classic reading | Etta Hoffmann: “The Fräulein von Scuderi” and Other Stories

Etta Hoffmann (1776-1822) is best known as the narrator of fantastic and miraculous stories. He was also a talented musician and painter, for a long time he could not choose between his many talents. In addition, the law graduate lived a double life between art and profession. During the day he worked as a civil servant in the Prussian judicial system, in the evenings he painted, composed or wrote.

In his youth, Hoffmann devoted himself mainly to music. He changed his middle name Wilhelm to Amadeus in 1804 due to his admiration for Mozart. With the novel “Riter Glock” published in 1809, literature finally came to the fore. The volume of stories “Fantasy Pieces in Callot’s Manner” (1814/1815) cemented Hoffman’s reputation as a writer. Most of his works known today were created in the last eight years of his life, including The Brothers Serapion, Myrrh Tomcat, and The Devil’s Elixir.

In Hoffman’s stories, the boundary between fantasy and reality is often blurred. The contrast between life and art, between bourgeois everyday life and the world of imagination is a recurring theme.

Towards the end of his life, Etta Hoffmann suffered from a serious illness accompanied by progressive paralysis. He died on June 25, 1822 at the age of 46 in Berlin.

Eta Hoffman reading the classics

The three stories of these classic readings can be found in Hoffmann’s “Die Serapionsbrüder” cycle, published between 1819 and 1921. The pieces collected there are included in a frame story in which four friends meet regularly in a literary circle and read each other’s stories. Miss Von Scuderi From the third volume it is perhaps one of the most famous stories.

This masterful crime story takes place in Paris in the year 1860. A series of murders keeps the city in suspense. The victims are always wealthy knights who secretly sneak in their loved ones at night with precious jewels.

Quote from “Miss von Scuderi”:
“The slain, lying in the street or in the houses almost every morning, all had the same mortal wound. A stab in the heart, killing swift and certain in the opinion of the doctors the wounded man did not have to make a sound and fell to the ground. Who was in the sumptuous court of Louis The fourteenth who was not involved in a secret love affair, and was sneaking up late for his lover and sometimes carrying a rich gift with him?”

Through mysterious circumstances, Miss de Scudry, an elderly lady and respected poet at the court of Louis XIV, becomes involved in this case. With her indisputable ingenuity and sensitivity, she succeeded in exposing the real killer. In the novel, Hoffman combines elements of a crime story with the image of a maniacal artist. The plot goes back to a historical criminal case that the French writer Madeleine de Scudry (1607-1701) tried to solve.

Falun Mines It is one of the six new stories written by Etta Hoffmann for the Die Serapionsbrüder cycle. It concerns the young sailor Ellis Frobom, who gave up his job after the death of his mother. A large miner advised him to go to Falun to become a miner. There he falls in love with Ola, the beautiful daughter of astrologer Pearson Dalshaw. One day an old miner appeared to him in the pit and predicted that he would never marry first. Ellis is drawn to the mysterious, mundane world inside the mine. On the morning of his wedding day, he descended deep into the mountain to bring to his bride a “sparkling cherry red Almandine”.

scary guest From the third volume of “Serapionsbrüder” combines elements typical of a horror story in the style of Hoffmann. Even the initial scene gives the reader a gentle quiver: Colonel von Gee and her daughter Angelica are sitting by the fireplace on a windy late-autumn evening with their guests Ritmeister Moritz von R. and attorney Dagobert. Gentlemen tell all sorts of frightening tales, when suddenly the door to the hall opened “with a loud rustle” and a man dressed in black entered from head to toe. The stranger introduces himself as Count C, and proves to be a loyal friend of the colonel. But those present were amazed when he saw him.

Quote from “The Invisible Guest”:
“Should I wear something scary about myself?” answered the Count with a strange look: “There is so much talk these days of people who are able to influence others by a special psychological magic supposed to make them feel awful. Perhaps I am even capable of such magic.”

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