Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

When, at the age of fifty-nine, Jean Paul (zhawn pawl) took stock of his literary accomplishments, he arrived at the number of exactly fifty-nine books, one book for each year of his life—certainly a gratifying coincidence for someone who so clearly had lived in order to write. Jean Paul had started his career in literature with two collections of satires, Grönländische Prozesse: Oder, Satirische Skizzen (1783; Greenland lawsuits) and Auswahl aus des Teufels Papieren (1789; selections from the Devil’s papers). After 1790, inspired by a new sympathy for the unavoidable follies of the downtrodden in their narrow circumstances, the youthful critic became less censorious in his view of world and society. Over the next twenty years, Jean Paul wrote several short narratives in which unique blends of satire and idyll create shades of the comical, reaching from the subtly subversive praise of steadfast endurance in Leben des vergnügten Schulmeisterlein Maria Wutz in Auenthal (1793; Life of the Cheerful Little Schoolmaster Maria Wutz in Auenthal, 1959) to the grotesque farce of capricious cowardice in Des Feldpredigers Schmelzle Reise nach Flätz (1809; Army Chaplain Schmelzle’s Journey to Flätz, 1827).

During the turbulent years of the early nineteenth century, Jean Paul wrote a good number of important political essays. Jean Pauls Freiheits-Büchlein (1805; Jean Paul’s booklet of freedom) attacks censorship; Dämmerungen für Deutschland (1810; twilights for Germany), published during Napoleon’s occupation of Germany, counsels friendship with France and suggests that being governed by liberal foreigners might, after all, be preferable to being governed by illiberal compatriots. The same years saw the publication of comprehensive inquiries into what for Jean Paul were two closely related areas, inquiries into the theory and practice of art, his Vorschule der Ästhetik (1804; Horn of Oberon: Jean Paul Richter’s School for Aesthetics, 1973) and into the theory and practice of education, his Levana: Ein Erziehungsbuch (1807; Levana: Or, The Doctrine of Education, 1848). Jean Paul’s lifelong preoccupation with the experience of death and his research into humankind’s sense of immortality found expression in two religious tracts, Das Kampaner Tal (1797; The Champaner Thal, 1848) and Selina, published posthumously in 1827.