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The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr (Penguin Classics) Paperback – November 1, 1999


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The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr (Penguin Classics) + The Golden Pot and Other Tales: A New Translation by Ritchie Robertson (Oxford World's Classics) + Tales of Hoffmann (Penguin Classics)
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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (November 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140446311
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140446319
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 5.4 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #681,432 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Anthea Bell translated E. T. A. Hoffman's The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr for Penguin Classics and has received a number of translation awards.


Anthea Bell translated E. T. A. Hoffman's The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr for Penguin Classics and has received a number of translation awards.


Jeremy Adler is Professor of German at King’s College London. He studied German at Queen Mary College (University of London) and was a Lecturer in German at Westfield College before being awarded a Personal Chair. He is a sometime fellow of the Institute of Advanced Study, Berlin, and a sometime scholar of the Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel. He has written a book on Goethe’s novel The Elective Affinities (1987) and (with Ulrich Ernst) has produced a catalogue of visual poetry, Text als Figur (third edition, 1990). He has published several volumes of poetry, including The Wedding and other Marriages (1980), The Electric Alphabet (1986; second edition, 1996, internet edition, 1997) and At the Edge of the World (1995). Jeremy Adler is married and lives in London.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Prince Hector insisted on surprising his beloved bride to be, they then went on to Princess Hedwiga's room. They found Julia with her.

Prince Hector flew to the Princess's side with the haste of the most ardent lover, pressed her hand tenderly to his lips a hundred times, swore that he had lived only in his thoughts of her, that an unfortunate misunderstanding had caused him the torments of Hell, that he could no longer endure separation from her whom he adored, and that now all the bliss of Heaven had opened up before him.

Hedwiga received the Prince with an easy cheerfulness unlike her usual manner. She replied to his tender nothings as best a bride-to-be may, without giving too much of herself away in advance; indeed, she did not think it beneath her to tease him a little about his hiding place, assuring him that she could think of no prettier or more charming transformation than to see a milliner's block turn into a prince's head - for, she said, she had taken the head she saw in the gable window of the pavilion for just such a block. This gave rise to all manner of amiable chaffing of the happy pair, which seemed to please even Prince Irenaeus. He felt quite sure now that Madame Benzon had been in grave error about Kreisler, for in his opinion Princess Hedwiga's love for this handsomest of men was clear to see. The Princess seemed to be in rare, full bloom both of mind and body, as befits a happy bride.

With Julia, it was quite the opposite. As soon as she caught sight of the Prince she quivered in the grip of inner dread. Pale as death, she stood there with her eyes lowered to the ground, unable to make any movement, scarcely capable of standing upright.

After some time Prince Hector turned to Julia, with the words: 'Fraulein Benzon, if I am not mistaken?'

'A friend of the Princess's from earliest childhood - they're like a pair of sisters!'

As Prince Irenaeus spoke these words, Prince Hector took Julia's hand and whispered to her very softly, 'It is you alone I mean!'

Julia swayed; tears of the bitterest fear trickled from beneath her lashes. She would have fallen to the ground had Princess Hedwiga not swiftly thrust a chair towards her.

'Julia,' said the Princess quietly, as she leaned over her poor friend, 'Julia, pull yourself together! Don't you guess what a hard battle I am fighting?'


