Aberrations of Mourning
Laurence A. Rickels University of Minnesota Press, 2011 Library of Congress PT129.R47 2011 | Dewey Decimal 830.9353
Aberrations of Mourning, originally published in 1988, is the long unavailable first book in Laurence A. Rickels’s “unmourning” trilogy, followed by The Case of California and Nazi Psychoanalysis.
Rickels studies mourning and melancholia within and around psychoanalysis, analyzing the writings of such thinkers as Freud, Nietzsche, Lessing, Heinse, Artaud, Keller, Stifter, Kafka, and Kraus. Rickels maintains that we must shift the way we read literature, philosophy, and psychoanalysis to go beyond traditional Oedipal structures.
Aberrations of Mourning argues that the idea of the crypt has had a surprisingly potent influence on psychoanalysis, and Rickels shows how society’s disturbed relationship with death and dying, our inability to let go of loved ones, has resulted in technology to form more and more crypts for the dead by preserving them—both physically and psychologically—in new ways.
Called “the most important critic of his time” by Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin has only become more influential over the years, as his work has assumed a crucial place in current debates over the interactions of art, culture, and meaning. A “natural and extraordinary talent for letter writing was one of the most captivating facets of his nature,” writes Gershom Scholem in his Foreword to this volume; and Benjamin's correspondence reveals the evolution of some of his most powerful ideas, while also offering an intimate picture of Benjamin himself and the times in which he lived.
Writing at length to Scholem and Theodor Adorno, and exchanging letters with Rainer Maria Rilke, Hannah Arendt, Max Brod, and Bertolt Brecht, Benjamin elaborates on his ideas about metaphor and language. He reflects on literary figures from Kafka to Karl Kraus, and expounds his personal attitudes toward such subjects as Marxism and French national character. Providing an indispensable tool for any scholar wrestling with Benjamin’s work, The Correspondence of Walter Benjamin, 1910–1940 is a revelatory look at the man behind much of the twentieth century’s most significant criticism.
In 1908, Rainer Maria Rilke wrote "Requiem for a Friend" in memory of Paula Modersohn-Becker, the German painter who had profoundly affected him and who had died a year earlier. Although a great modern painter, Modersohn-Becker is remembered primarily as she is portrayed in Rilke's poem. Dear Friend looks at the relationship of two great artists whose often-strained friendship was extraordinary for both.
For most of his life, Ernst Jünger, one of Europe's leading twentieth-century writers, has been controversial. Renowned as a soldier who wrote of his experience in the First World War, he has maintained a remarkable writing career that has spanned five periods of modern German history. In this first comprehensive study of Jünger in English, Thomas R. Nevin focuses on the writer’s first fifty years, from the late Wilhelmine era of the Kaiser to the end of Hitler’s Third Reich. By addressing the controversies and contradictions of Jünger, a man who has been extolled, despised, denounced, and admired throughout his lifetime, Ernst Jünger and Germany also opens an uncommon view on the nation that is, if uncomfortably, represented by him. Ernst Jünger is in many ways Germany’s conscience, and much of the controversy surrounding him is at its source measured by his relation to the Nazis and Nazi culture. But as Nevin suggests, Jünger can more specifically and properly be regarded as the still living conscience of a Germany that existed before Hitler. Although his memoir of service as a highly decorated lieutenant in World War I made him a hero to the Nazis, he refused to join the party. A severe critic of the Weimar Republic, he has often been denounced as a fascist who prepared the way for the Reich, but in 1939 he published a parable attacking despotism. Close to the men who plotted Hitler’s assassination in 1944, he narrowly escaped prosecution and death. Drawing largely on Jünger’s untranslated work, much of which has never been reprinted in Germany, Nevin reveals Jünger’s profound ambiguities and examines both his participation in and resistance to authoritarianism and the cult of technology in the contexts of his Wilhelmine upbringing, the chaos of Weimar, and the sinister culture of Nazism. Winner of Germany’s highest literary awards, Ernst Jünger is regularly disparaged in the German press. His writings, as this book indicates, put him at an unimpeachable remove from the Nazis, but neo-Nazi rightists in Germany have rushed to embrace him. Neither apology, whitewash, nor vilification, Ernst Jünger and Germany is an assessment of the complex evolution of a man whose work and nature has been viewed as both inspiration and threat.
