The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr

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Tomcat Murr's death, 1864 etching by Ferdinand II of Portugal

The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr together with a fragmentary Biography of Kapellmeister Johannes Kreisler on Random Sheets of Waste Paper is a complex satirical novel by Prussian Romantic-era author E.T.A. Hoffmann. It was first published in 1819-1821 as Lebens-Ansichten des Katers Murr nebst fragmentarischer Biographie des Kapellmeisters Johannes Kreisler in zufälligen Makulaturblättern, in two volumes. A planned third volume was never completed.[1] It was Hoffmann's final novel and is considered his masterpiece. It reflected his concepts of aesthetics, and predated post-modern literary techniques in its unusual structure. Critic Alex Ross writes of the novel, "If the phantasmagoric 'Kater Murr' were published tomorrow as the work of a young Brooklyn hipster, it might be hailed as a tour de force of postmodern fiction."[2]

An English translation by Anthea Bell was published in 1999 by Penguin Classics.

From the cover sleeve: "Tomcat Murr is a loveable, self-taught animal who has written his own autobiography. But a printer's error causes his story to be accidentally mixed and spliced with a book about the composer Johannes Kreisler. As the two versions break off and alternate at dramatic moments, two wildly different characters emerge from the confusion - Murr, the confident scholar, lover, carouser and brawler, and the moody, hypochondriac genius Kreisler. In his exuberant and bizarre novel, Hoffmann brilliantly evokes the fantastic, the ridiculous and the sublime within the humdrum bustle of daily life, making The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr (1820–22) one of the funniest and strangest novels of the nineteenth century."

Jeffrey Ford described the novel as a "complex, truly wild fiction" where Hoffman "pieced together the fragments of his own shattered psyche and commented on the relationship of art and artists to society."[3]


  1. ^ Hoffmeister, Gerhart (2006-10-15). "Kater Murr". The Literary Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2009-09-08.
  2. ^ Ross, Alex (2009-08-24). "Imaginary Concerts: The Music of Fictional Composers". The New Yorker: 72.
  3. ^ "Curiosities, F&SF, April 1999

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