The Ghost-Seer  

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"I concealed nothing, and especially not that I had been drinking a lot of punch and reading Schiller's GhostSeer" --"The Entail" (1817), E. T. A. Hoffmann


"Friedrich von Schiller’s only novel, The Ghost-seer is an experimental, deliberately fragmentary work. Thrillingly held together by its dramatic plot and lavish, operatic setting, it is a multi-layered fiction of deceptive simplicity. For a rich young prince and his loyal companion, Venice promises nothing but unfettered pleasure—until they encounter a mysterious masked Armenian who delivers them a strange prophecy. And when his words prove true, this enigmatic figure develops a deeply sinister influence over them, drawing them into darker forms of “magic.” As the narrative progresses, it become increasingly unclear whether the apparitions the prince sees are the manifestations of a troubled spirit world or simply an elaborate hoax." --blurb

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Ghost-Seer or The Apparitionist (full title: Der Geisterseher – Aus den Papieren des Grafen von O**; literally, The Ghost-Seer – From the papers of the Count of O**) is an unfinished novel by Friedrich Schiller. It first appeared in several instalments from 1787 to 1789 in the journal Thalia, later appearing as a three-volume book in its own right.

Content

The work is narrated in the first person by the 'Graf von O**' (Count of O**). It describes the story of a German prince visiting Venice at carnival time. Right at the start of the work, the Count stresses that this story might sound incredible, but that he had witnessed it with own eyes. Furthermore, he talks of his disinterest in deceiving the public as "at the time these pages will tread into the world, I will not be and will neither win nor lose by the account given."

Structurally and stylistically it is not a single story, but tells of a Jesuit secret society trying to convert a Protestant German prince to Catholicism and bring him to the throne back home in order to bolster its own power base. Writing of the Prince's fate, Schiller shows him as the key to the conflict between passion and morality, passion and duty.

The work's passages on religious and historical philosophy show Schiller's Enlightenment ideals, with his critique of religion and society to the fore, though a deeper exploration of Immanuel Kant was to follow later. Due to the novel's slow formation and the author's antipathy to it, it was not planned from start to finish and its style and structure is not uniform throughout, ranging from rhetorical prose, to theatrical prose, to dialogues reminiscent of Don Carlos, to the popular elements of Gothic fiction.

Legacy

Although the book remained unfinished, its audiences were the largest for any of Schiller's work during his lifetime. The readership was attracted by its elements typical of the Gothic novel, such as necromancy, spiritualism and conspiracies. It is thought that Johann Georg Schröpfer may have provided the inspiration for the novel.

The first English translation appeared in 1800 under the title "The Armenian". In 1922, The Ghost-Seer was completed by horror novelist Hanns Heinz Ewers. This version was not well received by literary critics.



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Ghost-Seer" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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