- Simplicissimus was also a satirical German weekly inspired by this novel.
Simplicius Simplicissimus (German: Der abenteuerliche Simplicissimus Teutsch) is a picaresque novel of the Baroque style, written in 1668 by Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen and published the subsequent year. Inspired by the events and horrors of the Thirty Years' War which had devastated Germany from 1618 to 1648, it is regarded as the first adventure novel in the German language and the first German novel masterpiece.
The full subtitle is "The life of an odd vagrant named Melchior Sternfels von Fuchshaim: namely where and in what manner he came into this world, what he saw, learned, experienced, and endured therein; also why he again left it of his own free will."
The novel follows a boy from the Spessart named Simplicius in the Holy Roman Empire during the 30 Years War as he grows up in the depraved environment[clarification needed] and joins the armies of both warring sides, switching allegiances several times. Born to an illiterate peasant family, he is separated from his home by foraging dragoons and is eventually adopted by a forest hermit. He is conscripted at a young age into service, and from there embarks on years of foraging, military triumph, wealth, prostitution, disease, travels to Russia, and countless other adventures.
The novel is considered by some to contain autobiographic elements, inspired by Grimmelshausen's experience in the war. The historian Robert Ergang, however, draws upon Gustav Könnecke's Quellen und Forschungen zur Lebensgeschichte Grimmelshausens to assert that "the events related in the novel Simplicissimus could hardly have been autobiographical since [Grimmelshausen] lived a peaceful existence in quiet towns and villages on the fringe of the Black Forest and that the material he incorporated in his work was not taken from actual experience, but was either borrowed from the past, collected from hearsay, or created by a vivid imagination."
The adventures of Simplicissimus became so popular that they were reproduced by authors in other European countries. Simplicissimus was recreated in French, English, and Turkish. The Hungarian Simplicissimus (Ungarischer oder Dacianischer Simplicissimus) was released in 1683.[clarification needed] The author remained anonymous but is now generally considered to be Wrocław-born Daniel Speer.[clarification needed]
20th century composer Karl Amadeus Hartmann wrote the anti-war opera Simplicius Simplicissimus for chamber orchestra in the mid-1930s, with contributions to the libretto by his teacher Hermann Scherchen. It opens:
In A.D. 1618, 12 million lived in Germany. Then came the great war. … In A.D. 1648 only 4 million still lived in Germany.
English translations include:
- The Adventurous Simplicissimus, trans. Alfred Thomas Scrope Goodrick, London: William Heinemann, 1912. See also Project Gutenberg copy and later edition with new intro.
- The Simplicissimus Project, the 1912 trans. by A.T.S. Goodrick with material added by students at The College of William and Mary during Spring 2002.
- Simplicissimus, 2nd ed., trans. Mike Mitchell, Dedalus, 2006. Shortlisted for the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize. ISBN 978-1903517420
- Simplicissimus, The German Adventurer, trans. John C. Osborne, Newfound Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-9797292-5-6
- Simplicius Simplicissimus, trans. Monte Adair, 1986/2012. Free download. ISBN 978-3-941170-68-1
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Grimmelshausen, Hans Jakob Christoffel von". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
- Robert Ergang, The Myth of the All-Destructive Fury of the Thirty Years’ War' (Pocono Pines: The Craftsmen, 1956), 7.
- George Loomis, "The vision of 'Simplicius'", International Herald Tribune, May 19, 2004