The first great German novel - an extraordinary recreation of the horrors of the Thirty Years War, written by a veteran of the conflict
First published in 1668, Simplicissimus tells the picaresque, brilliantly described adventures of a boy swept up in the Thirty Years War and the terrible things that he experiences. Some of it is realistic, some fantastical but the overall effect is an unmatched picture of Europe torn apart by an endless, sadistic, futile war from which nobody can escape. The Adventures of Simplicius Simplicissimus was rediscovered in twentieth-century Germany where the book's grim message as a story of war in all of its horror and absurdity resonated and the book is now established as one of the essential works of German literature.
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Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen (1621-67) was born during the Thirty Years War and grew up to fight in it. It is impossible to disentangle how much of Simplicius Simplicissimus was based on his own experience and how much was fabricated.
Simplicissimus not only satirizes the world's folly but offers a Christian view of the vanity of this transitory existence. For this purpose, Grimmelshausen sense Simplicius off on a series of picaresque adventures. ... And he has done so in a lively, colloquial, folksy style that is a major and original achievement, and a test for the translator. J. A. Underwood certainly passes this test. He has gone all out for a vivid, slangy, contemporary style, and his version is tremendous fun to read, as well as accurate. -- Ritchie Robertson * TLS *