The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

When E. T. A. Hoffmann published the first volume of Kater Murr (as the work is popularly known), he had been an acclaimed author for some five years, following appearance of his first major work, the Fantasiestücke (fantasy pieces, 1814-1815) in four volumes. His death came half a year after publication of the second volume of Kater Murr.

As the full title indicates, Kater Murr tells a double story. The romantic plot concerns the love of the musician Kreisler for a sixteen-year-old girl, Julia Benzon, and the nominal main story is the autobiography of a literary tomcat who in the end is given into the care of the musician Kreisler by its owner, Master Abraham, an organ builder and conjurer. Master Abraham is at the same time the self-appointed mentor to Kreisler in his passion for young Julia. Unlike most of Hoffmann’s four dozen tales and his other novel, Die Elixiere des Teufels (1815-1816; The Devils Elixirs, 1824), Kater Murr contains no element of the magical or miraculous, save for the tomcats gift of speech and other human abilities and capacities.

The complication in the love story is Kreisler’s yearning to believe that his passion for Julia is pure and platonic, not tainted by fleshly lust, and her similar desire to believe that her love for the thirty-year-old composer and conductor is wholly transcendent in nature, a spiritual love with music as its medium. The...

(The entire section is 539 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Hewett-Thayer, Harvey W. Hoffmann: Author of the Tales, 1948.

McGlathery, James M. Mysticism and Sexuality: E.T.A. Hoffmann, Part Two: Interpretations of the Tales, 1981.

Negus, Kenneth. E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Other World: The Romantic Author and His New Mythology, 1965.

Rosen, Robert S. E.T.A. Hoffmann’s “Kater Murr”: Aufbauformen und Erzahlsituationen, 1970.

Taylor, Ronald. Hoffmann, 1963.