“Stunning. . . . Read this book: in equal measure it will give you hope and trouble your dreams.”—Laura Dassow Walls, author of Henry David Thoreau: A Life and Passage to Cosmos: Alexander von Humboldt’s Shaping of America
Georg Forster (1754–94) was in many ways self-taught and rarely had two cents to rub together, but he became one of the most dynamic figures of the Enlightenment: a brilliant writer, naturalist, explorer, illustrator, translator—and a revolutionary. Granted the extraordinary opportunity to sail around the world as part of Captain James Cook’s fabled crew, Forster touched icebergs, walked the beaches of Tahiti, visited far-flung foreign nations, lived with purported cannibals, and crossed oceans and the equator. Forster recounted the journey in his 1777 book A Voyage Round the World, a work of travel and science that not only established Forster as one of the most accomplished stylists of the time—and led some to credit him as the inventor of the literary travel narrative—but also influenced other German trailblazers of scientific and literary writing, most notably Alexander von Humboldt. A superb essayist, Forster made lasting contributions to our scientific—and especially botanical and ornithological—knowledge of the South Seas.
Having witnessed more egalitarian societies in the southern hemisphere, Forster returned after more than three years at sea to a monarchist Europe entering the era of revolution. When, following the French Revolution of 1789, French forces occupied the German city of Mainz, Forster became a leading political actor in the founding of the Republic of Mainz—the first democratic state on German soil.
In an age of Kantian reason, Forster privileged experience. He claimed a deep connection between nature and reason, nature and politics, nature and revolution. His politics was radical in its understanding of revolution as a natural phenomenon, and in this often overlooked way his many facets—as voyager, naturalist, and revolutionary—were intertwined.
Yet, in the constellation of the Enlightenment’s trailblazing naturalists, scientists, political thinkers, and writers, Forster’s star remains relatively dim today: the Republic of Mainz was crushed, and Forster died in exile in Paris. This book is the source of illumination that Forster’s journey so greatly deserves. Tracing the arc of this unheralded polymath’s short life, Georg Forster explores both his contributions to literature and science and the enduring relationship between nature and politics that threaded through his extraordinary four decades.
Julian Preece Reaktion Books, 2018 Library of Congress PT2613.R338Z7738 2018 | Dewey Decimal 838.91409
Günter Grass was Germany’s foremost writer for more than half a century, and his books were and remain best-sellers across the world. TheTin Drum was made into an Oscar-winning film in 1979, and the memoir Peeling the Onion astounded readers by revealing Grass had been drafted into the military wing of the SS, a ruthless component of the Nazi war machine, in the closing months of World War II. Grass also wrote memorably about the German student movement, feminism, and German reunification, and was a key influence on magical realist authors such as Gabriel García Márquez and Salman Rushdie, as well as on the popular novelist John Irving.
Günter Grass is the first biography in English of this Nobel Prize–winning writer. Julian Preece introduces both Grass’s key works and political activities, chronicling his interaction with major figures from literary and public life like holocaust poet Paul Celan, Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and cofounder of the Red Army Faction Ulrike Meinhof. From Grass’s campaigning as a citizen for the anti-Nazi resistor and Social Democrat leader Willy Brandt to his more recent invectives against free-market capitalism, Preece places Grass’s fiction and public work in the context of Cold War European politics and post-unification Germany, painting an indelible portrait of a writer who reinvented the postwar German novel and redefined the role of literary commitment.
Against Nazi dictatorship,the disillusionment of Weimar, and Christian austerity, Hermann Hesse’s stories inspired a nonconformist yearning for universal values to supplant fanaticism in all its guises. He reenters our world through Gunnar Decker’s biography—a champion of spiritual searching in the face of mass culture and the disenchanted life.
