A fragment from the lives of three friends

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A fragment from the life of three friends is a story by ETA Hoffmann , the writing of which was completed before the summer of 1817 and which was published by Stephan Schütze in 1818 in the “ Wintergarten ” of the Wilmans brothers in Frankfurt am Main . In 1819 the text appeared in the second section of the first volume of the collection Die Serapionsbrüder at G. Reimer in Berlin.

There is a slight difference between enthusiastic love and civil marriage. Three good friends are courting the same lady. Of course, only one of the three young men can get the beautiful one. Segebrecht comments on the possibly misleading word “fragment” in the title. E. T. A. Hoffmann means by “fragment” something like an excerpt from the life of the three. Because the story is "artfully constructed" and self-contained.


On Whit Monday, Alexander, Marzell and Severin meet in Weber's tent. This is an "ordinaire bar" in Berlin's Tiergarten ( In den Zelten ). Alexander has come from the provinces on inheritance matters. His single, wealthy aunt has died. The soldiers Marzell and Severin survived the last campaign and are looking for a civil life. One tells ghost stories. Alexander begins with a nocturnal experience that recently happened at the witching hour in the apartment of his blessed Berlin aunt: "Then suddenly I was seized by the fear of closeness to the ghosts that I had never known, I felt cold sweat dripping on my forehead and how Frozen in its ice, my hair speared itself up ... a strange disgusting throat clearing - a long drawn-out sigh. - At that moment a long white figure staggered out of the wall; I drowned in the ice flow of the deepest horror, my senses disappeared. ”Marzell contributes a similar“ experience ”that he recently had to go through in his Berlin accommodation. Seen in the light of day, the “ghost” was only an insane but otherwise friendly neighbor. Finally, the three friends admire a beautiful young girl who, accompanied - apparently by her parents - goes to the tent.

On Pentecost Monday of the year after next, the three meet again in the same Tiergarten restaurant. Marzell comes from the last campaign. Alexander surprises the two friends: he has been married for a year. This time you don't tell ghost stories. Marzell reports on a visit to a certain Privy Councilor Asling in the new Grünstraße. It was there almost two years ago that he met that beautiful Fraulein - Pauline Asling by name - by chance; had brought news from her wounded cousin Leopold from the hospital to Deuz . The Secret Council had been excited. Marzell was allowed to come back whenever he wanted. Marzell had taken advantage of this, had proposed to Pauline, but had not achieved the desired goal. Disaffected, he volunteered for the next campaign on the same day. Severin had also met Fraulein Pauline Asling almost two years ago. The young man had been turned away and - like Marzell - then joined the army. Finally, Alexander tells his story. There he meets his future wife and marries her. Pauline passes the three gentlemen's table in the zoo. Alexander introduces her to the two friends as his "dear wife".


The Serapion brother Ottmar ( Julius Eduard Hitzig ) reads from his manuscript.

The three friends take turns as internal narrators. The two freedom fighters Marzell and Severin tell openly and honestly. Only they mention the names Pauline, Privy Councilor Asling and “neue Grünstraße” at the earliest possible time. The heir Alexander, however, leaves two dark points. Firstly, he only mentions the name of his wife in the last sentence of the text and, secondly, he does not mention the name of the street where his heir aunt lived during his lifetime, for good reason. If Alexander had spoken of Grünstraße earlier in the text, it might have been possible to infer Pauline as his beloved. The same applies to the ghost stories. While Marzell, for example, admits that in his story a living person, namely the insane secretair Nettelmann, haunts at midnight, Alexander wisely leaves the name of the female ghost open in his story. The latter omission, however, is not a sin. Because the reader and the two listeners can conclude that the ghost in Alexander's bedroom must have been the maid Anne, who was also the lively housekeeper of the blessed aunt.


  • ETA Hoffmann immediately evaluates his story itself. He lets the narrator Ottmar judge after his lecture: "When I read my story, I felt it clearly that it is not fantastic enough, that it moves too much in the ordinary circles."
  • Man and woman cannot understand each other at all. Under such a well-known premise, Reinhardt-Becker examined the text more closely: Marzell and Severin lose. Alexander wins the game for Pauline. In the winner / loser context, Kaiser points out the subtle punch line: Did Alexander really win the main prize with this woman?
  • Some references to the "playful construction" can be found in Segebrecht. He names works by Hans von Müller (Munich 1921), Lee B. Jennings (1984) and Heinz Brüggemann (Berlin 1989). While von Müller and Brüggemann go into the Berlin color scheme, Jennings dissects Hoffmann's "Spuk".


The first edition in the Serapion Brothers

  • A fragment from the lives of three friends . In: The Serapion Brothers. Collected stories and fairy tales. Published by ETA Hoffmann. First volume. Berlin 1819. With G. Reimer. 604 pages

Used edition

  • ETA Hoffmann: A fragment from the life of three friends. In: Wulf Segebrecht (Ed.): ETA Hoffmann: The Serapions Brothers. German classic publisher in paperback. Vol. 28. Frankfurt am Main 2008, ISBN 978-3-618-68028-4 , pp. 129–176 (corresponds to: Vol. 4 in: Wulf Segebrecht (Ed.): ETA Hoffmann: All works in seven volumes . Frankfurt am Main 2001)

Secondary literature

  • Gerhard R. Kaiser: ETA Hoffmann. Metzler, Stuttgart 1988, ISBN 3-476-10243-2 (Metzler Collection; 243; Realien zur Literatur).
  • Helmut de Boor , Richard Newald: History of German literature from the beginnings to the present. Volume 7: Gerhard Schulz : The German literature between the French Revolution and the Restoration. Part 2: The Age of Napoleonic Wars and Restoration. 1806-1830. Beck, Munich 1989, ISBN 3-406-09399-X .
  • Elke Reinhardt-Becker: Federation of Souls or Partnership? Love semantics in the literature of Romanticism and the New Objectivity . Campus, Frankfurt am Main 2005, ISBN 978-3-593-37723-0 , p. 187-195 .


  1. The Neue Grünstraße leads in Berlin-Mitte from the Kommandantenstraße northeast and then northwards towards the Spreeinsel to Wallstraße . New Grünstrasse. In: Street name lexicon of the Luisenstädtischer Bildungsverein (near  Kaupert )

Individual evidence

  1. University of Jena : The winter garden
  2. Segebrecht, p. 1307; under "Origin and text transmission"
  3. Segebrecht, p. 1221, 4. Zvo and p. 1681 above
  4. Schulz, p. 437, 16. Zvu
  5. Segebrecht, p. 1308, 5. Zvo
  6. Edition used, pp. 137, 27. Zvo and pp. 138, 3. Zvo
  7. Edition used, pp. 158, 36. Zvo
  8. Edition used, p. 158, 9. Zvo
  9. Edition used, p. 158, 6. Zvo
  10. Edition used, p. 176, 23. Zvo
  11. ^ Kaiser, p. 67, 8. Zvo
  12. Segebrecht, pp. 1307-1316
  13. Segebrecht, p. 1668 below
  14. Segebrecht in the edition used, p. 1221 above

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