:

    Well, I finally got my copy of the Woods translation, and I must admit…this is quite a tome. The university library where I live has a copy of the large 70’s imprint, and I used to go “visit” it in the stacks. Since then, they have removed it to a storage area, alas. Your synopsis will be invaluable in getting me going, even in the English version! Thanks again!

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