Thomas Mann’s two eldest children, Erika and Klaus, were unconventional, rebellious, and fiercely devoted to each other. Empowered by their close bond, they espoused vehemently anti-Nazi views in a Europe swept up in fascism and were openly, even defiantly, gay in an age of secrecy and repression. Although their father’s fame has unfairly overshadowed their legacy, Erika and Klaus were serious authors, performance artists before the medium existed, and political visionaries whose searing essays and lectures are still relevant today. And, as Andrea Weiss reveals in this dual biography, their story offers a fascinating view of the literary and intellectual life, political turmoil, and shifting sexual mores of their times. In the Shadow of the Magic Mountain begins with an account of the make-believe world the Manns created together as children—an early sign of their talents as well as the intensity of their relationship. Weiss documents the lifelong artistic collaboration that followed, showing how, as the Nazis took power, Erika and Klaus infused their work with a shared sense of political commitment. Their views earned them exile, and after escaping Germany they eventually moved to the United States, where both served as members of the U.S. armed forces. Abroad, they enjoyed a wide circle of famous friends, including Andre Gide, Christopher Isherwood, Jean Cocteau, and W. H. Auden, whom Erika married in 1935. But the demands of life in exile, Klaus’s heroin addiction, and Erika’s new allegiance to their father strained their mutual devotion, and in 1949 Klaus committed suicide.
Beautiful never-before-seen photographs illustrate Weiss’s riveting tale of two brave nonconformists whose dramatic lives open up new perspectives on the history of the twentieth century.
Siegfried Kracauer was a leading figure on the Weimar arts scene and one of the foremost representatives of the Frankfurt School of critical theory. Best known for a wealth of writings on sociology and film theory, his influence is felt in the work of many of the period’s preeminent thinkers, including the critic Theodor W. Adorno, who once claimed he owed more to Kracauer than any other intellectual.
Kracauer.Photographic Archive, a companion volume to The Past’s Threshold: Essays on Photography, collects previously unpublished photographs by Siegfried and Elisabeth, “Lili,” Kracauer. With its remarkably rich material, the book tells the story of the Kracauer’s close working relationship, from their marriage in Germany to their escape to Paris and the war and postwar years in the United States. While neither Kracauer nor his wife trained in photography, their portraits, city views, and landscapes evince impressive aesthetic and technical skill, while simultaneously shedding light on their lives marked by exile and flight.
Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926) was an avid letter writer, and more than seven thousand of his letters have survived. The best-known collection today is Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, first published in 1929. Two other letter collections appeared around the same time and gained high acclaim among readers yet are virtually unknown today. They are Letters to a Young Woman (1930) and Letters on God (1933).
With this volume, Annemarie S. Kidder makes available to an English-speaking audience two of the earliest collections of Rilke letters published after his death. The thematic collection On God— here published in English for the first time—contains two letters by Rilke, the first an actual letter written during World War I, in 1915 in Munich, the second a fictional one composed after the war, in 1922 at Muzot, in Switzerland. In these letters, Rilke builds on the mystical view of God conceived of in The Book of Hours, but he moves beyond it, demonstrating a unique vision of God and Christ, the church and religious experience, friendship and death. The collection Letters to a Young Woman comprises nine of Rilke’s letters, written to a young admirer, Lisa Heise, over the course of five years, from 1919 to 1924. Though Rilke and Heise never met, Rilke emerges in these letters as the compassionate listener and patient teacher who with level-headed sensitivity affirms and guides the movements of another person’s soul.
In this highly praised and extraordinary biography, Ralph Freedman traces Rilke's luminous career by weaving together detailed accounts of pivotal and formative episodes from the poet's restless life with a close, intimate reading of the verse and prose that refract them. This lively and engrossing biography offers much of interest to Rilke's growing body of followers.
For two generations, writers in the German Democratic Republic enjoyed a massive audience in their own country, a readership dependent on their works for a measure of utopian solace amid the grimness of life under Communism. But after the fall of the Berlin Wall, these writers were abandoned by their readers and stripped of the professional structures that had supported them. Their literary culture destroyed, they were rebuked for compliant service to the discredited state; and some were reviled for collaborating with the East German secret police, the Stasi.
What drove leading thinkers, including those of the avant-garde who publicly embraced intellectual freedom, to serve as government informants? Why were they content to work within a repressive system rather than challenging it outright? This collection of interviews with more than two dozen writers and literary scholars, including several Stasi informants, provides a gripping, often dismaying picture of the motivations, compromises, and illusions of East German intellectual life.
