Hoffmann, Ernst Theodor Amadeus


Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann (January 24, 1776 - June 25, 1822), was a German romantic and fantasy author and composer. He changed his third name, Wilhelm, to Amadeus in 1813 in homage to the great composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). Jacques Offenbach's masterwork, the opera "Tales of Hoffman" takes some cues from The Devil's Elixir.

He was born in Königsberg, Prussia.

Hoffman is one of the best-known representatives of German romanticism, and a pioneer of the fantasy genre, with a taste for the macabre combined with realism that influenced such authors as Franz Kafka and Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, and Nikolai Gogol. Hoffman illuminates the darker side of the human spirit found behind the hypocritical harmony of bourgeois life.

His father was an Advokat and E.T.A. studied at the Gymnasium in Königsberg. He then worked as a Referendar in Glogau, Silesia and in Berlin in Brandenburg and next in Prussian provinces on the area of Greater Poland and Mazovia: Posen in South Prussia and later on to Plock in New East Prussia. One of his tasks was to invent names for Jews. He found some poetic ones like Goldbaum or Apfelbaum. He assimilated well in Polish society; the years spent in Poland he recognized as the happiest in his life. Unfortunately, after he was accused on spying for the Prussian King social ostracism followed In 1805 he moved again to Berlin, where he could further his talent as an artist and writer. Since 1814 he held a position at the Kammergericht, the chamber court. At age 46 he died in Berlin.

He wrote novels and short stories, and he composed music, including an opera.

His currently most familiar story is "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King", which inspired the ballet by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. His story "Coppelia" similarly inspired Delibes's ballet of the same name.

The story is full of charming mimed phantasies with Clara, Fritz and Herr Drosselmayr, the mean Mouseking and the popular Nutcracker. Many children's version books of the Nutcracker have been published. Nutcracker performances have become a yearly feature in many cities around Christmas time.

However when you read the original text of E.T.A. Hoffmann's story, you soon realize that it was actually a story thought of and written at a politically very sensitive time. Comparable messages were expressed in earlier animal stories such as Reinicke Fuchs or Aesop's Fables.

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