The Story of Mr Sommer

Last updated
Die Geschichte von Herrn Sommer
The Story of Mr Sommer
First edition of the book
Author Patrick Süskind
Translator Michael Hofmann
Cover artist Jean-Jacques Sempé
Genre Novella with autobiographical elements
Set infictional village in Germany, 1950s
Publication date
Media type

The Story of Mr Sommer (Die Geschichte von Herrn Sommer) is a novella in German by Patrick Süskind, published in 1991, dealing with memories of childhood in a village in Germany. The book was illustrated by Jean-Jacques Sempé. It was translated into English by Michael Hofmann.



After Süskind had written Perfume about a serial killer in 1985, [1] [2] and The Pigeon as a kafkaesque story in 1987, he turned to a boy's childhood memories in Die Geschichte von Herrn Sommer. The book is related to the author's own childhood in a village on Lake Starnberg, reviewed at around age 40. [3] [4] [5] Jeffrey Adams, a scholar of media studies, described it as "a children's tale for adults" in its entry in The Literary Encyclopedia . [6]

The book was richly illustrated by drawings by Jean-Jacques Sempé, [7] and published by Diogenes in Zürich in 1991. A translation into English by Michael Hofmann, The Story of Mr Sommer, was first published by Fox, Finch & Tepper in Bath. [8] It was published by Bloomsbury Publishing as a paperback in 2003.

Plot and themes

Die Geschichte von Herrn Sommer is told in the first person by a man aged around 40, remembering growing up in a fictional village in Germany after World War II. [4] The narration features elements reminiscent of fairy-tales of the Brothers Grimm, [6] such as the boy being sure he could fly if only he was determined enough. [8] It is written as if told spontaneously, [9] described as a "beguiling, unsentimental account of childhood in rural Germany" [8] of a "clever, imaginative, logical and lonely little boy". [8] He remembers living away from other children, being attracted to his classmate Carolina, and enduring piano lessons that he reached riding his mother's bike, too large for him. [8]

The narrator meets an unusual man, Herr Sommer, who is described as from the same village where the boy lives but on restless permanent wanderings (Wanderschaft), [10] from early morning until late at night. [5] Three meetings are described in detail. The first occurs during a terrible storm and hail when the boy and his father, returning from a horse race by car, offer him a ride, and he utters the only spoken phrase quoted in the book: "Ja so laßt mich doch endlich in Frieden!" ("Why don’t you just leave me in peace!"). [5] [8] [10] The boy meets him again, watching from a high tree which he climbed with the idea of ending his life by jumping; Mr Sommer unusually interrupts his walk, lies down in the grass and lets go a gruesome long groan ("a hollow anguished sound from deep within his chest") [8] that makes the boy forget his intentions. [5] In the end, the boy watches the man walk into the lake where he drowns, as Ludwig II of Bavaria died. The boy keeps it to himself. [3] [5] [7]


Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Adolph Freiherr Knigge</span> German writer, Freemason, and leading member of the Order of the Illuminati

Freiherr Adolph Franz Friedrich Ludwig Knigge was a German writer, Freemason, and a leading member of the Order of the Illuminati.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Christoph Martin Wieland</span> German poet and writer (1733–1813)

Christoph Martin Wieland was a German poet and writer. He is best-remembered for having written the first Bildungsroman, as well as the epic Oberon, which formed the basis for Carl Maria von Weber's opera of the same name. His thought was representative of the cosmopolitanism of the German Enlightenment, exemplified in his remark: "Only a true cosmopolitan can be a good citizen."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Janosch</span> German author

Janosch is a German children's author and illustrator.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Patrick Süskind</span> German writer and screenwriter

Patrick Süskind is a German writer and screenwriter, known best for his novel Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, first published in 1985.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Peter Glotz</span> German politician (1939–2005)

Peter Glotz was a German social democratic politician and social scientist.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jean-Jacques Sempé</span> French cartoonist (1932–2022)