In conversations with Robert von Hallberg, writers such as best-selling novelist Hermann Kant, playwright Christoph Hein, and avant-garde poet-publisher Sascha Anderson talk about their lives and work before the fall of the wall in 1989—about the constraints and privileges of Communist Party membership, experiences of government censorship and self-censorship, and relations with their readers. They reflect on why the possibilities of opposition to the state seemed so limited, and on how they might have found ways to resist more aggressively. Turning to the controversies that have emerged since reunification, including the Stasi scandals involving Anderson and Christa Wolf, they discuss their feelings of complicity and the need for further self-examination. Two interviews with Anderson—one conducted before he was exposed as a Stasi collaborator and one conducted afterward—offer unique insight into the double life led by many writers and scholars in the German Democratic Republic.
Walter Benjamin Harvard University Press, 1986 Library of Congress PT2603.E455Z4713 1986 | Dewey Decimal 838.91203
The life of the German-Jewish literary critic and philosopher Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) is a veritable allegory of the life of letters in the twentieth century. Benjamin's intellectual odyssey culminated in his death by suicide on the Franco-Spanish border, pursued by the Nazis, but long before he had traveled to the Soviet Union. His stunning account of that journey is unique among Benjamin's writings for the frank, merciless way he struggles with his motives and conscience.
Perhaps the primary reason for his trip was his affection for Asja Lacis, a Latvian Bolshevik whom he had first met in Capri in 1924 and who would remain an important intellectual and erotic influence on him throughout the twenties and thirties. Asja Lacis resided in Moscow, eking out a living as a journalist, and Benjamin's diary is, on one level, the account of his masochistic love affair with this elusive--and rather unsympathetic--object of desire. On another level, it is the story of a failed romance with the Russian Revolution; for Benjamin had journeyed to Russia not only to inform himself firsthand about Soviet society, but also to arrive at an eventual decision about joining the Communist Party. Benjamin's diary paints the dilemma of a writer seduced by the promises of the Revolution yet unwilling to blinker himself to its human and institutional failings.
Moscow Diary is more than a record of ideological ambivalence; its literary value is considerable. Benjamin is one of the great twentieth-century physiognomists of the city, and his portrait of hibernal Moscow stands beside his brilliant evocations of Berlin, Naples, Marseilles, and Paris. Students of this particularly interesting period will find Benjamin's eyewitness account of Moscow extraordinarily illuminating.
Reviews of this book: "The German literary critic and philosopher Walter Benjamin, who died in 1940, was one of Europe's grandest thinkers. This diary covers only two months in the winter of 1926-1927, but it feels like a lifetime. His meticulous, almost macabre attention to detail gives his perceptions a kind of scientific brilliance, whether he is describing the streets of the city, a curious shop sign, the sanatorium where his friend Asja Lacis is a patient, the wash table in his hotel room, or the ragged beds that stand at every street corner in `the open air sick bay called Moscow.' The book is a supreme example of the kind of mental equipment any traveller would like to take with him, to any place."
--The Independent [UK]
"[An] unsurpassably quirky memoir of Bolshevik literati as Stalin consolidated power."
"In the '20s and '30s, [Benjamin] was a Jew in Berlin, a visitor to the Russian Revolution, a refugee in France, a citizen of the world in flames. More a man of letters than scholar, and more poet than either one, he wandered through Western culture as if it had been destroyed centuries earlier, and he were a revenant poking through its remains. He amassed quotations and collected books and toys, with no illusion of finding a living civilization, but seeking the artifacts of a shattered one...Love, mixed with obsession, is at the heart of Moscow Diary, the private record of Benjamin's two-month visit to the Soviet Union in the winter of 1926. Edited and with an afterword by Gary Smith and lucidly translated by Richard Sieburth, it is a many-faceted jewel: a portrait of the Russian revolution in its still unsettled transition to Stalinism, a vivid picture of Moscow life, Benjamin's intellectual journal, and above all, the tragicomic story of his pursuit of the Estonian actress, Lacis Asja."
--Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Moscow Diary is chiefly interesting not for what it tells us about Moscow during December 1926 but for what it tells us about Walter Benjamin, who has by now emerged as both a major figure in modern German literature and criticism and as the preeminent poet-historian of the modern European city. Moscow Diary is the longest of Benjamin's autobiographical writings...[Benjamin's] insights into Russia's struggle to define its cultural identity are often compelling. Above all, the Diary is the story of the triangle among Benjamin, Asja, and the expatriate German playwright Bernhard Reich. Their story of emotional instabilities and obstacles provides a fascinating counterpart to the story of Russia's cultural dilemma. The edition is superbly translated, annotated, and illustrated, and contains a fine preface and afterword."
