Vom Nachttisch Geräumt

Time to collect the books that are balancing in a heap on the bedside stand and to put them back into the shelves. Here is a list of the titles I read over the last few months.

FULD, Werner : Walter Benjamin. Eine Biographie. Reinbek September 1990 (zuerst : München, Wien 1979)
If one studies the intellectual European history of the last century, chances are good that one sooner or later meets Herrn W. BENJAMIN (Ger., Eng.). Or an image of BENJAMIN created by admirers or critics. Undoubtedly BENJAMIN is an important intellectual, but that does not mean that he always was recognised as one. Like other European writers of the first half of the bloody twentieth century he was forgotten after 1945, re-discovered, and of course en-grossed (vereinnahmt) by different people – the fact that his magnum opus (Passagenwerk, Arcades Project (Ger., Eng.)) is a ruin makes such an usurpation a lot easier. Interestingly a lot of interpretations & secondary literature was published about BENJAMINs works, but there was no biography until Werner FULD (Ger.) published the first one in 1979. And what a life it was. BENJAMIN was notoriously late – in all, an expert in missing chances & taking unneccessary detours. En passant FULD points to where BENJAMIN may have taken suggestions from, and who took (not necessarily mentioned) suggestions from BENJAMINs writings (STERNBERGER, who always denied it ; ADORNO, who said nothing). The last years were miserable in the Paris exile, he became severely ill. Finally he tried to flee over the Pyrenees. On the 12th of September 1940 young Golo MANN had pulled his old uncle Heinrich and his wife, accompanied by the married couples WERFEL & FEUCHTWANGER, over the mountains into Spain – BENJAMIN on the 26th was late, he and the group he travelled with learned that the border station was closed. So he sat down and swallowed the morphine tablets he had (25 from originally fifty, he had given the rest to Arthur KOESTLER), it seems not to be clear whether he died on that mountain or later in Port Bou. Someone bought a grave for him, but there was no marker, after five years it was cleared anyway. I find it remarkable that (according to FULD) BENJAMIN gave to one member of the group, a woman called Gurland, a farewell-letter to ADORNO : She read it and then burned it. Say chutzpà.

ANDRASCHKO, Ferdinand : Schloß Schwarzenberg im Wandel der Zeiten.
In : Schwarzenbergische Archive (Hg.) : Schwarzenbergischer Almanach XXXII (1959), Murau 1959 (133-242)
Just what it says in the title, a history of the castle Schwarzenberg (Ger.). I can not say much about Dr. ANDRASCHKO (about), I do not understand Czech. He worked for more than forty years in the archives of the Schwarzenberg family, his article is very well written.

HASENFUß, Josef ; ENGLERT, E.A.; SCHÜLL, G.S.H. ; ROOS, A. ; BILZ, O. : Hafenlohr, Windheim und Marienbrunn. Aus der Vergangenheit in die Gegenwart zur 650 Jahrfeier. Ohne Ort 1974
Just one of these small publications published in celebration of an anniversary, here 650 years Hafenlohr. And because HASENFUß (Ger.) and his contributors are professionals, it is a well researched little history of said village and its surroundings.

BÄCHLER, Hagen ; SCHLECHTE, Monika : Sächsisches Barock. Aus der Zeit von Matthes Daniel Pöppelmann. 3. Auflage, Leipzig 1990 (zuerst Leipzig 1986 ; Die Schatzkammer, Sonderband)
Someone who “likes” “the baroque” must look into the Saxonian works of arts, the “Dresdner Barock” (Ger.) especially. Most of this was built by Matthäus Daniel PÖPPELMANN (Ger., Eng.). BÄCHLER (Ger.) is a German art historian specialised in this field.

GROSCH, Wilhelm : Blaufuss. Ein Dorf der Gold- und Münzstadt Kremnitz. Entstehung, Untergang und Neubeginn. Stuttgart 1996
Kremnica (Ger., Eng.), German Kremnitz, is a mining town in Middle or Central Slovakia. In the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period it was an important gold mining area. I think there still is mining. The town incorporated some villages, one of these was called Blaufuß (“blue foot”), today Krahule (Ger., Eng.). Herr GROSCH was born in this village in 1932 and published the history of his native place.

WIRSING, Karl-Heinz : Geselligkeit im Würzburg des Biedermeier. Mainfränkische Hefte 73 (1980)
A little history of the social life of Würzburg in the first half of the 19th century. “Biedermeier” (Ger., Eng.) is the time between 1815 and 1848, between the new organisation of Europe at the Viennese Congress, it’s “restauration”, and the revolutionary activities of the 1840s. This age of political stagnation in Central Europe produced a style of its own in the arts, home decoration etc. WIRSING (1907-1999 ; Ger.) was a Franconian art historian specialised in the history of his hometown.

KUHN, Rudolf : St.Achatius zu Grünsfeldhausen. Würzburg 1964
The church of St.Achatius (Ger.) in the village Grünsfeldhausen is an octogonal building that dates back into the 12th or 13th century. It is pretty likely built by a noble person, a knight, who took part in the crusades (most likely the third, (Ger., Eng.)) and had seen the Grabeskirche, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Ger., Eng., tour) in Jerusalem. This kind of architecture is not too common, and it is pretty unique that in a small area four of these octogonal churches can be found, with those in Oberwittighausen and Standorf still standing, while the one in Gaurettersheim sadly was demolished.

