Works by Arno Schmidt, Other books
Bottom's Dream (German: Zettels Traum or ZETTEL’S TRAUM as the author wrote the title) is a novel published in 1970 by West German author Arno Schmidt. Schmidt began writing the novel in December 1963 while he and Hans Wollschläger began to translate the works of Edgar Allan Poe into German. The novel was inspired by James Joyce's novel Finnegans Wake, particularly Schmidt's use of columns (his "SpaltenTechnik"), which Schmidt claimed was borrowed from the Wake.
The gargantuan novel was published in folio format with 1334 pages. The story is told mostly in three shifting columns, presenting the text in the form of notes, collages, and typewritten pages. The 2016 English translation by John E. Woods has 1,496 pages and weighs over 13 pounds (5.9 kg).
The title is an adaption from a character and a scene in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. At the end of Act IV, Scene 1, the awaking weaver Bottom says :"I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was: man is but an ass, if he go about to expound this dream. Methought I was—there is no man can tell what. Methought I was,—and methought I had,—but man is but a patched fool, if he will offer to say what methought I had. The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man's hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream was. I will get Peter Quince to write a ballad of this dream: it shall be called Bottom's Dream, because it hath no bottom;..."
Christoph Martin Wieland translated the play in 1762 into German prose. His weaver Bottom (bottom = ball of yarn) bears accordingly a German term of weaving as his name, Zettel, which was apt for a translation of the last line (to "weil darin alles verzettelt ist", roughly 'because in it all is mixed up') Hence "Zettels Traum" is German for Bottom's Dream.
The novel begins around 4 AM on Midsummer's Day 1968 in the Lüneburg Heath in northeastern Lower Saxony in northern Germany, and concludes twenty-five hours later. It follows the lives of 54-year-old Daniel Pagenstecher, visiting translators Paul Jacobi and his wife Wilma, and their 16-year-old daughter Franziska. The story is concerned with the problems of translating Edgar Allan Poe into German and with exploring the themes he conveys, especially regarding sexuality.
The novel is divided into eight books, as follows: