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The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr together with a fragmentary…

by E. T. A. Hoffmann

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Kater Murr

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
7652425,505 (3.99)1 / 101
Tomcat Murr is a loveable, self-taught animal who has written his own autobiography. But a printer's error causes his story to be accidentally mixed and spliced with a book about the composer Johannes Kreisler. As the two versions break off and alternate at dramatic moments, two wildly different characters emerge from the confusion - Murr, the confident scholar, lover, carouser and brawler, and the moody, hypochondriac genius Kreisler. In his exuberant and bizarre novel, Hoffmann brilliantly evokes the fantastic, the ridiculous and the sublime within the humdrum bustle of daily life, making The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr (1820-22) one of the funniest and strangest novels of the nineteenth century.… (more)
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» See also 101 mentions

English (20)  Spanish (2)  French (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (24)
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
What a strange but good book about a talking cat, Tomcat Murr, and a romantic musician, Kapellmeister Johannes Kreisler. I was already familiar with the author's (E. T. A. Hoffmann) The Nutcracker and the Mouse King which was just as strange. I liked the translator too, Anthea Bell, who co-translated the Asterix series. I suggest not to read this book if your expecting just a cat story because it's technically two books in one. Also, be warned this book has a lot of sentences that end mid sentence as a humorous joke along with "editorial notes" obviously written by Hoffmann pretending to criticize Murr for plagiarism. ( )
  Jazz1987 | Aug 27, 2022 |
this dazzling performance proves that recursiveness and postmodernism have occurred time and time again, and are sometimes performed with blood in their veins, positively effervescent blood! This is a wonderful and perplexingly overlooked book. ( )
  AnnKlefstad | Feb 4, 2022 |
I've been caught up in a Hoffmann spiral, which is one of the weirder spirals to be caught up in. What is it about him that I can't seem to train my mind away from? There's this sense that he's Important to me, even though I can't say why. I can't mention Hoffmann without going deep into the realm of the intertextual. I say Hoffmann, and in the same breath I say Tchaikovsky, Delibes, Offenbach, and Schumann, and that's just the composers. I say Robertson Davies and Angela Carter. And I talk Orpheus myths and alter-egos and dark Protestant magic.

I bought this book back when I was eighteen or nineteen, but had to set it aside after finishing Part I because fall came and university courses began, and I never felt the freedom to return to it because I had the idea of it being a bit of hard reading. After all, it's the biography of a cat (pretty much plotless by default) interspersed with an anachronistic and fragmentary biography of the moody composer Johannes Kriesler. Hoffmann's indebtedness to Sterne is very apparent in the set-up, playing with the structure of what a book is, but it doesn't go nearly so far as [b:The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman|76527|The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman|Laurence Sterne|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1403402384s/76527.jpg|2280279]. I'd have enjoyed seeing him push more against formal boundaries.

The cat writing his own autobiography is a bit gimmicky. There weren't a lot of anthropomorphic narrators in early novels, but the "novel" aspect of it wears off. Murr is convincing and consistent (that is to say, he's self-important, self-contradicting, and most certainly a cat written by a man who understands cats on a metaphysical level), and gives such gravity to events of his life that you are simultaneously aware of their insignificance and the probable relative insignificance of your own life. Or maybe I'm the one bringing that existential crisis to the table.

