Two Novels: The Stoney Heart & Boondocks

Arno Schmidt, Author, John E. Woods, Translator Dalkey Archive Press $49.95 (420p) ISBN 978-1-56478-170-3
Rounding out Dalkey's four-volume series covering modernist writer Schmidt's (1914-1979) early period, these two novels (published in Germany in 1954 and 1960) give a glimpse of what was to come in Schmidt's larger works like Zettel's Traum (Zettel's Dream). In a style often compared to that of Joyce's Finnegan's Wake, Schmidt creates a kind of dreamlike narration that relies heavily on wordplay (especially neologisms) and floats in and out of the characters' subconsciouses. In The Stony Heart, about an historical biographer, Schmidt captures a colloquial German speech that Woods deftly translates into a kind of Brooklynese: ""Ohsuah: theah's a visitah's bureau heah."" Schmidt's experimental narrative is difficult to follow. Reprising Mark Twain's famous warning to readers of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, he writes in his introduction to B/Moondocks (which takes place both in a 1950s Bavarian town and on the moon in 1980): ""Persons attempting to smell out or , or indeed to perceive herein a will be shot."" For this reason, some readers may wish that the editors of this volume had made some effort to put his writing into a historical, biographical context or otherwise shed light on his unique and difficult style: a translator's introduction was included in the previous volumes but has been omitted for this somewhat less accessible work. With that said, this last edition nonetheless will be enjoyed by Schmidt scholars and other adventurous readers. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/01/1997
Release date: 12/01/1997
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