Adolf Müllner Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Adolf Müllner is best known in German literature for his “fate tragedies” (Schicksalstragödien) Der neunundzwanzigste Februar (1812, revised as Der Wahn, 1818; the twenty-ninth of February) and Die Schuld (1813; Guilt, 1819). His sole contribution to detective fiction is his short novel Der Kaliber (1828; The Caliber, 1999), which is often called the first detective novel in German literature. The story is told in the first person, the narrator being the examining magistrate charged with investigating the murder of a young man who is killed in the presence of his brother. The brother believes himself guilty, but he is proved innocent because the bullet that killed his brother was of a larger caliber than the ones shot by his pistol.

This work was kept from complete oblivion by being reprinted in obscure anthologies several times, the last as late as 1908. It seems to have had little influence and is virtually unknown in the English-speaking world. Its interest is thus primarily that of a historical curiosity.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Bloch, Ernst. “A Philosophical View of the Detective Novel.” In Literary Essays, translated by Andrew Joron and others. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1998. Bloch’s essay is a classic, among the most well known and influential German-language studies of detective fiction. Sheds light on Müllner’s work.

Daviau, Donald G. “Adolf Müllner.” In European Authors, 1000-1900, edited by Stanley J. Kunitz and Vineta Colby. New York: Wilson, 1967. Müllner is covered in this massive bio-bibliographic dictionary of nine hundred years of European literature.

Evans, Richard J. Tales from the German Underworld: Crime and Punishment in the Nineteenth Century. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1998. A rare English-language study of nineteenth century German detective and crime fiction. Provides context for understanding Müllner.

Tannert, Mary W., and Henry Katz, trans. and eds. Early German and Austrian Detective Fiction: An Anthology. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1999. Müllner’s The Caliber is included in this anthology with commentary on the history of German and Austrian mystery stories.