Instructions for cold showers

Ernst Jiinger was not a wimp. “He took cold baths every morning until old age, which was hard on him,” Rudolf Augstein stated admiringly in his obituary. The resilient attitude attributed to the writer is not only attractive in times of rising energy costs.

Speaking out to disciples carries a high potential for arousal. He is undoubtedly a figure in German intellectual history that is as popular as it is controversial, unleashing an electrifying mix of attraction and aversion. For some he is the masterful stylist, for others a fervent nationalist and opponent of democracy.

Thus, Jiinger’s texts, which are sometimes difficult to bear with their dripping pathos of seriousness, are less interesting than the reading community that is grouped around him. Whether in pop songs or in literature for a few, whether in left-wing alternative magazines or new right-wing manifestos – the figure of the disciple is still stubbornly present today as a male reading gesture.

An underdog who stumbles through the world in isolation and knows how to mock it

Elon Musk publicly flaunts on Twitter that he reads disciples. The SPD politician Martin Schulz does the same, but very down-to-earth at the Leipzig Book Fair. The (partly ironically broken) celebration of the virile sound transcends cultural and political topographies. Jiinger creates an atmospheric connection between men who otherwise don’t have much in common.

The identification figure is actually relatively profane. An underdog who stumbles through the bad world in isolation and knows how to scoff at it in a superior manner. A solitaire who is completely with himself, who would not submit to any order and railed against the mediocrity of democracy. Precisely because this character seems to have fallen out of time, she brings “consolation through participation” (Niels Penke): Through her, you reassure yourself that you still have a lot to say – even if nobody wants to listen anymore.

Ernst Jiinger’s diaries from the period between 1939 and 1948 are now available in a historical-critical edition under the title “Radiations”. With surgical precision, the passionate entomologist observes not only creation and death in nature, but also the destructive power of human civilization in the same breath.

It is the formal work of the cool distance that exerts such great fascination

When he got to the Eastern Front in the winter of 1942, he observed the deportations and the atrocities committed against the civilian population with disgust. But the Shoah appears to him as a violent natural event. He is just a “barometer” that measures the extreme deflections of the “typhoons” of civilization, as he writes.

The stages of editing the diary entries, which are visible in color in the historical-critical edition, now provide emblematic information about the formal work of the cool distance that exerts such great fascination. Especially on men. The two editors, Joana van den Löcht and Helmuth Kiesel, write in their informative foreword that the edition provides “insights into the author’s writing workshop”.

Consequently, the edition reads as a praxeological reconstruction of literary texts. The authentic that is inherent in the diary becomes visible here as a stylized one. The meticulous filing of the text and the permanent revision refer to the active linkage of fact and fiction, the always “unfinished contact with reality”, as Jiinger himself emphasizes.

The wiry stance associated with the character disciple is a product of Drill

The deletions that the author has made in new editions also reveal the sociality of isolated desk work. For example, he deletes those passages that were displeased in reviews. The audience not only reads, they also take notes. The present documentation of the revision processes makes the text tank dynamic.

But not only him. In this way, the male “body armor” ( Klaus Theweleit ) can indirectly be experienced as a fragile construct that is constantly struggling with its dissolution. As the text is polished and tamed, so is the wiry posture associated with the character disciple, a product of drill and disciplining.

In the variants of the text, its different shades, a different image of masculinity is brought into focus. We now see the goosebumps that the cold-headed man tries to deny. At the same time, the gesture of the indomitable solitaire, who remains true to himself despite external resistance, is made recognizable as deeply dependent. The deletions made after the critique point to the need for approval from others.

In addition to the meticulous reconstruction of the text, the great achievement of the edition is the insight that masculinity is a precarious narrative.

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