Born in Hamburg
, son of a police constable, Schmidt moved with his widowed mother to Lauban
, now Polish) and visited the secondary school in G?rlitz
. He then worked as a clerk in a textile company in Greiffenberg
, was drawn to the Army in 1939, served in Norway and, as a non-commissioned officer, saw action in Northern Germany, 1945. After an interlude as English POW and later on interpreter at a police school, he started his future life as a free writer. After living as a refugee with his wife in different villages, later on in Darmstadt
, they moved to the small village Bargfeld
) in Lower Saxony
, 1958, where they were to stay (cf. Martynkewicz 1992).
Schmidt was a strict individualist
, almost a solipsist
. Disaffected by his experience of the Third Reich
, he had an extremely pessimistic world view. In Schwarze Spiegel
, he describes his utopia as an empty world after an anthropogenic apocalypse
. Although he was a strict atheist
, he maintained that the world was created by a monster called Leviathan
, whose predatory nature was passed on to humans. Still, he thought this monster could not be too powerful to be attacked, if it behooved humanity.
His writing style is characterized by a unique and witty style of adapting colloquial language, which won him quite a few fervent admirers. Moreover, he developed a willful orthography by which he thought to reveal the true meaning of words and their connections amongst each other. One of the most cited examples is the use of ?Roh=Mann=Tick?
instead of ?Romantik? (revealing romanticism as the craze of unsubtle men). The atoms of words holding the nuclei of original meaning he called Etyme (etyms).
His theory of etyms is developed in his magnum opus Zettels Traum
, in which an elderly writer comments on Edgar Allan Poe
's works in a stream of consciousness
, while discussing a Poe translation with a couple of translators and flirting with their teenage daughter. Schmidt also accomplished a willful translation of Edgar Allan Poe's works himself (1966-73, together with Hans Wollschl?ger
In the 1960s he authored a series of plays for German radio stations presenting forgotten or little known and - in his opinion - vastly underrated authors, as e.g. Johann Gottfried Schnabel
, Karl Philipp Moritz
, Leopold Schefer
, Karl Ferdinand Gutzkow
, et al. These "plays" are basically talks about literature with two or three participants plus voices for quotations (Schmidt lent his voice for his translations of Finnegans Wake
quoted in Der Triton mit dem Sonnenschirm
). 11 of these so called "Radio-Essays" were republished on 12 audio CDs in the year 2003.
As none of his works sold more than a few thousand copies, he lived in extreme poverty. During the last few years of his life, Arno Schmidt was financially supported by the philologist
and writer Jan Philipp Reemtsma
, the heir of the German cigarette manufacturer Philipp F. Reemtsma.
After a stroke, Arno Schmidt died in a hospital at Celle
. The Arno Schmidt Foundation (Arno Schmidt Stiftung
) in Bargfeld, dotated by Jan Philipp Reemtsma, is publishing his complete works.