History and Historiography

The Coming Titans – Ernst Jünger

Hermann Prey, Vicco von Bülow, Ernst Jünger

From Die Kommenden Titanen

Published in 2002

On 29 March 1995 Ernst Jünger turned one hundred years old. For some time he has lived in seclusion in Wilflingen, Upper Swabia, avoiding the curiosity of journalists, admirers, readers and scholars of his work. The only thread linking him to a very few intimates is a secret telephone number.

For his centenary, celebrations and festivities had been prepared all over the world. Helmut Kohl, François Mitterrand and Felipe Gonzalez, who had already visited him in Wilflingen in the past, intended to award him their countries’ highest honours. But Jünger had discreetly let it be known that he was not going anywhere. The upheaval that the jubilee threatened to cause in his rhythm of life and work worried him so much that he would have preferred to escape to a remote atoll in the South Seas and wait until the centenary celebrations were over. He told the press and television stations around the world who asked to be received that he would not give interviews.

We were lucky enough to be the exception to the rule. The reason for the privilege that Jünger granted us is the good relationship that was established with him.

Our first meeting took place years ago, at the time of the preparation of Across the Line, the volume in which the texts of his controversy with Heidegger on nihilism, of which only separate editions existed in Germany, were collected for the first time. We wanted to discuss some of the details of the text directly with him, to recall the circumstances of its writing and to reconstruct the relationship with Heidegger.

The reception was immediately very jovial. We enjoyed in advance the consideration Jünger always had for his translators: ‘With translators I have had a particular good fortune. That the author and the translator become friends is natural. Their meeting leads to a spiritual eros and agony, it leads to penetrating the linguistic exposition to its very depths. To live up to it, to master it with cunning, strategic moves, surprises, until consonance becomes harmony – in this way a new work can be born, in which both take part. Thus in a successful translation the author sees himself in a new dimension’. The conversation soon enough moved on from Across the Line to another topic: the ‘discovery’ of an unpublished work by the elder Schopenhauer in which this unrepentant metaphysical pessimist, now at the end of his life, redeems himself from his sin during a ‘night troubled by doubt and uncertainty’. Jünger was attracted by this text, and mentions it in Die Schere. In his diaries he then recalls our first meeting and the reason why this conversation about Schopenhauer struck him. A series of visits to Wilflingen followed, and then a meeting in July 1995 at the Escorial, where Jünger and some friends stayed for a whole week to receive an honorary degree from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. The conversations we present here are the result of a series of visits to the Escorial.

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