Bottom’s Dream.

Edwin Turner writes:

Arno Schmidt’s 1970 novel Bottom’s Dream is finally available in English translation by John E. Woods. The book has been published by the Dalkey Archive.

It is enormous. […]

Look, I know that dwelling on a book’s size probably has nothing to do with literary criticism, but Bottom’s Dream poses something of a special case. As an article on Bottom’s Dream at The Wall Street Journal points out, Schmidt’s opus is 1,496 pages long, contains over 1.3 million words, and weighs 13 pounds. […]

The obvious easy reference point here is Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, which indeed Schmidt was actively following, both in form and style: competing columns, a fragmentary and elusive/allusive style, collage-like metacommentary, an etymological explosion—words as paint, text as meaning. Etc.

Turner has screenshots which will give you an idea of what the book is like, both externally (it’s enormous!) and on the inside. As I wrote on MetaFilter (where I learned about it):

Sounds really interesting, in the way that the Wake is interesting, but I still haven’t gotten very far into the Wake after decades of off-and-on trying, so I’m not about to tackle a book based on it that’s 1,496 pages long, contains over 1.3 million words, and weighs 13 pounds. But much respect to the translator, and to readers younger and gutsier than I who plunge into it!

Comments

  1. It seems to me considerably less dense and easier than the Wake, more like the “Circe” and “Penelope” chapters of Ulysses.

  2. “Screenshots”?

  3. Checked Wikipedia article on this book and learned that one of the novel’s main themes is the alleged coprophilia of Edgar Allan Poe.

    I wonder if the novel’s title refers to this allegation…

    I think I’ll pass on this one, thanks.

  4. “Screenshots”?

    Sorry, whatever they are. Images. I am immigrant in your century!

  5. I was just curious about why you used that word, rather than just “photos” or something. “Screenshots” are normally images captured from a computer screen, without the involvement of a camera, and usually show parts of a computer interface of some sort (like a website). Those are just ordinary photos of books, with nothing screen-related.

  6. Yeah, I realize that now, but last night, as I was making myself post before tottering off to bed, my brain was fuddled and not coming up with the right words. Just wait a few years, and this blog will read like late Joyce!

  7. I am immigrant in your century!

    That brings to mind: http://xkcd.com/630/

  8. I’d love to read more about the practical side of Woods’ translation. How did he even format his manuscript? Were editors involved? What did the stylesheet look like? Can it even be viewed directly without precipitating madness? Is smoked glass sufficient to protect a proofreader, or is it best to use a bronze mirror while three interns recite the Lament for Ur from within a protective circle of chalk?

  9. Phil Jennings says:

    Not available on Kindle.

  10. Even my Kindle for PC crashes trying to open files with over 1 million words.

  11. Is smoked glass sufficient to protect a proofreader, or is it best to use a bronze mirror while three interns recite the Lament for Ur from within a protective circle of chalk?

    If a man hacking in fury at a block of wood make there an image of a cow (say) has he made a work of art? […] What impeded Bloom from giving Stephen counsels of hygiene and prophylactic to which should be added suggestions concerning a preliminary wetting of the head and contraction of the muscles with rapid splashing of the face and neck and thoracic and epigastric region in case of sea or river bathing, the parts of the human anatomy most sensitive to cold being the nape, stomach, and thenar or sole of foot? […] Positing what protasis would the contraction for such several schemes become a natural and necessary apodosis? […] What past consecutive causes, before rising preapprehended, of accumulated fatigue did Bloom, before rising, silently recapitulate? […] Womb? Weary? […] With? […] When? […] Where?

  12. Has no body pointed it out because it’s just too obvious, that it’s called Bottom’s Dream because it hath no bottom?

Speak Your Mind

*