“If I have led one new reader to his work, I have done well.”
M. A. Orthofer fulfils his purpose and does not glory in what he has done in his introduction to Arno Schmidt and his work. I’m aware of Schmidt’s work from the Zetta Traum reading diary on one of my favourite blogs, and have been patiently awaiting an English translation.
Dialogue as a literary form has its genesis in the 5th and 4th century BCE culture of Athens. I gather it is a form often adopted by Schmidt, so no surprise that Orthofer choses to structure his introduction to Schmidt’s work in this form of discourse. Socrates chatted around the gyms and market-places of Athens.
In Orthofer’s case the literary dialogue takes place in an old-school pub with whiskey (‘wine: look elsewhere’). It is reflective, witty and superbly articulated, just the type of dialogue one always imagines but rarely discovers, but perhaps that is just in England. Although authoritative, the dialogue retains a slippery and playful tension, casual and erudite.
Orthofer, founder of the essential Complete Review blog has done well to lead this reader to Schmidt’s work. I’ll be dipping into Schmidt’s Collected Novellas, but that will be after sampling Julián Ríos’s work, a writer apparently influenced by Schmidt.