Post by Mark T. Locker.
“The Golden Pot” by E.T.A. Hoffmann.
Nothing makes me happier than the arrival of fall. I love the change of the leaves, the milder temperatures, darkening evenings and the slow creep of Halloween onto the scene. Many years ago, I spent the most influential autumn of my life studying 19th-century German literature, art, philosophy, and music. I spent the days sipping chai amongst the swirling autumn leaves, listening to Robert Schumann and Brahms, reading the tales of the brothers Grimm as well as the modern fairy tales of the 19th century; notably, Ludwig Tieck and E.T.A. Hoffmann.
Although the name Hoffmann may seem unfamiliar to you, gentle reader, his best-known book is known to us all. A little story he wrote called “The Nutcracker” has become the seminal Holiday ballet. I must admit, I haven’t actually read that story. Maybe this year I finally will. But his novella “The Golden Pot” is hands-down one of my favorite stories of all time. It’s weird, it’s eerie, and wonderfully magical.
The story revolves around a young scholar named Anselmus who is trying his best to be an upright, well-mannered gentleman of Dresden but his flights of fancy and awkward manner get in his way. But when a colleague recommends him to an eccentric old man seeking someone to transcribe a document, his live changes forever. The strange man, the Archivarius Lindhorst, is looking for a man just like Anselmus: his head-in-the-clouds approach to life and his daydreaming are key tools in performing the tasks Archivarius Lindhorst demands. With his guidance, Anselmus finds all his suspicions to be proven true. As Hoffmann tells us, this fairy region of wonder and horror is right before our eyes, if we are willing to look. In this fairy region Anselmus finds love and danger. It’s a beautifully odd story, a depiction of the battle between rationalism and Romantacism. He’s team Romanticism all the way. So am I. A great read for a blustery autumn evening.