The dreary house

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The desolate house is a novella by ETA Hoffmann that first appeared in 1817.


The night piece is about a house in a residential town whose name is not mentioned. It's just called "*** n" (meaning Berlin). The narrator Theodor reports in the Freundeskreis about an experience that happened during his stay in this city. As he walked down the main street, he noticed an old, poorly maintained house that stood between two of the splendid buildings typical of the city. First thought Theodor how it was possible that such a modest building was not demolished, but later told him a friend named Earl P. that it was in this house to the economies of the neighboring pastry handle. One day Theodor notices a female hand in one of the upper windows. Fascinated by this sight, he observes the house every day from now on. Theodor becomes more and more curious and decides to ask the bakery owner more about it. He reports to him that the building in question is unfortunately not part of his property, although he has tried several times to acquire it because he could use the space. Theodor also learns that this "desolate house" is supposedly haunted. Especially at Christmas time and in the silence of the night, gruesome sounds should be heard. The bakery owner also reports that this house belongs to a Countess von S.

Contrary to the opinion of Theodor that this house is empty, he learns that there is a resident after all, namely an old caretaker, the former valet of Count von S., who shortly afterwards enters the pastry shop with his dog. In Theodor's dreams, both the countess and the caretaker appear as a vision. The next day he tries to break into the open house, but the old caretaker compliments him by saying that the house is not haunted. The next day, Theodor sees the female hand with a diamond again and buys a pocket mirror from an Italian tabulist with which he can comfortably look at the barren house from a bench. Triggered by a trauma from his childhood, he falls into a kind of stubbornness . Later, however, an old man tells him that the female hand that Theodore believed he saw is just a painting that the caretaker only briefly places on the window sill to dust it off. Shortly afterwards, the narrator feels pursued by the mysterious woman at the window: He sees the girl in his dreams and also when he looks into the pocket mirror that he has acquired. He then consults his friend, Doctor K., a doctor and magnetizer , who is subjecting Theodor to a magnetic treatment . Theodore penetrates the barren house again and meets the insane resident who is furiously harassing him and can only be tamed by force. At an evening party at Count P.'s, he meets a young woman who resembles his love object in the mirror; it is the alleged niece of the mad old woman. Theodor receives further clarification from Dr. K, who tells him that a certain Count von S. fell in love with Countess Angelika Z., but later married her younger sister Gabriele. Influenced by the love spell of a gypsy woman , the former lover moved to the Countess Angelika, with whom he fathered the illegitimate daughter Edmonde. While the newborn daughter Edwine his wife Gabriele disappeared. The illegitimate Edmonde was foisted on Countess Gabriele as her own child. Count S. died and Angelika fell into a kind of mental illness; therefore her father bought the "dreary house" and let Angelika and his own valet live in it. With violence this tried Angelika's outbursts of madness, which he did not succeed. Theodor leaves the residence *** n under heavy pressure.


Hoffmann probably wrote Das öde Haus in the autumn of 1817, shortly before the publication of the second volume of his night plays with Georg Andreas Reimer in Berlin. The topography and individuals of the stories has taken a personal level Hoffmann in Berlin. So you can tell that it is about Unter den Linden in Berlin. Among other things, there is talk of a “ … ger goal ”. According to an article by Hans von Müller, an employee of the Berlin State Library, in the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung from 1936 and later Hoffmann researchers who referred to it, the building was actually Unter den Linden No. 9 (old census), which was demolished in 1824. Today the embassy of Russia stands there . The mentioned pastry shop next to the "dreary house" corresponds to the Fuchs confectionery, which is mentioned in Heinrich Heine's letters from Berlin . Hoffmann also took from reality the bench opposite the house on the median of the avenue. The biographical background and allusions to the story are easy to decipher. "Dr. K. ”corresponds to Johann Ferdinand Koreff (1783–1851), a friend of Hoffmann's, personal physician to the Prussian State Chancellor Karl August von Hardenberg , who also practiced as a magnetizer. The "Count P." has the features of Count Hermann von Pückler-Muskau (1785–1871; Prince since 1822 ), a friend of Koreff . Hoffmann's love affair processed and varied in his "Nachtstück". Because Pückler became engaged to Hardenberg's still married daughter, Countess Lucie von Pappenheim, whom he married on October 9, 1817, but at the same time had a love affair with her foster sister Helmine von Lanzendorf, who was probably their illegitimate daughter.

