ernst jünger in cyberspace

essays - françois mitterand

"Birthday Address for Ernst Jünger"

Here is a man who is free.

Embroiled, to the point of risking his life, in the turmoil of the century, he held himself apart from his passions. Nothing can appropriate his name, nor his gaze, unless it be that butterfly in Pakistan which is now called "Trachydura Jüngeri", and which is his pride. For this rebel chases after glow-worms, this soldier writes novels. A philosopher, he possesses an appetite for living which time has not wearied. Few life works are more diverse, few minds more restless. As inheritor of Goethe, of Hölderlin and Nietzsche, but also of Stendhal, Jünger's thought conjugates the riches of the Enlightenment with those of Romanticism, the rigour of the one with the generosity of the other.

It challenges fashions and attracts disputes. Those fond of systems hanker in vain to find them in it. Truth is to be sought in it like a balance amid contrary forces. Between engagement and resistance, respect for the real and rejection of the predestined, Jünger charts the space of human freedom and its true struggles. Because ist origins lie in the zest for life, it contemplates and faces contradictions: between mind and matter, nature and history, reason and dream.

Likewise with his idea of progress which repudiates alike the prophecies of Hegel and Marx and the pessimism of Spengler. No one has better grasped than him the advent of the world of technology, its benefits and catastrophes. If he deems inevitable the triumphs of science and numbers, he struggles against the excesses of their conquest.

Likewise with his thoughts about religions. He is agnostic, but has a sense of the sacred; he is an entomologist, but is at home with the irrational and affirms his faith in the spirit's survival.

Likewise with his passion for time - "the wall of time" as he likes to put it. He collects hourglasses and has written a treatise on them. Here too, between the temptations of surrender and refusal, Jünger faces the enigma and establishes a kind of wisdom. We talked about all that during our all too short meetings. The man before me impressed me by his demeanour. It is that of a Roman, haughty and simple, unalterable. I salute him and offer him my good wishes for a hundredth birthday in peace. But I know this: he and peace have long belonged together.

29 March 1995 (translated by Liz Heron from the original French). Originally published in German translation in the F.A.Z., 29.3.1995 (Feuilleton).

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