John E. Woods, who has translated Günter Grass, Thomas Mann, Patrick Suskind, and more, discusses his new translation of Arno Schmidt's epic "Bottom's Dream," a book called by many the German "Finnegans Wake."
Praise for Arno Schmidt:
"A giant of postwar German literature." - New York Times
"Arno Schmidt . . . was an enormously important talent in the fictional line of cruel comedy that runs from Rabelais through Swift and Joyce―or to say it straight out: a major European novelist." - New York Review of Books
"Reading Arno Schmidt can be addictive."- Times Literary Supplement
"A truly witty and innovative writer." - Chicago Tribune
"(A) treasure house of post-Joycean language-games, the projection of a complex and crotchety personality, a unique blend of fiction, conversation pieces and literary criticism, humorous and obsessed, intellectually adventurous and stuffily provincial, polyglot and archetypically German" - S. S. Prawer, Times Literary Supplement
About Bottom's Dream:
I have had a dream past the wit of man to say what dream it was, says Bottom. I have had a dream, and I wrote a Big Book about it, Arno Schmidt might have said. Schmidt's rare vision is a journey into many literary worlds. First and foremost it is about Edgar Allan Poe, or perhaps it is language itself that plays that lead role; and it is certainly about sex in its many Freudian disguises, but about love as well, whether fragile and unfulfilled or crude and wedded. As befits a dream upon a heath populated by elemental spirits, the shapes and figures are protean, its protagonists suddenly transformed into trees, horses, and demigods. In a single day, from one midsummer dawn to a fiery second, Dan and Franzisca, Wilma and Paul explore the labyrinths of literary creation and of their own dreams and desires.
Since its publication in 1970 "Zettel's Traum/Bottom's Dream" has been regarded as Arno Schimdt's magnum opus, as the definitive work of a titan of postwar German literature.