January 23, 2019

Review: A German Officer in Occupied France. Ernst Jünger's War Journals 1941-1945

I enjoyed this review by Michael Dirda in the Washingon Post of the recent publication of Jünger's War Journals 1941-1945 (Strahlungen) into English. One more not-insignificant work to chip away at the mountain that has not yet been translated! A collection of further reviews here.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/a-fascinating-look-inside-the-journal-of-a-controversial-german-war-hero/2019/01/16/5897c326-18d2-11e9-8813-cb9dec761e73_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.a4ee0097efb2As a teenager hungering for adventure, Ernst Jünger ran away from school in 1913 and joined the French Foreign Legion. His father eventually retrieved his delinquent child from North Africa, just in time for the 19-year-old to enlist in World War I. Over the next four years, Jünger would be wounded in action 14 times and, in 1918, be awarded the Pour le Mérite, Germany’s equivalent to our Medal of Honor. He remains the youngest man ever so honored.

In 1920, Jünger published “Storm of Steel,” an extraordinary memoir of his battle experiences. (I recommend Michael Hofmann’s translation for Penguin.) Like T.E. Lawrence’s near-contemporary “Seven Pillars of Wisdom,” the book views war from an almost Homeric perspective, celebrating the martial virtues of courage, comradeship and steadfastness; it is dedicated, apolitically, “For the fallen.” In the years following its publication, Jünger completed an astonishing self-transformation into an exceptionally well-read and cosmopolitan intellectual, one particularly passionate about French culture, entomology, mysticism and philosophy. While his political bent was distinctly right-wing, he resisted the era’s virulent anti-Semitism and never joined the Nazi Party. His allegorical 1939 novel, “On the Marble Cliffs,” is frequently read as a critique of Hitler.