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Rosendorfer, Herbert

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1934-2012) Italian-born lawyer, judge, painter, composer, playwright, screenwriter and author, in Germany between 1943 and 1997; he served as a judge in Munich 1967-1993, and in other judicial positions. His early novel, Der Ruinenbaumeister (1969; trans Mike Mitchell as The Architect of Ruins 1992), complexly and ambivalently inserts its narrator into an Underground world, shaped like a vast cigar as though it were a gigantified means of Transportation out of a Jules Verne tale, the great city or Edifice [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] impelled onwards by vast Steampunk Machines. The narrator meets the Wandering Jew; and the president of what may be a Ship of Fools attempting to defend his land from an aerial Invasion by hired spiders; and a musician each of whose seven daughters tells him a tale in a Club Story frame. In the end, the novel seems primarily to focus on the nature of Story, but in a tone and within a frame that asks that the nest of tales constructed be treated in terms of Fantastika, which is to say literally.

Other works of interest from Rosendorfer's exceedingly large oeuvre include Deutsche Suite (1972; trans Arnold Pomerans as German Suite 1979), set in Nazi German during the 1930s, where a Bavarian Princess marries an ape (see Apes as Human) but refuses to suckle the deformed child born of the coupling. Großes Solo für Anton (1976; trans Mike Mitchell as Grand Solo for Anton 2007) is an artistically accomplished variation on the Last Man theme, whose initial chapters can be read as a subtle reference to Franz Kafka's work. A tax office clerk named Anton L. wakes up one June morning to find out that all people around him have vanished, and Anton must accept the fact that he is the only survivor in his city or perhaps even on the entire planet. But unlike Joseph K. from The Trial (1925) [for details see author entry], he is not thrown into the nearly surrealistic bureaucratic nightmare that Milan Kundera, in "Somewhere Behind" (14 March 1984 Granta), calls boundless labyrinth, but into an existential context which forces him to confront himself through his search for a mysterious book that may possess an extraordinary power; fittingly he dons a deerstalker (see Sherlock Holmes). The book may offer a god-like power to its reader, and after reading it Anton comes to believe he is God, though he fails to Reincarnate the disappeared human race, perfect this time around, without any vices.

Briefe in die chinesische Vergangenheit (1983; trans Mike Mitchell as Letters Back to Ancient China 1997), comprises the letters back home of a Chinese Mandarin, who has travelled a thousand years by Time Machine to modern Germany, where he is trapped for some months; his letters parody the responses of a typical visitor to Utopia, except for the fact that he thinks of the modern world as doomed by noise, narcissism and Pseudoscience. The protagonist of Stephanie und das Vorige Leben (1987; trans Mike Mitchell as Stephanie; Or, a Previous Existence 1995) Timeslips to eighteenth century Spain, and finds herself, by a process of Identity Transfer, in the body of a murderess. And Die Nacht der Amazonen (1989; trans Ian Mitchell as The Night of the Amazons 1991) combines elements of biography – its protagonist, Christian Weber (1883-1945), was a Nazi of the most importunate grotesqueness imaginable, as here described – and of fable, in the climactic Nights of the Amazons which are his apotheosis: vast parades of naked women dancing Germany into World War Two. Few of Rosendorfer's circa 200 published books have been translated. [JC]

Herbert Rosendorfer

born Bolzano, South Tyrol, Italy: 19 February 1934

died Eppan, South Tyrol, Italy: 20 September 2012

works (highly selected)


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