biography - federal republic
Ernst Jünger's biography after the Second World War was certainly much less eventful than in his previous fifty years. After a great deal of controversy and debate over the so-called Fall Jünger (The Jünger Case) in the immediate post-War era, Jünger has slowly moved into the fold of the canon of German literature, despite continuing vociferous debate about his personality and work, much of which has been desperately partisan - either praising his work or damning it according to a predetermined political matrix.
Whilst the externals of Jünger's life, especially after he moved to the Upper Swabian village of Wilflingen and took up residence in the Forester's house of the great Stauffenberg estate in 1950, were relatively quiet, his literary production continued apace. Indeed some of his most interesting and least studied works were produced after the Second World War.
In the immediate aftermath of the War, Jünger was forbidden from publishing in the British Occupied Zone, and his first works actually appeared outside Germany: Der Friede in Amsterdam in 1946, Atlantische Fahrt in London for German POWs in 1947 and the travel diaries Aus der goldenen Muschel in Zürich in 1948. Moreover, Jünger refused to fill in the denazification Fragebogen (questionnaire), which did nothing to speed a lifting of the ban.
In 1949, Jünger's war diaries were published as Strahlungen (these too were subject to later revision) and the utopian, quasi-science fiction novel Heliopolis appeared. Heliopolis is another multi-dimensional novel, but the conflict between the Landvogt and the Proconsul does reflect (on one level) the struggle for power between the Wehrmacht and the Nazi Party.
Junger's writing took a distinctly essayistic turn in the 1950s. Among others, he wrote:
- 1950: Über die Linie. An essay on overcoming Nihilism. Cf. Martin Heidegger "Zur Seinsfrage: Über 'die Linie'" (1955).
- 1951: Der Waldgang. An essay on the individual's choices of resistance against an oppressive society.
- 1953: Der gordische Knoten. A speculative essay on East-West relations.
- 1954: Das Sanduhrbuch. An essay on time-keeping and modernity.
- 1956: Rivarol. Translation of a selection from the writing of the French counter-revolutionary thinker together with an extensive essayistic introduction.
- 1959: An der Zeitmauer. A difficult and challenging essay that deals with changes in the world-historical era, and indeed the end of human history as such.
At the same time, Jünger also produced the short story Die Eberjagd (1952) and the novel Besuch auf Goldenholm (1952), a novel clearly influenced by his early experiments with Mescaline and LSD. The novel Gläserne Bienen (1957) deals in a very interesting fashion with technology and simulacra and posits pre-Baudrillardian notions of hyper-realities.
Jünger's cultural and literary awards continued to accumulate. He also began to travel much more widely than he had previously done. His destinations included Egypt and Sudan (1962), the Far East (1965) and Angola (1966). His first wife, Gretha, died in 1960, and in 1962 he married Liselotte Lohrer (née Baeuerle).
His essayistic work continued with Der Weltstaat (1960), Sgraffiti (1960), a fragmentary continuation of the (1961), Typus, Name, Gestalt (1963) and Maxima-Minima both deriving from his subsequent thoughts on Der Arbeiter. The decade also saw the first version of his collected Works and autobiographical Subtile Jagden, containing anecdotes and reflections on his entomological pursuits.
Jünger continued to travel widely and to collect literary and cultural awards. His most significant works of this period are:
- 1970: Annäherungen: Drogen und Rausch. An autobiographical and reflective essayistic account of his various drug experiments from early beer sessions before the First World War to his occasional LSD trips with Albert Hofmann.
- 1973: Die Zwille. A novel undeniably influenced by his own experience of schooling, but which at the same time evokes memories of childhood and a time of flux that is both personal and world-historical.
- 1977: Eumeswil. Set in another futuristic city, this novel is very much the continuation of the scenarios of Heliopolis. Moreover, it starts to explore complex notions of post-history and again examines the options open to the individual in his/her striving after a form of real freedom. The "Anarch" at the heart of the novel is the successor of the Waldgänger and, I would suggest, the Legionnaire of 1913.
Ernst Jünger and Albert Hofmann, 1978.
Jünger continued to travel and to receive literary prizes. His writing now concentrated on literary reworkings of his diaries since 1965 in the series Siebzig Verweht I - V (1980 - 1997). Four works are of note:
- 1983: Aladins Problem. A novel about modernity and death.
- 1983: Autor und Autorschaft. Reflections on writing and the author.
- 1985: Eine gefährliche Begegnung. An acclaimed detective story set in fin-de-siècle Paris.
- 1987: Zwei Mal Halley. Autobiographical work, recollecting his first and then his second encounter with Halley's Comet.
The 1980s also saw Jünger taking more of a public role, which is surely linked to the then ascendancy of the CDU in German politics. The Fall Jünger debate was rekindled when Frankfurt City Council decided to award him the Goethe Preis in 1982. In 1984, he took part in a ceremony of remembrance for the dead of the two world wars with Helmut Kohl and François Mitterand and the two statesmen visited him at Wilflingen in 1985 on his 90th birthday.
1990 saw the publication of Die Schere, an obscure and difficult collection of aphorisms concerning the state of the modern/postmodern world. Jünger's publications have otherwise been restricted to further issues of Siebzig Verweht with the exception of an essay entitled "Gestaltwandel".
In 1995, Jünger's 100th birthday was celebrated to much official acclaim and the Feuilletonisten had much to keep themselves busy. Moreover, Jünger has already taken steps to ensure his continued place in the official memory of German literature by arranging the transfer of his papers to the German Literature Archive in Marbach am Neckar, where, with the permission of his widow, manuscripts, typescripts and original diaries are available for academic study.
Ernst Jünger died on 17th February 1998.
© John King, 2017. Last updated Thu, 20th May 2010.