12 Feb 2008

"An Aesthete at War" [Footnote to footnote 24]

"No one but a man of Jünger's composure could describe the appearance of a bullet hole through his chest as if he were describing his nipple."

These are the words of the legendary travel-book writer Bruce Chatwin (1940-1989) in a review of a selection of Jünger's books in The New York Review of Books in 1981.

"He [Jünger] writes a hard, lucid prose. Much of it leaves the reader with an impression of the author's imperturbable self-regard, of dandyism, of cold-bloodedness, and, finally, of banality. Yet the least promising passages will suddenly light up with flashes of aphoristic brilliance, and the most harrowing descriptions are alleviated by a yearning for human values in a dehumanized world. The diary is the perfect form for a man who combines such acute powers of observation with an anaesthetized sensibility."

"My own visit to Jünger five years ago was an odd experience. At eighty, he had snow-white hair but the bounce of a very active schoolboy. He had a light cackling laugh and tended to drift off if he was not the center of attention. [...] In answer to questions, he simply recited an excerpt from the diary, though occasionally he would rush to the filing cabinet and come back with some pièce justificative. One of these was a letter from his friend Henri de Montherlant, quoting a remark of Tolstoy: 'There is no point in visiting a great writer because he is incarnate in his works.' "

Bruce Chatwin, "An Aesthete at War", The New York Review of Books, vol. 28, No. 3·, March 5, 1981.

"Losing my passport was the least of my worries; losing a notebook was a catastrophe."