New translation of Jünger Der Waldgang

With a brief roundup of the First World War.

Info here. I haven’t read it but waded my way through Heliopolis (more or less contemporaneous) and Eumeswil (mid-70s) in the original ages ago, when I was using German in a nasty little corporate civil war against some mediocre bureaucrats in a small village on the Rhine. Then I read a couple more things – I can’t remember what – and I think in the end concluded that he was dead right about just about everything, but that I wasn’t such a terribly serious libertarian after all.

Now I’ve finally read his first and best known work, a best-selling First World War memoir In Stahlgewittern (“Storm of Steel”, but someone gave me it in Spanish, so the dust-jacket reads Tempestades de acero). It’s a great book, and (at last!) a very easy read. Moralising history teachers have bored aggressive schoolchildren over the last 40 years with Im Westen nichts Neues – the story of someone who understands nothing and fears everything – but if we are to make any sense of the First World War then Remarque needs to be complemented by Jünger, whose precocious comprehension of all that was going on around him preëmpts any accusation that he was merely thoughtlessly fearless. Ah! the underdevelopment of the prefrontal cortex in young men!

I haven’t read any secondary lit about German-language writing from WWI. Paul Fussell’s The Great War and Modern Memory is still the most interesting discussion I’ve found on writing in English, piqued though I am by his ignorance of the literary-sexual relationship between one of the clan and Walter D’Arcy Cresswell, quite probably the finest writer to come forth from New Zealand, and also without doubt one of the worst poets ever.

A brother of the above (and my namesake) wrote letters home on toilet paper (which still need to be deciphered – maybe this can be a centenary task) and I believe made a joke about the increased risk of dysentery that this implied. More WWI humour here.

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