Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann (born January 24, 1776 in Königsberg, Prussia; died June 25, 1822), was a German romantic and fantasy author and composer. Jacques Offenbach's masterwork, the opera "Tales of Hoffman" takes some cues from The Devil's Elixir.
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 bourgeouis 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 Posen. He was transferred to Plotzk (Poland). 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. In 1822 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.
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.
Some well-known works:
- Der goldene Topf (The Golden Pot, a fable, 1814)
- Die Elixiere des Teufels (The Devel's Elixir, 2 volumes, 1815/16)
- Fantasiestücke in Callot's Manier (Fantastic pieces in the manner of Callot 4 volumes, 1814/15; with a commendatory preface by Jean Paul)
- Nachtstücke ("Night Pieces", 2 volumes, 1816/17)
- "Das Fräulein von Scudéry" (Mademoiselle Scudéry, a short story considered his masterpiece, 1819)
- Die Serapions-Brüder (The Serapion Band, 4 volumes, 1819-21)
- Lebensansichten des Katers Murr (two-volume fragment, 1819-21)
- Seltsame Leiden eines Theaterdirektors
- Klein Zaches genannt Zinnober
- Die Irrungen
- Die Geheimnisse