TELOSscope: The Telos Press Blog

The Inner Experience of Battle

“It wasn’t death that frightened him—that was a certainty—but rather the element of chance, the tumbling movement through time and space, which could descend any second into annihilation—this feeling of having worth and yet not being more than an ant that could be squashed in the street by the heedless step of a giant. Why, if there were a Creator, had he given men the desire to penetrate into the essence of a world that he could never fully fathom? Wouldn’t it be better if men lived like animals or plants than always with this terrible anxiety lurking beneath the surface of everything that they said and did?”

—Ernst Jünger, Sturm, describing the Battle of the Somme, whose centenary is this year.

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“The rediscovery of Ernst Jünger’s Sturm, abandoned by its author after its first publication in 1923, significantly alters our understanding of Jünger’s place in modern European literature. The literary and aesthetic moments, frequently seen as secondary in Jünger’s early work, turn out to be constitutive from the very beginning. While the plot deals with the experience of war in 1916, Sturm‘s ultimate concern is the possibility of radical modern art under conditions of extreme violence.”
Peter Uwe Hohendahl, Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of German Studies and Comparative Literature, Cornell University

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