In his standard work on the fantastic poet, Rüdiger Safranski traced his train of thought: The mysterious, run-down house, which does not fit into its surroundings at all, invites speculation. The same applies to the mysterious level of relationship of the women moving to Berlin. "He links the two secrets [...] and turns them into a story entirely to the taste of an audience who likes to be told in a pleasantly gruesome way about how undermined the soil of order and morality actually is and that it is also in the The light of day gives a city of splendor dark corners. "

The structure of the narrative appears complicated in its multidimensionality, but remains clear. The framework discussion in the circle of friends follows Theodor's story and its interpretations, which are constantly varied and corrected by other people. A thematic focus is magnetism , whereby Hoffmann was familiar with the specialist literature on dreams, insanity and mental disruption mentioned by Theodor (by Gotthilf Heinrich Schubert , Johann Christian Reil , Carl Alexander Ferdinand Kluge , Ernst Daniel August Bartels). The preoccupation with the psychiatry of his time allowed him to create a psychologically unstable narrator, who is thus an " unreliable narrator " typical of romanticism . Thomas Weitin attests to him a "pathological narcissism". He also took up the fields mentioned in detail in other stories - not only in the magnetizer , which bears the central theme in the title. It is no coincidence that the second volume of Nachtstücke with the Öden house begins while Sandman initiates the first volume of the cycle. Both stories are closely related in terms of motifs: the traumatic childhood experience, the madness of love, the Italian dealer, reinforced by optical instruments (mirror and opera glasses or telescope). In his Poetics of Technology , Rupert Gaderer said in his Poetics of Technology about the use of the objects of observation in the wasted house : “Conventionally, a precise view, enhanced by the magnification of the cut glasses, enables objects and people to be focused and parceled out - in Theodor's perception, however, they become distorted. Through the optical instrument and with it Theodor's imagination, the boundary between life and illusion becomes blurred. "


ETA Hoffmann himself rated his Nachtstück negatively in a letter to Carl Friedrich Kunz dated March 8, 1818 : "[T] he dreary house is no good".

In her Hoffmann biography, Gabrielle Wittkop -Ménardeau referred to the desolate house as a “masterpiece” because of its “inimitable magic”. It "created a new way of seeing" that has influenced subsequent writers, either manifestly or subliminally. The confessed Hoffmann admirer Dostoevsky even copied the confectionery scene in his novel Humiliated and Insulted , albeit with a different, i.e. not magical, undertone.


Primary literature

First edition
  • ETA Hoffmann: The dreary house . In: Nachtteile, second part . Georg Reimer, Berlin 1817, p. 1-74 .
Extensively commented text editions
  • ETA Hoffmann: Night Pieces. Strange ailments of a theater director . In: Hans-Joachim Kruse (ed.): Collected works in individual editions . 1st edition. tape 3 . Construction Verlag , Berlin, Weimar 1977, p. 165-201 .
  • ETA Hoffmann: Night Pieces. Little Zaches. Princess Brambilla . Works 1816–1820. In: Hartmut Steinecke with the assistance of Gerhard Allroggen (Ed.): Complete works in six volumes . 1st edition. tape 3 . Deutscher Klassiker Verlag , Frankfurt am Main 1985, ISBN 3-618-60870-5 , p. 163-198 .
  • ETA Hoffmann: Ghosts in Friedrichstadt. Berlin stories . published and with an afterword by Günter de Bruyn. Ed .: Günter de Bruyn (=  Märkischer Dichtergarten ). 1st edition. Buchverlag Der Morgen, Berlin 1986, p. 109–147 (ISBN only from 2nd edition: 3-371-00341-8).
  • ETA Hoffmann: Night Pieces . With an afterword, a chronological table on ETA Hoffmann, notes and bibliographical references by Franz Loquai. Ed .: Franz Loquai (=  Goldmann classic with explanations . No. 7678 ). 1st edition. Goldmann, Munich 1996, ISBN 3-442-07678-1 , p. 153-186 .

