Arts & Entertainment

Ernest Junger’s “Eumewil”

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Originally published in Germany in 1977, when Junger was eighty-two years old, Eumeswil is the great novel of Junger’s creative maturity, a masterpiece by a central figure in modern German literature. Eumeswil is a utopian state ruled by the Condor, a general who has installed himself as a dictator and who dominates the capital from a guarded citadel atop a hill – the Casbah. A refined manipulator of power, the Condor despises the democrats who conspire against him. Venator, the narrator of the novel, is a historian whose discreet and efficient services as the Condor’s night steward earn him full access to the forbidden zone, at the very heart of power. Every evening, while attending to the Condor and his guests at the Casbah’s night bar, Venator keeps a secret journal in which he records the conversations he overhears, delineating the diverse personalities in the Condor’s entourage while sketching out an analysis of the different aspects of the psychology of power. Venator’s days are spent building a hidden refuge in the mountains, a hermetic retreat where he hopes one day to realize his dreams of utter self-sufficiency. In the meantime, however, he continues to pursue his career as a historian, using the magnificent tool that has been placed at his disposal – the “luminar”, a holographic instrument that can summon up any figure or event in human history. Venator, in a word, embodies Junger’s ideal of the “anarch” – a heroic figure whose radical skepticism and individualism are not to be confused with mere anarchism. Around the opposite figures of the dictator and the anarch, Junger weaves a hallucinatory and poetic rumination on the nature of history and on the mainsprings of political power. At once tale, essay and philosophical poem, Eumeswil offers a desolate and lucid assessment of totalitarianism by an author who witnessed its horrors firsthand.

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