Actaeon Press: Ernst Jünger will become part of the canon an image of the twentieth century in the same sense as the old Roman histories-I

The second of our interviews on the concept of conservative revolution continues with Ernst Jünger. Jünger is one of the leading figures of the conservative revolutionary idea with his life and personality and the works he left behind. Aristocrat, soldier, intellectual. Very few of his works have been translated into Turkish. Actaenon Press is one of the leading Jüngerist organisations in Europe. I will publish it in two parts. I would like to state that other articles and interviews on Jünger will continue.

Can you tell us about Actaeon Press and the Jünger Translation Project?

Both the publishing and translation projects developed because of the difficulty in finding Ernst Jünger’s work in English. I had been reading Ernst Jünger for a few years and noticed the extent of his complete works and how little had been translated. Only a few years ago it was still difficult to find his writings, particularly in print editions. There have since been reprints of Eumeswil, On the Marble Cliffs, and his Paris Diaries, but before The Worker much of his writing could only be found in digital format or in used editions that were quite expensive. The Penguin edition of On the Marble Cliffs, for example, was nearing a hundred dollars, and Eumeswil upwards of three hundred.

This is to say that things came together as if by accident. I started editing On the Marble Cliffs so that physical copies would be available for a few people who were discussing the possibility of a reading group. This was received quite well. Then I worked on The Peace, and also The Failure of Technology by Ernst’s brother Friedrich Georg. It was quite a learning process as I had no experience with editing or publishing work.

A few of us, not knowing German well or at all, were asking how we could access his other writings. This first resulted in an attempt to translate The Tree, which was done quite roughly but fortunately in the discussions a German individual came forward and offered to help us. This is when the translation project started, and I will always appreciate how a few people from around the world were able to come together to make Jünger’s important writing available to others. This, I think, says something important about the situation of literature today.

As for what we have released as first-time translations in English, I think the first essay we released was Gestaltwandel: Prognosis for the Twenty-First Century, a rather difficult work. Then we focused on shorter essays, some little writings such as a short story, his early writings on war and nationalism, and later essays. The most significant work has been Maxima-Minima and the aim here is to begin work on his major late essays such as An der Zeitmauer, Die Schere, and Die Gordische Knoten, arguably his most profound writings and almost completely unknown in the English world.

It is also worth noting that others have begun translating his work, I believe someone is working on An der Zeitmauer. So it seems interest in Jünger’s work has grown and we hope everything will be available in English in the coming years. With our own minor efforts more people have come forward to offer to help. Ultimately, I hope to see the release of Ernst Jünger’s mythological and theological writings, as well as the writings of his brother, who deserves more readers.

Ernst Jünger was once among the forgotten writers. However, in the last thirty years, Jünger has become one of the writers we should remember. What can you say about the dynamics of forgetting and remembering Jünger, what are the developments that are decisive in remembering him today?

 If Ernst Jünger had not written Storm of Steel he would most likely have been forgotten in his own time and would be lost to us. It is the unfortunate situation of literature today that  everything is subordinate to the ideological conflicts, and in a sense all of these great writers are lost to us because of this situation. Jünger sums up the problem rather simply when he speaks of the museum quality of our time, what is most dangerous for the artistic or musical man is not being ignored, it is that he is highly regarded but nevertheless relegated to the store-rooms of a museum like any other artist. The scientific mind gets what it wants, the irrational is given its place in the technological world. Nietzsche spoke of the great writers who became antiquated shortly after writing their books, now one is antiquated the moment he sets pen to paper.

Those who look to Jünger’s early work on war and nationalism are seeing this same problem. If the image of man is any longer possible it tends towards this museum quality: one can acknowledge the sacrifices of men in war when faced with the war monuments, or in the televised displays where the democratic forces dominate whatever remains of the old nations, but not in war itself. Although this speaks to a wider problem of modern war, whether in its unheroic or legalist nature.

In the 1930s, Jünger was a regional writer read only by German nationalist-conservatives. Nowadays, he has become a part of the universal canon and is read in many different circles. Would you agree with this view? Is Ernst Jünger a canonical writer?

Certainly. Ernst Jünger will become part of the canon, if only for Storm of Steel and his journals, which give us an image of the twentieth century much in the same sense as the old Roman histories. But I believe Jünger’s significance is greater than this. It is difficult to assess his legacy in the current situation.

This raises the question of what is canonical and whether Jünger’s other work should be considered at this level. A difficulty remains in that much of his writing is still unavailable and what is available is often misread or misunderstood. Nevertheless, it is becoming clear that Jünger enters into the highest levels of literature, whether in his discussions with Schmitt or Heidegger, or in Eumeswil, which is something of an answer to the “end of the novel form” much as it is an answer to the end of history. So this work is canonical, it is a masterpiece in its image of our time but also as a sign of what is coming.

As Goethe says, our purpose in this world is to make the transitory everlasting, great literature presents us with an image of this.

Armin Mohler, who was Ernst Jünger’s assistant, described him as a “conservative revolutionary”. What do you think about this concept, or is it more accurate to call him an “anarchist-conservative”? Was he an anarchist, a rebel?

What Jünger says of anarchy is revealing here, “Anarchy is the primordial material and ground of political education, which precedes it like the chaos of creation, like the titanic world of the gods.” We are no longer in the realm of concepts, ideologies, or even identities, pain overwhelms us like the Christian in the desert, we are alone with the elements, with annihilation and execration. God has retreated and so has the soul.

This is an aspect that is neglected in the conservative revolutionary period, but it is there. And one might say it is implicit in the name, what does it mean for the conservative to become a revolutionary? A catastrophe must have happened. And this was the case for Germany in the 1920s, the people faced annihilation, as a national space it was cut out from Europe just as England was set adrift.

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