A text written by the legendary German author Arno Schmidt contains a series of numbers that might represent encrypted texts. So far, nobody has found the solution of these cryptograms.
Arno Schmidt (1914-1979) was one of the most important German-language writers of the 20th century. Admittedly, I have never read any of his books or stories. So, before I write something about Schmidt myself, I better quote Wikipedia:
“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. […] 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 an orthography by which he thought to reveal the true meaning of words and their connections amongst each other.”
Schmidt is little known outside of German-speaking areas, in part because his works present a formidable challenge to translators.
Blog reader Rainer Boldhaus has recently made me aware of a crypto mystery Arno Schmidt left behind. In 1982 Schmidt’s long-time publisher Ernst Krawehl published a memorial book titled Porträt einer Klasse. Arno Schmidt zum Gedenken. This work was mainly written by former classmates of Arno Schmidt, but Schmidt himself was involved, as well. Schmidt died of a stroke in 1979 before the book was published.
Parts of Arno Schmidt’s writing can be read on pages 157, 158, 196, 205 of the book. Each passage is dedicated to a classmate. On these four pages the text suddenly changes to columns of numbers. This can be seen in the following scans (provided by Rainer Boldhaus):
So far it is absolutely unclear whether these numbers represent an encryption, whether they have another meaning or whether all this is a hoax. Not even the Arno Schmidt Foundation in Bargfeld knows the solution of this mystery.
If these number sequences are really an encrypted text, their purpose might be to hide the things that are said about the persons mentioned. The encrypted passage on page 205 appears to be a quote from Schmidt’s sister concerning a classmate named “Herr Funk”.
Here is a transcription of the Arno Schmidt cryptograms Rainer Boldhaus provided me:
579988328 : >0714152662900388178362677499341967003686020796144559117358154!< – 549446-
780882911548029830195200275200425737026386172702204228. 7191154520951307, 443495715-
(?). / 154549249865588494444293748872990569786537214499207384065157570423948183-
1846822507921367681295832498136723772420 – 874077670682831310098346070080119492, 50-
93553383267029519649510894446992270372635, 3114274665990873556435676889452090981435 (Zeilenwechsel)
74674211674973482880285. 13630754846403380149201588402924748185979918; 199022286267-
The Arno Schmidt cryptograms are not mentioned in the standard crypto history literature. I don’t know if they have ever been examined by a codebreaking expert. Of course, it is possible that Arno Schmidt used a simple one-to-one encryption (MASC) for producing these ciphertexts, but of course there are other possibilities, as well.
If you have an idea about how the Arno Schmidt cryptograms might be solved, please let me know.