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Jünger, Ernst

Entry updated 6 February 2023. Tagged: Author.

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(1895-1998) German author – his surname is sometimes given in English as Juenger – active from 1911, when his first poems were published, until around 1997 (see Longevity in Writers). His early works reflected his experiences in World War One, the hellishness of which he responded to at the time in his long-unpublished Kriegstagebuch 1914-1918 ["War Diaries"] (2010), his four years of combat being an ordeal which he came to treat as (to put it crudely) a chivalric challenge, a philosophy reflected in his first-published, frequently revised, most famous nonfiction book, In Stahlgewittern: Aus dem Tagebuch eines Stosstruppführers (1920; 1924 version trans Basil Creighton as The Storm of Steel 1929; 1961 version trans Michael Hofmann as Storm of Steel 2003). Early versions of this text – central both for Jünger and in general for its account of the experience of war – tend to contain elements of overblown paeon; later versions are tellingly more reticent. The remainder of the twentieth century he treated as an ordeal similar to his vision of combat, a nightmare of history to which the only response was reckless "chivalric" submission and/or Transcendence; it is perhaps because he saw that century as an ontologically dense, coherent story that his work illuminates the centripetal gravity of Fantastika as a whole, though the most direct embodiment of his vision of the "archon" – the man of action obedient to interior paradigms of ancient godly austere heroism despite the demeaning industrialization of war – may well be the nonfantastic Martin Bora sequence by Ben Pastor (1950-    ).

At the same time, Jünger's actual perception of and dealing with that entity-like passage of time was governed by an aesthetizing "austerity" that left him relatively incapable of joining "beingness" to the circumstances of history; his utopias [see below] were as a consequence fatally abstracted. He was in fact as striking an example of the aftermath writer as those more visibly traumatized by civilization's near-fatal convulsion. A central problem with authors of fantastika of Jünger's generation (and perhaps later ones) may be this thinning, lassitudinous propensity to shake off the unendurable detail-work of living in history; it has done the world no favours.

Jünger's fiction comes later in his long career. Auf den Marmorklippen (1939; trans Stuart Hood as On the Marble Cliffs 1947; preferred trans Tess Lewis 2023) – though its status as a classic of resistance to Nazism has been complexified by analysis of its broodingly passive austerity regarding political action – is a peculiarly resonant allegory of the destruction of the moderately Utopian land of Great Marina by an Invasion of vandal-like conquerors led by a corroded version of Wotan in the form of a grotesque Wild Huntsman, quite likely an early Parody of Hermann Göring (1893-1946). It is a vision which may have directly influenced Sarban's The Sound of His Horn (1952), and is a significant contribution to German literature as regards World War Two, as suggested by Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) in Aufsätze zur Zeitgeschichte (coll 1946; trans Elizabeth Welsh and others as Essays on Contemporary Events 1947).

Heliopolis: Rückblick auf eiene Stadt ["Heliopolis: Looking Back on a City"] (1949; cut 1950), an ironical Utopia set in an unspecific Near Future on the coast of the Mediterranean, remains untranslated. Besuch auf Godenholm (1952; trans Annabel Moynihan as Visit to Godenholm 2015), though technically nonfantastic, treats extensive Drug experiences in surreal terms. Gläserne Bienen (1957; trans Louise Bogan and Elizabeth Mayer as The Glass Bees 1960) applies an allegorical mode to the story of the creation and use of Robot bees for industrial work. Eumeswil (1977; trans Joachim Neugroschel 1993) is narrated by Manuel Venator, house historian of the dictator Condor in a Near Future totalitarian Dystopia; he describes his attempts to subvert Condor's rule through lessons learned from previous epochs, which he accesses via a Time Viewer, experiences which lead him conceive of the perfect human being as an "anarch", a being who obeys the external world but is internally as autonomous as Jünger himself seemed to be over almost a century of activity. Aladins Problem (1983; trans Joachim Neugroschel as Aladdin's Problem 1992) is a Fabulation in which an aristocratic deserter from the German army takes over an American funeral home, expanding it into an enormous necropolis. [JC]

Ernst Jünger

born Heidelberg, Germany: 29 March 1895

died Riedlingen, Swabia, Germany: 17 February 1998


works (selected)

  • Auf den Marmor-Klippen (Hamburg, Germany: Hanseatische Verlagsanstalt, 1939) [title is also given as Auf den Marmorklippen or Auf den Marmor Klippen: hb/]
    • On the Marble Cliffs (London: John Lehmann, 1947) [trans by Stuart Hood of the above: in the publisher's Modern European Library series: hb/Leonard Rosoman]
    • On the Marble Cliffs (New York: New York Review Books, 2023) [new trans by Tess Lewis of the above: pb/]
  • Heliopolis: Rückblick auf eine Stadt ["Heliopolis: Looking Back on a City"] (Tübingen, Germany: Heliopolis Verlarg, 1949) [hb/]
  • Besuch auf Godenholm (Frankfurt am Main, Germany: Klostermann, 1952) [binding unknown/]
    • Visit to Godenholm (Stockholm, Sweden: Edda Publishing, 2015) [trans by Annabel Moynihan of the above: binding unknown/]
  • Gläserne Bienen (Stuttgart, Germany: Klett-Cotta, 1957) [hb/]
    • The Glass Bees (New York: The Noonday Press/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1960) [trans by Louise Bogan and Elizabeth Mayer of the above: hb/Nancy Webb]
  • Eumeswil (Stuttgart, Germany: Klett-Cotta, 1977) [hb/]
    • Eumeswil (Hygiene, Colorado: The Eridanos Library/New York: Marsilio Publishers, 1993) [trans by Joachim Neugroschell of the above: hb/from Max Ernst]
  • Aladins Problem (Stuttgart, Germany: Klett-Cotta, 1983) [hb/]
    • Aladdin's Problem (New York: Marsilio Publishers, 1992) [trans by Joachim Neugroschel of the above: hb/from Paul Citroën]


about the author


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