Jean-Jacques Sempé, usually known as Sempé, was a French cartoonist. He is known for the series of children's books he created with René Goscinny, Le Petit Nicolas, and also for his poster-like illustrations, usually drawn from a distant or high viewpoint depicting detailed countrysides or cities. For decades, he created covers for The New Yorker.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bernhard Schlink</span> German writer (born 1944)

Bernhard Schlink is a German lawyer, academic, and novelist. He is best known for his novel The Reader, which was first published in 1995 and became an international bestseller. He won the 2014 Park Kyong-ni Prize.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tomi Ungerer</span> French artist and writer (1931–2019)

Jean-Thomas "Tomi" Ungerer was an Alsatian artist and writer. He published over 140 books ranging from children's books to adult works and from the fantastic to the autobiographical. He was known for sharp social satire and witty aphorisms. Ungerer is also famous as a cartoonist and designer of political posters and film posters.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Richard Beer-Hofmann</span> Austrian dramatist and poet (1866–1945)

Richard Beer-Hofmann was an Austrian dramatist and poet.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Franz Eugen Schlachter</span>

Franz Eugen Schlachter was a revivalist preacher, classical scholar and the translator of the German language Schlachter Bible.

Michael Hofmann is a German-born poet who writes in English and is a translator of texts from German.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Michael Sattler</span>

Michael Sattler was a monk who left the Roman Catholic Church during the Protestant Reformation to become one of the early leaders of the Anabaptist movement. He was particularly influential for his role in developing the Schleitheim Confession.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Maximilian Maria, 7th Prince of Thurn and Taxis</span> Prince of Thurn and Taxis

Maximilian Maria Carl Joseph Gabriel Lamoral, 7th Prince of Thurn and Taxis, full German name: Maximilian Maria Carl Joseph Gabriel Lamoral Fürst von Thurn und Taxis was the seventh Prince of Thurn and Taxis and Head of the Princely House of Thurn and Taxis from 10 November 1871 until his death on 2 June 1885.

Der Kontrabaß is a play by Patrick Süskind. The monologue in one act premiered in 1981.

The Diogenes Verlag is a Swiss publisher in Zurich, founded in 1952 by Daniel Keel, with a focus on literature, plays and cartoons. It has been managed since 2012 by the founder's son, Philipp Keel.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Benedict Wells</span> German-Swiss novelist

Benedict Wells is a German-Swiss novelist.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lukas Hartmann</span> Swiss novelist and childrens writer

Lukas Hartmann is a Swiss novelist and children's writer, who is well known in German-speaking countries. Married to the 2015 Swiss president Simonetta Sommaruga, he was Switzerland's "first gentleman" in 2015 and 2020.

Hans Werner Kettenbach was a German journalist and writer.

Chaval, civil name Yvan Francis Le Louarn, was a French caricaturist and cartoonist. German editions of his oeuvre were mostly published by Diogenes Verlag.

Marie (Mary) Donald Hottinger, née Mackie, was a Scottish translator and editor. In the German-speaking world she is primarily known as the editor of various anthologies of crime, ghost and horror stories and translating non-fiction Escape to Life. Her three-volume standard work with the titles Mord, Mehr Morde and Even more Morde, has been reprinted often since the end of the 1950s, brought the Anglo-Saxon crime story and compilation of stories to a literary art form.


  1. Gray, Richard T. (1993). "The Dialectic of "Enscentment": Patrick Süskind's Das Parfum as Critical History of Enlightenment Culture". PMLA. 108 (3): 489–505. doi:10.2307/462617. ISSN   0030-8129. JSTOR   462617.
  2. Pike, Laurie (2013-11-04). "'Perfume: The Story of a Murderer' to Reshow With Newly Created Scent Track". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2022-09-04.
  3. 1 2 Der Spiegel 1991.
  4. 1 2 Julin 2017.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Dresler 2022.
  6. 1 2 Adams 2005.
  7. 1 2 Zimmermann 2004.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Battersby 2015.
  9. Wunderlich 2002.
  10. 1 2 Bopp 2012.

Cited sources