vol. 5 No. 1 June 2021

Zero Hour in Arno Schmidt's Triptych Leviathan; or, An Adventure Allegorist at the Crossroads
Author:Claudia Franken    Time:2021-09-22    Click:

Zero Hour in Arno Schmidt’s Triptych Leviathan; or, An Adventure Allegorist at the Crossroads

Claudia Franken

Page 001-014

Abstract: Arno Schmidt’s tripartite Leviathan (1949; written 1946—1948) is one of the few German narratives composed immediately after World War II. Different from the then newly-propagated Trümmerliteratur (literature among the ruins) or the literature of Vergangenheitsbewältigung (coping with the past), Schmidt’s writing condensed and “dehydrated” narrative events, weaving antiquity and his personal experience into one in order to lay bare historical lines of continuity. Relating to Pytheas of Marsilia, to an ethics based on praxis and to modern physics, he undertakes a demanding topography of “hell descents” within which he also put into doubt political and academic demands upon a cultural legacy that was, to him, anything but timeless. The essay explores Schmidt’s didactic, innovative use of allegory and other rhetorical devices as tools for understanding long-term consequences of failures of interpretation and forceful restrictions on the play of imagination.

Keywords: Arno Schmidt, avant-garde, Dante, Eratosthenes, Leviathan, Pytheas, 20th-century German literature

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