Collected Early Fiction, 1949-1964: Collected Early Fiction 4949-1964, Volume I

Arno Schmidt, Author, John E. Woods, Translator Dalkey Archive Press $22.95 (2p) ISBN 978-1-56478-066-9
Schmidt (1914-1979), often called ``the German Joyce,'' began his publishing career in 1949 with the violent, fantasmagoric novella ``Leviathan,'' which details the desperate final hours of Hitler's Berlin. Also gathered here are the author's nine other novellas, most of which are characterized by an aggressive, elliptical speed that resembles a kind of crazed journal writing. Many of the narratives are set in the ancient world, whose Imperial Rome is clearly meant to be analogous to Hitler's Reich. In ``Enthymesis,'' we follow a Greek scientific expedition into the African desert, where the narrator attempts to rival Eratosthenes's calculations of the circumference of the earth. His jolting, deranged diary records the disintegration of his mission and its termination in the imaginary city of Hell, Weilaghiri (a place that turns up elsewhere in Schmidt's fiction). Schmidt ferociously satirizes the fascistic empire of the Greek conqueror in ``Alexander.'' His prose yields arresting images-a peasant in ``Leviathan,'' for instance, holding her child's severed head over ``a greasy scarlet puddle''-and translator Woods seems to do justice to the author's glaring eccentricities of style and punctuation. But the style seems as dated as the objects of its satiric ire; only fleetingly does it produce genuine surprise and shock. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/31/1994
Release date: 12/01/1994
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