The pointed Hippocratic face of the moon…

Arno Schmidt (1914 - 1979)

“The pointed Hippocratic face of the moon was standing for some time up there, on soiled linen fabrics, making us first stumble, then be frightened: weird: so pale light and wind: and meanwhile having to be a human!”

From the novel “Brand’s Heide” (1949)

 Schmidt alludes to Hippocrates of Chios (ca. 470 – 410 BC) and his lune, a crescent – like geometric shape resulting from the intersection of two circles. Hippocrates employed a lune created by circles one of which passes through the center of the other and has half the area of the other, in order to arrive to a partial solution to the problem of squaring the circle. At the same time the excerpt from “Brand’s Heide” is an allusion to the change in facial features resulting from death or long illness, called Hippocratic face as it was first described by Hippocrates of Cos. The masterly metaphor reflects both Schmidt’s mathematical interest and his extreme pessimism expressed in a novel whose plot is set in post – war defeated and humiliated Germany.


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