The mirror in the mirror
The mirror in the mirror. A Labyrinth is a collection of surreal short stories by Michael Ende originally published in 1984. All stories in the book have their own protagonists, but are related to each other by the use of literary leitmotivs. None of the stories has its own title. Ende wrote the 30 short stories - according to the dedication at the beginning of the book - for his father Edgar Ende, whose artistic work (the book is illustrated with 18 of his paintings) inspired the short stories.
Themes and motives
The main motive of the collection is the question "What is reflected in a mirror which is reflected in a mirror?"  Ende does not provide a clear answer to this question during the course of the book. In a letter, he stated that he intended the title to be taken as a metaphor for the relationship between reader and the book:
- "That brings me to the real reason for the title: Where does that which happens during reading a book take place? (...) Does not every reader, whether he wants it or not, bring (...) his own experiences and thoughts into the process of reading? (...) Is not every book a mirror in which the reader is reflected, whether he knows it or not? And is not every reader a mirror in which the book is reflected?"
Recurring motives are the question about the purpose of life, a constant waiting for something which is never to happen, a search for freedom and the criticism of an inhuman society. Most of the stories do not allow for a clear interpretation; instead, as Ende himself stated:
- "If one claims to have 'understood' something or to be able to 'explain' something, that usually means nothing more than to reduce it to something known before, to something familiar. (...) While writing this book I intended to invite the reader to something of a free game, where the content of imagination or consciousness is constantly destroyed or transformed so that it becomes impossible to cling to it."
- "Exchange of correspondence with Michael Ende" (in German).