The City of Dreaming Books
|Original title||Die Stadt der Träumenden Bücher|
|Cover artist||Walter Moers|
|Publisher||German: Piper Verlag GmbH. English: Overlook TP|
Published in English
|Media type||Print (hardcover)|
The City of Dreaming Books (original title: Die Stadt der Träumenden Bücher) is the fourth novel in the Zamonia series written and illustrated by German author Walter Moers, but the third to be translated into English by John Brownjohn. The German version was released in Autumn 2004, and the English version followed in Autumn 2007. It is followed by two sequels, The Labyrinth of Dreaming Books (2011) and The Castle of Dreaming Books (TBA).
Protagonist Optimus Yarnspinner (Hildegunst von Mythenmetz in the German text) is a Lindworm (dinosaur) who inherits his authorial godfather's possessions, including a perfect story written by an unknown author, in search of whom he travels to Bookholm, a city devoted to literature above labyrinthine catacombs containing many valuable books, among various monsters and perils. There, a publisher directs him to antagonist Pfistomel Smyke, who possesses the most valuable books on the market and controls the book trade by musical hypnosis. At his house, Smyke reveals his plan to eradicate all forms of art in Zamonia; drugs Yarnspinner; and transfers him to the catacombs.
Waking, Yarnspinner attempts to reach the surface, but falls victim to a trap and re-appears in Unholm, the monster-infested rubbish dump of the catacombs. Wandering out, he falls victim to a Spinxxx, a spider-like monster, but is rescued by a Bookhunter (one of the murderous mercenaries who explore the catacombs in search of ancient books), who thereafter tries to eat Yarnspinner, but is killed by an unknown force. Yarnspinner then finds the Booklings, friendly gnomes devoted to memorizing books, tending to the dying Colophonius Regenschein, the only good Bookhunter. They are attacked by evil Bookhunters led by Regenschein's mortal enemy, Rongkong Koma; and Yarnspinner escapes to Shadowhall Castle, home of the 'Shadow King', the mysterious author sought by Yarnspinner: a human surgically altered by Smyke, to be taller, stronger, and possessed of impenetrable paper skin, that bursts into flame in contact with sunlight or moonlight, who tutors Yarnspinner in the art of writing. After the Shadow King frees the Booklings' library and gains entrance to Smyke's personal library, they are ambushed by the Bookhunters, who are hypnotized into killing each other by the Booklings. At Smyke's bookshop, the Shadow King kills Smyke and sets himself and the city afire. Yarnspinner, having fled with the antique and fearsome Bloody Book, leaves the city, having attained the Orm, the universal source of creativity.
The names of many of the authors listed in The City of Dreaming Books are anagrams of famous authors. Below are a few listed in alphabetical order by the last name of the real-world author:
- Ojahnn Golgo van Fontheweg = Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
- Ergor Banco = Roger Bacon
- Lugo Blah (a Zamonian Gagaist) = Hugo Ball (a German Dadaist)
- Hornac de Bloaze = Honoré de Balzac
- Rashid el Clarebeau = Charles Baudelaire
- Bethelzia B. Binngrow = Elizabeth B. Browning
- Trebor Snurb = Robert Burns
- Selwi Rollcar = Lewis Carroll
- Auselm T. Edgecroil = Samuel T. Coleridge
- Asdrel Chickens = Charles Dickens
- Evsko Dosti = (Fyodor) Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- Doylan Cone (Author of Sir Ginel) = Conan Doyle (author, among other works, of Sir Nigel)
- Samoth Yarg = Thomas Gray
- Dolreich Hirnfiedler = Friedrich Hölderlin
- Ugor Vochti = Victor Hugo
- Honj Steak = John Keats
- Melvin Hermalle = Herman Melville
- Gramerta Climelth (Author of Gone with the Tornado) = Margaret Mitchell
- Perla la Gadeon = Edgar Allan Poe
- Inka Almira Rierre = Rainer Maria Rilke
- T. T. Kreischwurst = Kurt Schwitters
- Aliesha Wimperslake = William Shakespeare
- Elo Slooty = Leo Tolstoy
- Rasco Elwid = Oscar Wilde
- Wamilli Swordthrow = William Wordsworth
- Rimidalv Vokoban (author of "Love and the Generation Gap") = Vladimir Nabokov (author of Lolita, about the paedophilic passion of a middle-aged European professor for the eponymous heroine)
- Gofid Letterkerl = Gottfried Keller
- Ertrob Slimu = Robert Musil
The City of Dreaming Books also contains fictional words, found in most of Moers' work. Some are onomatopoeic; others are amalgamations of existing words or Indo-European roots; still others are created by the author. Many such words can be found in Chapter 60. A sample of these are listed below:
- "fructodism:" the sensation experienced when squeezing an orange until it becomes soft.
- "rumbumblion:" the sound produced by a volcanic eruption.
- "indigabluntic:" one of a number of derogatory epithets.
- "nasodiscrepant:" a person whose nostrils are notably different in size.
- "glunk:" a sound some animals — including lindworms — can make with their teeth, indicating pleasure or satisfaction, particularly with a certain food
The Labyrinth of Dreaming Books
A sequel, The Labyrinth of Dreaming Books, has been released, wherein Yarnspinner, now a best-selling author, receives a letter apparently from himself, and visits a rebuilt Bookholm in search of its origin. There, he becomes engrossed in 'Puppetism', the variety of puppet-theatres now ubiquitous in the city, and intrigued by the emulation, among Bookhunters, of Colophonius Regenschein. This second book ends in a cliffhanger, featuring Yarnspinner alone in the still-enormous catacombs, with implication that the 'Shadow King' is alive.
The list of fictional authors, anagramming the names of historical authors, continues or repeats in the sequel, expanded therein to include musicians and artists. These include (but are not limited to):
- Orphetu Harnschauer = Arthur Schopenhauer
- Nartinian Schneidhasser = Hans Christian Andersen
- Plaidy Kurding = Rudyard Kipling
- Trebor Sulio Vessenton = Robert Louis Stevenson
- Rubert Jashem = James Thurber
- Joghan Rimsh = John Grisham
- Volkodir Vanabim = Vladimir Nabokov
- Wilma Kleballi = William Blake
- Eiderich Fischnertz = Friedrich Nietzsche
- Odion la Vivanti = Antonio Vivaldi
- Perla la Gadeon = Edgar Allan Poe
- Evubeth van Goldwine = Ludwig van Beethoven
- Freechy Jarfer = Jeffrey Archer
- Arlis Worcell = Lewis Carroll
- Edd van Murch = Edvard Munch
- Crederif Pincho = Frédéric Chopin
Many are identified with their models by reference to the subject of their works.
The Castle of Dreaming Books
A second sequel, The Castle of Dreaming Books, is being written, but as of August 2015, its release date has been indefinitely postponed. It is believed to continue directly from the end of the previous book. An English translation has not yet been announced, but will likely be produced by John Brownjohn, who has translated most of Moers's other Zamonia books.