Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann

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Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann : biography

24 January 1776 – 25 June 1822

The first two volumes of “Fantasies” were published in spring of 1814. The stories had grotesque, romance and mysticism, surprisingly naturally sprouted from everyday life, an unusual view of the ordinary world, and at first they aroused only bewilderment, but soon readers liked them a lot, and the author turned into a popular writer. Though, enthusiastic admirers of the new writer didn’t even suspect that their idol earned scanty honorariums and was on the edge of utter poverty.

In autumn of 1814 Hoffmann gave in, or yielded to persuasion – he got a position of a lawyer in the Berlin appellation court. Baron von Gippel obtained this position for him, and only with a trial term – only after several months Hoffmann started to get salary. But now he loved in the capital.

In Berlin the popular writer soon had a strange reputation: people always recommended him to guests as a local attraction and advised to spend some time in a wine cellar, which was often visited by Goffmann. Incredibly, but he perfectly fulfilled his duties in the court. He was respected as a writer and a lawyer. His novel “The Satan’s elixirs” was a great success, it was published in 1815 and was an example of a black gothic novel. According to speculations, people went mad because of that book… His famous fairy-tale “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” also appeared at that time.

In 1819 Hoffmann was appointed a councilor of the appellation court. He didn’t have any financial problems, and he really could reach high levels of his career – but, as it was in youth, when the working day was over he turned into another person. Now nightmares were poured out on the paper.

In spring of 1818 Hoffmann got the illness of the spinal cord, and his state of health constantly worsened. In summer someone presented him a stripy kitten. The writer called him Murr and convinced everybody that he got the habit to sleep on his manuscripts, opening the drawer with his leg, and even read them, when the master wasn’t at home. It was Murr, who became a character from “Life views of cat Murr”, a novel, in which Hoffmann very clearly and with bitter irony recounted his view of life. The book was published in 1819.

Hoffmann also entered a commission, which should “find out traitorous relations and other dangerous intrigues” – after the war Prussia became a police state. But the writer wasn’t suited for the position of an overseer, and a month later he protected liberal philosophers. As he was a brilliant lawyer, he got away with it, though government kept an eye on his books with “politically inappropriate jokes”.

In autumn of 1821 Hoffmann transferred to the supreme appellation senate, and a month later sent “Master Flea” to the editor. By that time all police was against him – a brilliant lawyer managed to bring to trial the head of the police with accusation in slander. Naturally, when “Master Flea” was read in the censorship office, the manuscript was confiscated because of “humiliating insinuations and divulgence of a judicial secret”. The matter became serious, and Hoffmann wrote a defensive speech for himself. To be more exact, he dictated it, because since winter of 1822 his body was partly paralyzed. Owing to the writer’s popularity and his friends’ help, the case was cancelled, and his book was published, but only after the censorship’s changes.

His last finished work was a story “The corner window”, which is considered to be a forefather of a new, specific genre in literature. During writing the death reached Hoffmann – he was dictating a novel “Enemy”. It happened on the 25th of June in 1822.

Despite his friends’ wish, a gravestone on his grave was placed on the money of the judicial department, which Hoffmann had hated all his life.

But the miracle remained – the miracle of fairy-tales, written by a strange genius. Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann was a councilor of law in one world and a great magician in the other. And who can say which world is real?