Karl-Heinz Müther's Arno Schmidt (1914-1979): Bibliographie und audiovisuelle Zeugnisse zu Leben, Werk und Wirkung

Review by John B. Rutledge and David H. Bryan

WESS Newsletter

Fall 1996, Vol. 20, no. 1

Association of College & Research Libraries
©American Library Association


Karl-Heinz Müther's Arno Schmidt (1914-1979): Bibliographie und audiovisuelle Zeugnisse zu Leben, Werk und Wirkung. Review by John B. Rutledge and David H. Bryan Müther, Karl-Heinz, et al. Arno Schmidt (1914-1979): Bibliographie und audiovisuelle Zeugnisse zu Leben, Werk und Wirkung. Bielefeld: Aisthesis Verlag, 1995. 1 CD-ROM. This is a multimedia product that combines textual, graphic, and sonic elements. In addition to a massive bibliography, the following components can be pursued: graphic arts, biography, a photograph album, and a collection of statements about Schmidt by relatively well-known German authors. Video clips and sound clips of Schmidt's works-curiously not read by Schmidt himself)-enhance the product. We could discover no way to take a systematic look at the clips implanted on the diskette. Rather, one stumbles upon clickable sound icons while browsing. The non-print sections were drawn from Karl-Heinz Müther's private collection. The product is the electronic equivalent of a coffee table book attached to a serious bibliography.

The bibliography will likely prove to be most useful for scholarship. Arno Schmidt has previously been well served by three successive print bibliographies which document his primary works and scholarship about him. Prior to Müther, Hans-Michael Bock first published the Bibliografie Arno Schmidt 1949-1973 in 1974.1 An expanded edition with approximately 2,000 entries appeared ibidem in 1979. Michael Matthias Schardt supplemented Bock's work with a monograph (903 entries) extending the coverage from 1979 to 1985. 2 In 1992 Müther published a computer-printout Bibliographie Arno Schmidt 1949-1991 (Bielefeld: Aisthesis).

A search of the MLA bibliography on-line (1963 to the present) yielded only 143 items about Schmidt. By comparison, Müther's bibliography pursues Schmidt to the depths. And there is much to report. According to the liner notes, it contains 7,000 entries and is based on Müther's print bibliography of 1992. That Arno Schmidt has become a major figure is not in question. In 1978 Eppelsheimer/Köttelwesch reported only four studies about Schmidt, only 14 in 1979, and in 1980 only 17. Schmidt scholarship has grown significantly since his death in 1979. A survey of publications listed in the Eppelsheimer/Köttelwesch bibliography for the years 1990 through 1994 shows an average of 57 entries per year.

The word search function within the bibliography is fairly sophisticated; the system allows Boolean searching with the German terms (UND, NAHEBEI, etc.). Yet the view function of the bibliography is clumsy. Once you have selected a bibliographical citation for examination, you have to move the search screen out of the way, then wait for the citation to build before you read it. However, citations are cross-referenced with clickable arrows which allow the researcher to pursue thematic interests. It is possible to print each citation; the program neatly tells you what is being printed out as it prints. But the program evidently does not permit the downloading of citations or text onto a diskette. The bibliographic citations for smaller items usually do not include page numbers, a feature inherited from the print version. On the other hand, some citations indicate the size of the print run, a useful feature. While the bibliography will be the most important part of this CD-ROM publication, most researchers will probably be content with the print version.

The eight components are linked by color-coded clickable icons. The biography section includes text and pictures as well as brief citations from primary works. The primary works section, organized by chronology, offers graphic representations of the covers of Schmidt's works and the dates of other major works published around the same time. When in the `Works' mode you can follow the red arrow and get to reviews of the works. Apparently the editor shortened and abridged the reviews included. We identified one review that could not be retrieved from the bibliography.

Pictures of Schmidt, including portraits and shots of his workplace comprise the "photo gallery." The fine arts category is a list of artists (with biographical notes) who painted or sketched Schmidt, or illustrated Schmidtian themes. A section on colleagues has pictures, citations and brief biographies of Schmidt's colleagues (such as Günter Grass). Since Arno Schmidt, who is frequently called the German James Joyce, lends himself particularly well to parody, there is a collection of parodies of Schmidt's unique writing style(s), including some written in tribute to Schmidt following his death. A somewhat skimpy theater section has pictures of the Arno Schmidt Project of 1988- 1991 and a list of readings done by the theater ensemble.

It is with ease of use that this product will succeed or fail. The installation procedures of the Arno Schmidt CD-ROM are standard but probably will require professional assistance or at least a fair amount of experience with CD-ROM products (and a knowledge of German) to use with confidence. It operates in a Windows environment in German only.

The graphic presentation sometimes creates confusion. For example, when one calls up Aus dem Leben eines Fauns one gets a picture of the dustjacket, but also pictures of two other seemingly unrelated books by different authors. The graphics or visual `pages' usually take the format of a collage.

Following the color-coded paths, one can explore the intellectual environment of Schmidt's works. Click on Zettels Traum and you retrieve a book jacket with seven colored arrows. To browse or surf efficiently you must know the color codes, however. For example, you must know that dark blue leads to bibliography, orange to biographical details, green to a photo album, etc. Until you have memorized the color codes, you will have trouble navigating through the product.

The collection of graphic works (`Bildende Kunst') is accessed by the yellow arrows. Once a picture builds on the screen the user must then click a second time (and wait) for the legend to appear underneath or beside it. This feature ("It's not a bug, it's a feature!") adds to the user's perception that the program operates slowly. Clumsiness of this sort would be unacceptable in a printed book. In general this CD-ROM seems to require a faster machine than many users are likely to have. Waiting time for searching and image building was slow, from 10 to 15 seconds on average.

The navigational aids are not self-evident and moving between features can be perplexing. Similarly, while there is a help button, how one exits from the help message is not self evident. Moving from one section to another is not intuitive. Clicking on zurück, for example, does not get one out; instead, it takes one through the particular level of the hierarchy one is in. The letztes button allows you to retrace the route you have come along. All in all, learning to navigate in this program required an investment in time of more than three hours. This is a significant handicap that will prevent these files from being used by any but the most eARNest and ARNdent Schmidtophiles.

1 (Munich: edition text + kritik, 1974).
2 Bibliographie Arno Schmidt 1979 - (7) 1985: Mit Ergänzungen und Verbesserungen zur Arno-Schmidt-Bibliographie 1949-1978. Aachen: Rader Verlag, 1985.


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