Secondary literature

  • Friedhelm Auhuber: In a distant dark mirror. ETA Hoffmann's poeticization of medicine . Westdeutscher Verlag , Opladen 1986, ISBN 3-531-11763-7 , pp. 75-81 .
  • Franz Fühmann : The barren house. A night piece by ETA Hoffmann, for the film . set as a scenario by Franz Fühmann. In: Franz Fühmann (Ed.): Simplicius Simplicissimus. Der Nibelunge Not and other works for the film . 1st edition. Hinstorff Verlag , Rostock 1987, ISBN 3-356-00057-8 , p. 417-450 .
  • Rupert Gaderer: Poetics of Technology. Electricity and optics at ETA Hoffmann (=  Rombach Sciences. Edition Parabasen . Volume 9 ). 1st edition. Rombach Verlag , Freiburg i.Br., Berlin, Vienna 2009, ISBN 978-3-7930-9574-3 , pp. 92-105 .
  • Klaus Kanzog : Berlin code, communication and narrative structure. On ETA Hoffmann's Das öde Haus and the type of Berlin history . In: Journal for German Philology . tape 95 , special issue. Erich Schmidt Verlag , 1976, ISSN  0044-2496 , p. 42-63 .
  • Claudia Lieb: And behind a thousand bars there is no world: space, body and writing . In: Hartmut Steinecke, Detlef Kremer, Franz Loquai, Steven Paul Scher (eds.): ETA Hoffmann yearbook . tape 10 . Erich Schmidt Verlag, 2002, ISSN  0944-5277 , p. 58-75 .
  • Claudia Lieb: The barren house . In: Detlef Kremer (Ed.): ETA Hoffmann. Life - work - effect (=  De Gruyter Lexicon ). 1st edition. Verlag Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, New York 2009, ISBN 978-3-11-018382-5 , p. 197-202 .
  • Robert McFarland: Reading The Dreary House: ETA Hoffmann's Urban Hermeneutics. In: Monatshefte 100/4 2009, pp. 489–503, doi : 10.1353 / mon.0.0074 .
  • Hans von Müller: Unter den Linden No. 9. Stories from the "desolate house" . In: Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung . 75th volume no. 427 , September 11, 1936.
  • Gisela Vitt-Maucher: The wonderfully wonderful world of ETA Hoffmann . In: Journal of English and Germanic Philology . tape 75 , no. 4/1976 . University of Illinois Press, Oct 1976, ISSN  0363-6941 , pp. 515-530 .

Individual evidence

  1. Hans von Müller: Unter den Linden No. 9. Stories from the "desolate house" . In: Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung . 75th volume no. 427 , September 11, 1936.
  2. ^ Heinrich Heine: Letters from Berlin . In: Gerhard Wolf (Ed.): Heine in Berlin. And don't say hello to me at Unter den Linden. Poems and prose . Published with an afterword by Gerhard Wolf (=  Märkischer Dichtergarten ). 4th edition. Buchverlag Der Morgen, Berlin 1990, ISBN 3-371-00070-2 , p. 135 .
  3. ^ Rüdiger Safranski: ETA Hoffmann. The life of a fantasist . No. 5662 . Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1987, ISBN 3-596-25662-3 , twenty-third chapter. Hoffmann comes into fashion, p. 396 ff . (Licensed edition by Carl Hanser Verlag).
  4. Claudia Lieb: The barren house . In: Detlef Kremer (Ed.): ETA Hoffmann. Life - work - effect (=  De Gruyter Lexicon ). 1st edition. Verlag Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, New York 2009, ISBN 978-3-11-018382-5 , Basic features of interpretation, p. 200 .
  5. a b Thomas Weitin: Night Pieces (1816/17) . In: Detlef Kremer (Ed.): ETA Hoffmann. Life - work - effect (=  De Gruyter Lexicon ). 1st edition. Verlag Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, New York 2009, ISBN 978-3-11-018382-5 , topics, motifs, structures, p. 165 .
  6. ^ Rupert Gaderer: Poetics of Technology. Electricity and optics at ETA Hoffmann (=  Rombach Sciences. Edition Parabasen . Volume 9 ). 1st edition. Rombach Verlag, Freiburg i.Br., Berlin, Vienna 2009, ISBN 978-3-7930-9574-3 , 5.1 The dreary house - "The gift of seeing the wonderful to see", p. 94 .
  7. Gabrielle Wittkop-Ménardeau: ETA Hoffmann. In self-testimonials and picture documents . Portrayed by Gabrielle Wittkop-Ménardeau. Ed .: Kurt Kusenberg (=  Rowohlt's monographs . Volume 113 ). Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag, Reinbek near Hamburg, February 1966, Harvesting a Nerd, p. 124 f .

Web links

Wikisource: The dreary house  - sources and full texts