The title of this review quotes a self-characterization of the person to whom the book is discussed: Arno Schmidt.

It dates from 1953 and the author’s first letter to Wilhelm Michels, a man who, after all, was already on first name terms with Schmidt seven years later and was good for a total of three hundred pages of printed editions of the work, but fell out of favor in 1968 – shortly after Michels received a loan from Schmidt had been granted.

Normally, one would expect the borrower to terminate a friendship, because the lender has something to lose.

But for Schmidt, money meant nothing more than a daily rest so that he could find time to write, and Michels, who had moved into the neighborhood, challenged that rest with his presence.

So Schmidt let him go to hell privately

albeit unspoken.

The correspondence from his side simply lapsed.

Andrew Plathaus

Responsible editor for literature and literary life.

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Schmidt described himself more precisely as a "topographer of the horizontal falls from hell".

What he understood by that, he explained to Michels as follows: "The one who falls on the side and writes in shorthand from his veins: when it's all, it's all!" Wants to say: A writer like him - no, wrong with a man like Schmidt: only he - as a contemporary witness of the historical upheavals that meant the Nazi era, German defeat, occupation and the Adenauer government, is literally challenged to the death insofar as he will use everything he has to (de)write.

And in the end lying there just as shattered as those who fell from hell he documented.

The horizontality is due to the fact that the atheist Schmidt wanted to make "fall into hell" clear as a secular metaphor.

However, this did not prevent

This ambivalence hardly plays a role in Sven Hanuschek's almost thousand-page biography of Arno Schmidt, which has now been published by Hanser with a due delay.

Schmidt died in 1979, and the ideal publication date would have been eight years ago on his hundredth birthday, but for a long time Schmidt's deputy on earth, Bernd Rauschenbach, secretary of the Arno Schmidt Foundation, which holds all the rights to the work, had his own biographical plans sat.

From his preparatory work, a “pictorial biography” about Arno Schmidt was created in 2016, already 450 pages thick and rich in text and facts.

It would not have been surprising if we had left it at that, since Schmidt was a pictorial writer,

who designed his early prose typographically as an equivalent to photo albums and for his late novels repeatedly fell back on inspiration from illustrations.

The photo biography could therefore be regarded as an adequate form, especially since the photos of Arno Schmidt in it mostly showed what his longtime cleaning lady Erika Knopp called the author's "photo face": skeptical, gruff, dismissive.

He also wanted to remain in control of the staging of himself.