SCHÄFER, Werner : Straubing im Ersten Weltkrieg. Ein Beitrag zur Vorgeschichte der Revolution von 1918/19 in Bayern. In : Beiheft zum Jahresbericht des Historischen Vereins für Straubing und Umgebung, 80 (1977/78)
Yes, there was a revolution in Germany after the end of WWI, Bavaria became a “Räterepublik”. But what was before ? How did people live, what fuelled the tension that finally erupted into revolutionary action ? Straubing (Ger., Eng.) is a provincial town in Lower Bavaria next to the Danube river. Nothing fancy, really. But one of the first towns in Bavaria where the Novemberrevolution (Ger., Eng.) took part, they must have been really fed up – or precisely not, but hungry and damn angry. And Herr SCHÄFER, about whom I could not find more information, describes how it came together. A microhistory.

GOEZ, Werner : Gestalten des Hochmittelalters. Personengeschichtliche Essays im allgemeinhistorischen Kontext. Darmstadt 1983
The first time I understood why bishop Adalbero of Würzburg was important. History is made by people, humans act. I think it is more important to learn as much as possible about those who acted – how, when and why – than to speak about abstract ideas that may have made someone come to a decision, or not. Of course it depends on the sources, and their critique. And one needs a broader knowledge of time and age, of the whole æra the historical person lived in. The professor for Medieval History Werner GOEZ (Ger.) was such a man with an overview, and he wrote nicely. GOEZ (1929-2003) was first professor in Würzburg and then from 1969 until 1997 in Erlangen.

Perhaps you can find something interesting or motivational for own study ; if not, excuse me for boring you stiff.

9 thoughts on “Vom Nachttisch Geräumt

  1. Ah! I am aware of Walter Benjamin, and Norwich is home to an octagonal chapel! I have a hazy frame of reference and don’t feel like a complete nincompoop :)

    Do you have another selection of books to take their place?

  2. “Nincompoop” – my online dictionary translates this as “Trottel” – nonsense IDV ! A man who finds his way through the night sky, follows the paths of Kepplern, Lichtenberg, Newton and the likes, a man I say who can even Overstrand and the adjacent beaches make look interesting, wild and exotic – not to mention the shags ! – such a man is anything else but a Trottel ! A simple list of uninteresting writings should not impress you. And yes, this stuff surrounds me, begs to be taken in hand and finally consumed – Resistance is futile ! We are all slaves …

  3. The church of St. Achatius is marvelous! I love architecture, and that is a splendid and enchanting looking structure. It stands out! I would love to see them up close and study their exquisite craftsmanship.

    When I see Würzburg, I think of the magnificent palace, Würzburg Residence. Gorgeous!

  4. I had to google it (HERE) Mitzi. (I first thought you made this up.) Ms Chesney is surely very productive writer. I always admire people like her who seemingly without breaking a sweat produce one text after another. It is not “high” literature, but entertainment, use & forget instant gratification. Nothing to be ashamed about imho, an innocent diversion. I used to wolf meself through a crime novel per evening some years ago.
    So sorry to disappoint you, m’dear, this is not enough to qualify as Trottel.

    These Romanic churches really have something Eroswings. On one side they are terribly strict in following the given lines, nothing swings, not the faint idea of what would dominate the baroque some sevenhundred years later. The Romanic architecture is not affraid of extensive planar walls. But what we miss is the figurative decorum. At one of those octogonal churches one can still see remains of small figures, human-like & animal-like, there are monsters and mythological creatures. I never found a catalogue of these things, but they must be found all over Europe I guess.
    The Residence is a pretty large presbytery.

  5. I first read Benjamin when I was studying philosophy of art and cultural criticism, but, although I enjoyed his thinking, never did get round to reading a whole book of his, or on him. Recently I’ve been reading Susan Sontag, whom I admire immensely, and she cites Benjamin often, and now you too, so he’s floated to the top of my list of must reads. A biography could be a good place to start, I wonder if Fuld’s work has been translated into English? I will google!

  6. Benjamin meandered not only through the intellectual scene of Germany & Europe, but through his whole life, some of his decisions are a bit hard to understand. He features a certain helplessmess, or better ineptitude, for daily life’s tasks or obligations. On the other hand he is absolutely reckless in using other people, some sides of his character seem not to be nice. But I only read this biography, it is the first one and inasmuch groundbraking, and Fuld was confronted with a difficult situation regarding source materials too. Perhaps a newer work can paint a more detailed and more different picture of the man. But that he very often turned off the wrong way is clear.
    Castle Schwarzenberg is in some way typical : They built, it burnt. They built, it crumbled. They kept on building. Especially through WWII the house saw a hard time, since the head of the Schwarzenberg family (as a fierce opponent of the nazis) was in exile, his (adopted) son in different prisons & camps. Different organisations tried to snare the castle, most people billeted there did not care much about it and treated it like a dump.

    I vaguely remember that Ms Sontag wrote an essay about Benjamin, maybe in the seventies. As I understand Fuld’s work was not translated, but the wikipedia article mentions some newer biographies, also an Oxford companion, a reader. I think Benjamin’s essay about “The Work of Art etc” is still important. Adorno surely used it. Sadly I have not read much by Ms Sontag, Eryl, but I’ll look for her essays about intellectuals.

    *looks sheepishly* Sorry MsScarlet, I only found this. You like horror stories ?!
    Reminds me : I read somewhere that near Dartmoore an underground facility is to be sold. Possible uses are listed as mushroom farm, or artist’s studio – what a nice combination !

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