Novalis: Signs of Revolution
William Arctander O Brien Duke University Press, 1994 Library of Congress PT2291.Z5O27 1995 | Dewey Decimal 831.6
Novalis traces the meteoric career of one of the most striking—and most strikingly misunderstood—figures of German Romanticism. Although Friedrich von Hardenberg (better known by his pseudonym, Novalis) published scarcely eighty pages of writings in his lifetime, his considerable fame and influence continued to spread long after his death in 1801. His posthumous reputation, however, was largely based on the myth manufactured by opportunistic editors, as Wm. Arctander O’Brien reveals in this book, the first to extract Hardenberg from the distortions of history. A member of the generation of the 1770s that included Hegel, Hölderlin, and Schelling, Hardenberg was an avid follower of the French Revolution, a semiotician avant la lettre, and a prescient critic of religion. Yet in 1802, only a year after his death, the writer who had scandalized the Prussian court was marketed to a nation at war as a reactionary patriot, a sweet versifier of Idealism, and a morbid mystic. Identifying the break between Hardenberg’s own early Romanticism and the late Romanticism that falsified it, Novalis shows us a writer fully engaged in revolutionary politics and examines his semiotic readings of philosophy and of the political, scientific, and religious institutions of the day. Drawing on the full range of Novalis’s writings, including his poetry, notebooks, novels, and journals, O’Brien situates his semiotics between those of the eighteenth century and those of the twentieth and demonstrates the manner in which a concern for signs and language permeated all aspects of his thought. The most extensive study of Hardenberg available in English, Novalis makes this revolutionary theoretician visible for the first time. Mining a crucial chapter in the history of semiotics and social theory, it suggests fruitful, sometimes problematic connections between semiotic, historical, "deconstructive," and philological practices as it presents a portrait of one of the most complex figures in literary history. Indispensable for scholars of German Romanticism, Novalis will also be of interest to students of comparative literature and European intellectual history.
During a 1960 interview, East German writer Christa Wolf was asked a curious question: would she describe in detail what she did on September 27th? Fascinated by considering the significance of a single day over many years, Wolf began keeping a detailed diary of September 27th, a practice which she carried on for more than fifty years until her death in 2011. The first volume of these notes covered 1960 through 2000 was published to great acclaim more than a decade ago. Now translator Katy Derbyshire is bringing the September 27th collection up to date with One Day a Year—a collection of Wolf’s notes from the last decade of her life.
The book is both a personal record and a unique document of our times. With her characteristic precision and transparency, Wolf examines the interplay of the private, subjective, and major contemporary historical events. She writes about Germany after 9/11, about her work on her last great book City of Angels, and also about her exhausting confrontation with old age. One Day a Year is a compelling and personal glimpse into the life of one of the world’s greatest writers.
Hans Magnus Enzensberger Seagull Books, 2016 Library of Congress PT2609.N9Z46 2014
Hans Magnus Enzensberger, widely regarded as Germany’s greatest living poet, was already well known in the 1960s, the tempestuous decade of which Tumult is an autobiographical record. Derived from old papers, notes, jottings, photos, and letters that the poet stumbled upon years later in his attic, the volume is not so much about the man, but rather the many places he visited and people whom he met on his travels through the Soviet Union and Cuba during the 1960s.
The book is made up of four longform pieces written from 1963 to 1970, each episode concluding with a poem and postscript written in 2014. Tumult is based on Enzensberger’s personal experience as a left-wing sympathizer during that tumultuous decade and focuses on political events and their participants. Translated by Mike Mitchell, the book is a lively and deftly written travelogue offering a glimpse into the history of leftist thought. Dedicated to “those who disappeared,” Tumult is a document of that which remains one of humanity’s headiest times.
“Enzensberger is the most important postwar writer you have never read.”—London Review of Books
Howard Eiland Harvard University Press, 2014 Library of Congress PT2603.E455Z6455 2013 | Dewey Decimal 838.91209
Walter Benjamin was perhaps the twentieth century's most elusive intellectual. His writings defy categorization, and his improvised existence has proven irresistible to mythologizers. In a major new biography, Howard Eiland and Michael Jennings present a comprehensive portrait of the man and his times, as well as extensive commentary on his work.