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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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See all 13 customer reviews
It is simply so good, so captivating...
A. G. Plumb
I highly recommend this book to any one who is interested in early romanticism, fantastic flights of imagination and biting satire.
J. R. Wiggins
Hoffmann was one of the most influential writers of the early 19th cventury.
Jeff Abell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A. G. Plumb on February 9, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The introduction claims this is an extraordinary book and it surely is. It does bare some resemblance to 'The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandy' but is markedly more inventive, more engaging. Partly it is because it is two stories entwined but also disengaged. And each is of great complexity - the one being a truly captivating mystery but one that progresses ever so slowly, almost catching me unawares and making me wonder - for a while - if this wasn't the first detective story, and the other being the musings of the character of the title - Tomcat Murr. Yes, a cat actually writes the story! By the end of the novel - and it was a long and slow read for me - every character was someone I felt totally at sympathy with (which is not something I could say for the characters in Tristam Shandy). ...
I found this novel a long, hard read - the ideas and interrelationships are dense. But by the end of it I loved all the characters, they are part of my family. It is no wonder that Hoffmann had such a great impact in the world of music - his writing can get right under your skin - well, it certainly got under mine. I will read this novel again. It is simply so good, so captivating...
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By J. R. Wiggins on January 31, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book, as the cover states, is probably one of the strangest novels of the 19th century. It is actually two books: the autobiography of the very self-important tomcat Murr which is in turn written on random back sides of a biography of Hoffmann's alter ego, the Kapellmeister Kreisler (see his Kreisleriana). Hoffmann is a master of building up your interest and sympathy in one storyline and then abruptly turning to the other, leaving you hanging and wanting more. The book is very entertaining and the translation is great, with very helpful notes at the end (there are many quotes in the book which were well known at the time, but these days...). I highly recommend this book to any one who is interested in early romanticism, fantastic flights of imagination and biting satire. The only possible problem with this work is that it is unfinished and the end of the second of three projected books does leave you hanging somewhat.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Abell on October 8, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Hoffmann was one of the most influential writers of the early 19th cventury. A composer and critic as well as writer of often bizarre fiction, Hoffmann set the tone for much of Romantic literature (especially the combination of the bourgeois and the supernatural), and provided the plots for operas and ballets (including Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann and Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker). This novel, which intersperses the memoirs of a cat (appropriately named Murr) with the "random pieces of wastepaper" the cat shredded out of a biography of the composer Kreisler (Hoffmann's alter ego?). In the late 20th century, we came to take the idea of intercutting two unrelated narratives for granted as a Post-modern breakdown of narrative authority. Yet here is the same device, in 1820! Just when you're emotionally invested in one story, it abruptly shifts back to the other. Moreover, Murr's "cat's eye view" of human interaction turns the entire book into a sly critique of the declining aristocrats and rising bourgeois of Europe at the time. A brilliant, compelling, often hilarious read. You'll understand why Schumann, Brahms, and so many others thought of Hoffmann as their favorite writer.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Timmy on January 31, 2001
Format: Paperback
I learned about ETA Hoffman by reading some articles he had written on Mozart and Beethoven (the A in is name is for Amadeus, he idolized Mozart). Little did I know that he he was a brilliant and captivating writer of fiction as well. Although markedly less frightening than many of his short stories (such as the Sandman), this book is nevertheless exciting as well as thought provoking (Hoffman makes about 400 references to the literature and music of the his time and before). Additionally, it an example of literary bravado I have not seen elsewhere, namely, the writing of two books in one. In it, a bourgeois 'genius' of a tomcat (murr), creates a wonderful palimpset by writing on shreds of the biography of brooding romantic composer Johannes Kriesler. As such, interspersed betwee the cat's opinions are excepts of the rather odd story of Krieler and his friends, such as the magician Master Abraham. Each time either of the two stories begins building to a climax, Hoffman pulls the rug out from under you and changes narratives. The only fault I find with the book is that it is unfinished (Hoffman wanted to publish a third volume which would tie up loose ends), it even ends mid-sentence. Regardless, this is a wonderful book, and I would recommend it to just about anyone.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Maria H. R. Souza on December 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
A remarkable example of the simply astoundig gifts of Hoffmann's writing, one of the few unquestionable genius in literature's history. E.T.A Hoffmann manages to blend, with overpowering skill and boldness, fantasy, wittiness, irony, sharp political criticism and lyricism, giving to the cultivated reader an endless cornucopia of sophisticated, intelligent gladness.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By James Zekmuller on May 13, 2011
Format: Paperback
You owe it to yourself to read this. It was a fairly long read for me, the text is dense both in terms of content and the words being physically small on the page (this edition is not for someone with bad eyesight!).

The content is just remarkable. I found it helpful to read some literary reviews of this piece as I was going through it. Doing so helped set the context and enriched the experience.

Some people think of this work as unfinished, but I must say it is perfect how it is.
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