At any rate, the highlight of this book for me was Kriesler, a fanfuckingtastic alter-ego who, to my mind, cuts through some of the bullshit eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century tropes of Virtuous Protagonists vs Shameless Rakes. Kriesler is a little unstable, thanks to being a highly-sensitive musician and artist-type, but he seems rather real, despite all the fantasy elements of princes and castles and court magicians that surround him. It's his sarcasm, the fact that nobody can tell when he's joking, the way he pokes fun at social expectations, the fact that he peaces out of a good job he doesn't like on foot because it gave him bad vibes, like. He's fucking weird. You can see why he would make people uncomfortable because he's unpredictable, but he's shamelessly himself, shamelessly an artist, but taken over by moods of extreme rationality, and I think that's what endures about Hoffmann. He's such a polymath, so multifarious, the jurist and the artist, raised under the strictest order and regiment, which only increased his canniness and sarcasm. Is it this plurality that draws me in? Or is it just that Hoffmann is so damn weird? ( )
  likecymbeline | Apr 1, 2017 |
If you are into ballet, then you've heard of E.T. A. Hoffmann. Both "The Nutcracker" and "Coppelia" were based on some of his short stories. His stories all have a touch of the weird to them, but not too scary, or gruesome. It's as if part of a fairy tale got mixed into a story about normal life. He was fascinated by dream states, the twilight time between waking and dreaming. He was also interested in the artist's life, specifically that of the musician. "The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr" is Hoffmann's unfinished novel (he died before writing the 3rd part). It is a mixture of two stories: the life of a very precocious tomcat from birth to his late youth; and the life of Johannes Kreisler, Kapellmeister. Within the story of Johannes Kreisler we also find the story of Master Abraham, who is also Tomcat Murr's owner. The pages of these two biographies were randomly mixed up so that the story jumps back and forth between the two, often cutting off at a perilous or intriguing point in Kreisler's life. Tomcat Murr has much to say about everyone around him, he being much the superior being, and is for the most part, humorous and satiric. Johannes Kreisler's story is a kind of Gothic romance. It is too bad that the third part was never written, as Master Abraham's life is very much entwined in the mysteries left unsolved at the end. It was a somewhat enjoyable book, though probably not for everyone and it did seem to drag in parts. ( )
  Marse | Nov 25, 2015 |
I was a little bit afraid that the interest of this book might begin and end with its unusual form, but actually it turns out to be great fun, provided that you don't try too hard to keep track of what's going on. One protagonist is a bold, romantic hero, who sees himself destined for greatness, but is always being cast down and made to look ridiculous in the most prosaic circumstances; the other is a passive, sensitive type caught up in fragments of an incredibly complicated and deliberately cliché-ridden gothic adventure story, full of ghosts, magicians, abductions, murders, seductions, sinister monks, and magicians. Northanger Abbey, but with real blood.

Hoffmann is using this crazy structure to poke fun at all sorts of social and literary frailties, but he also clearly trying to make some serious points about the way in which literary narrative works, and the relation between the neat, closed stories it requires and actual life, where stories are fragmented, overlapping, and frequently incomplete. And, as others here have pointed out, he's also experimenting with literary versions of musical forms. ( )
2 vote thorold | Oct 14, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (106 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hoffmann, E. T. A.Authorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Adler, JeremyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bell, AntheaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ebnet, Karl-HeinzEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eycken, Fritz vanEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eycken, Katinka vanEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fleckhaus, WillyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hegenbarth, JosefIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hosemann, TheodorCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kruse, Hans-JoachimEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Liebenwein, MaximilianIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oranje, WilfredTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pisaneschi, RosinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prechtl, Michael MathiasIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Steinecke, HartmutEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thiele, Carl FriedrichIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zetterström, MargaretaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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No book stands in more need of a foreword than the present work, since without some explanation of the strange way it is put together, it is bound to seem an oddly assorted hotchpotch.
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Tomcat Murr is a loveable, self-taught animal who has written his own autobiography. But a printer's error causes his story to be accidentally mixed and spliced with a book about the composer Johannes Kreisler. As the two versions break off and alternate at dramatic moments, two wildly different characters emerge from the confusion - Murr, the confident scholar, lover, carouser and brawler, and the moody, hypochondriac genius Kreisler. In his exuberant and bizarre novel, Hoffmann brilliantly evokes the fantastic, the ridiculous and the sublime within the humdrum bustle of daily life, making The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr (1820-22) one of the funniest and strangest novels of the nineteenth century.

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