The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr

The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr

December 31, 2016 Novel

The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr is the last, almost autobiographical novel of the great German writer E. T. A. Hoffmann, the brilliant result of his work, combining reality and fantasy, a romantic impulse and satire. This unusual, novel is written in a form of a note of a self-taugh cat, a pragmatist and an epicurean Murr. According to the writer, Murr had a prototype: “It is a cat of marvelous beauty and even greater intelligence, which I raised, and he gave me a reason for this amusing mystification.” I understand why literature scholars especially highlight this novel in Hoffmann’s work and in the history of literature. For example, the structure of the novel is very interesting, two storylines alternating one another; each part ends literally in the middle of a sentence… For us, accustomed to postmodernism, it is not particularly surprising, but for the beginning of the 19th century it was unusually and boldly. Romantic ideals are combined with the satirical depicting of real society, a twisted plot – with ageless morality. It is magnificent work of art.

It should be mentioned that this novel itself is not independent, but it is part of the Kreisleriana – a small cycle of individual texts consisting mainly of stories about the life and work of the Kapellmeister Johannes Kreisler, a talented musician and composer who was a sample of a man who lives for the sake of art. Having received the real compositional mosaic instead of diaries of a cat, I was involved in reading somehow surprisingly quickly. The book is … a book. A kind of a mystification. Ostensibly in a German publishing house it was decided to print an accidentally discovered manuscript, the author of which was a cat. It was thought that such an instructive narrative can be interesting for the reader. However, in the process it was discovered that the animal used to dry out the ink sheets from some other book, which turned out to be the biography of the Kapellmeister, which had only some copies on the planet almost, so the publisher decided not to to call back the print run, but leave everything as is hoping that the biography of a famous musician will interest at least his acquaintances. The book is a bizarre alternation of episodes from the life of a cat in chronological order, episodes from the life of the Kapellmeister in random order on those very junk sheets, and sometimes the remarks of a publisher who is very much worried about the manners of the author of this unusual book.

About the author

Jonathan Schindler: