Author(s): Kurt Schwitters
Kurt Schwitters revolutionized the art world in the 1920s with his Dadaist Merz collages, theatre performances, and poetry. But at the same time he was also writing extraordinary fairy tales that were turning the genre upside down and inside out. Lucky Hans and Other Merz Fairy Tales is the first collection of these subversive, little-known stories in any language and the first time all but a few of them have appeared in English. Translated and introduced by Jack Zipes, one of the world's leading authorities on fairy tales, this book gathers thirty-two stories written between 1925 and Schwitters' death in 1948 - including a complete English-language recreation of The Scarecrow, a children's book illustrated with avant-garde typography that Schwitters created with Kate Steinitz and De Stijl founder Theo van Doesburg. Lucky Hans and Other Merz Fairy Tales also includes brilliant new illustrations that evoke the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. Schwitters wrote these darkly humorous, satirical, and surreal tales at a time when traditional German fairy tales were being co-opted by the Nazis.
Filled with sharp critiques of German life during the Weimar and early Nazi eras, Schwitters' tales are rich with absurdist events and insist that not everyone - and perhaps not anyone - lives happily ever after. In "Lucky Hans," the starving protagonist tries to catch a rabbit only to have it shed its fur like a coat and run off naked into the forest. In other tales, a sarcastic gypsy stands in for a fairy godmother and an army recruit is arrested for growing to monstrous size. Lucky Hans and Other Merz Fairy Tales is a delightfully strange and surprising book.
"These byproducts from [Schwitters,] a man who tried his hand at much else, and gained relatively little attention for any of it, who lived with his parents and then in the house he inherited from them in a no-account place in Germany, and then in exile, are among the few wonderful and imperishable things of the twentieth century."--Michael Hofmann, New York Review of Books "Jack Zipes has now usefully collected and translated a handy anthology of Schwitters short stories, written from 1918 to 1948, selecting those he considers to be 'oddly modern fairy tales.' ... Schwitters's Merz fairy tales are lies that speak the truth."--Peter Read, Times Literary Supplement "Mostly unpublished during Schwitters's lifetime, the tales have been rescued from oblivion by teams of eager Germanists, and selected, translated and introduced for this edition by eminent fairytale scholar Jack Zipes. The tales are accompanied by cutely sinister illustrations by Irvine Peacock."--Justin Clemens, The Australian "Including four pieces Schwitters wrote in English--he had abandoned German, as the Nazis' language--this volume stands as a substantial, chronologically representative, and delightful addition to the still small number of texts by Schwitters published in the U.S. Zipes supplies snappy translations and a thoughtful critical introduction."--Choice
Jack Zipes is a leading authority on fairy tales. His translations include "The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm" and "The Fairy Tales of Hermann Hesse" (both Bantam). He is the editor of "The Great Fairy Tale Tradition" (Norton), and the author of "Why Fairy Tales Stick" and "Hans Christian Andersen", among many other books. He is professor emeritus of German and comparative literature at the University of Minnesota.
Translator's Note and Acknowledgments xi Kurt Schwitters, Politics, and the Merz Fairy Tale 1 Tales Written in German Chapter 1: The Swineherd and the Great, Illustrious Writer 41 Der Schweinehirt und der Dichterfurst (1925) Chapter 2: Lucky Hans 49 Der gluckliche Hans (1925) Chapter 3: Happiness 57 Das Gluck (1925) Chapter 4: The Little Clock Spirit and the Lovers 61 Uhrgeistchen und Liebespaar (1925) Chapter 5: The Proud Young Woman 63 Das stolze Madchen (1925) Chapter 6: An Old Fairy Tale 67 Altes Marchen (1925) Chapter 7: The Scarecrow 72 Die Scheuche (1925)--A children's book created with Kate Steinitz and Theo van Doesburg Chapter 8: He 85 Er (1927) Chapter 9: Fish and Man 103 Fisch und Mensch (1927) Chapter 10: The Squinting Doll 105 Die schielende Puppe (1927) Chapter 11: Three Suitcases 107 Drei Koff er (1927) Chapter 12: Fairy Tale 115 Marchen (1928) Chapter 13: A King without People 116 Konig ohne Volk (1932) Chapter 14: The Story about the Good Man 119 Die Fabel vom guten Menschen (1933) Chapter 15: Happy Country 121 Gluckliches Land (1933) Chapter 16: The Story about the Rabbit 123 Die Geschichte vom Hasen (1934) Chapter 17: The Three Wishes 125 Die drei Wunsche (1936) Chapter 18: The Ugly Young Woman: A Fairy Tale 131 Das hassliche Madchen: Ein Marchen (1937) Chapter 19: The Two Brothers 137 Die beiden Bruder (1938) Chapter 20: The Fish and the Ship's Propeller 143 Der Fisch und die Schiff sschraube (1938) Chapter 21: Transformations 145 Verwandlungen (1938) Chapter 22: He Who Is Mentally Retarded 153 Der, der da geistig arm ist (1938) Chapter 23: Hans and Grete: A Fairy Tale about Children Who Live in the Woods 161 Hans und Grete: Marchen von Kindern, die im Walde wohnen (1939) Chapter 24: The Fairy Tale about Happiness 165 Das Marchen vom Gluck (1930-1940) Chapter 25: Normal Insanity 169 Normaler Unsinn (1930-1940) Chapter 26: What Is Happiness 173 Was ist das Gluck (1940-1945) Chapter 27: The Man with the Glass Nose 179 Der Mann mit dem glasernen Nase (1945) Chapter 28: Once upon a Time There Was a Tiny Mouse 183 Es war einmal eine kleine Maus (1941-1946) Tales Written in English Chapter 29: The Flat and the Round Painter 189 (1941) Chapter 30: London: A Fairy Tale 193 (1942) Chapter 31: The Flying Fish 197 (1944) Chapter 32: Twopenny Novel about an Ugly Girl 203 (1941-1945) Appendix: German Version of "Die Scheuche" 207 Notes 221 Bibliography 233