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New Left Review I/76, November-December 1972


Hedda Korsch

Memories of Karl Korsch

Karl Korsch was born in 1886 in Todstedt near Hamburg. What was his family back-ground?

Korsch came from a medium middle-class background. His father had been through secondary school, had taken the Abitur, and possessed great intellectual ambition. He was very interested in philosophy and wrote an enormous unpublished volume on the development of Leibnitz’s theories of monads. He tried to put the whole of the cosmos into this philosophical system. It was his life’s work and purely theoretical. The family came from East Prussia, from a farming background. But he wanted something more urban and intellectual. Soon after he married Teresa Raikovsky, Korsch’s mother, they moved west to Todstedt. The father wanted to be closer to western culture, and he disliked the agricultural Junker environment in which they lived. Because although the Korsch family themselves had only a modest-sized farm, the big estates were all around them and his father had no interest in agriculture. His mother was totally unconcerned with intellectual matters and never read a thing. She was pretty and extremely temperamental: she cooked well when she was in a good humour, burnt everything when she was angry. She was terribly untidy and if there is one reason why Karl was so tidy it was because of his mother. For example, during his last years at school he had a shed at the bottom of the garden where he worked. It was like a monk’s cell with no rug on the floor, just a table and a few hard chairs, and he told me that was the style of life he liked. All his pencils lay absolutely straight along the desk. This taste of his for complete order and clarity was greatly furthered by his mother’s lack of it.

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