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New Left Review 1, January-February 2000


Gopal Balakrishnan on Ernst Jünger–Carl Schmitt, Briefwechsel. Correspondence between two of Germany’s most important thinkers of the radical Right.

GOPAL BALAKRISHNAN

TWO ON THE MARBLE CLIFFS

The publication of the correspondence between Carl Schmitt and Ernst Jünger is an intellectual event of some moment. The letters collected in this volume span a full half century—from 1930, when the two first met in Berlin, to 1983, shortly before Schmitt died at the age of 97. Jünger survived him by over a decade, dying in 1998 at the age of 103. The care and skill with which this collection has been edited by Helmuth Kiesel makes it an impressive accomplishment: German literary scholarship at its best. Detailed notes and background information are provided on nearly every letter, ending with an authoritative afterword on the relationship between the two thinkers. In a handsome production, only an index is missing. The volume makes compelling reading. In range and level, it stands comparison with Benjamin’s correspondence with Adorno or Scholem, or the thematically closer exchange between Leo Strauss and Alexander Kojève. The letters are usually more laconic, sometimes enigmatic, than such counterparts. But they are never dull or cumbersome. Schmitt and Jünger were in different ways masters of a German prose running against the grain of the language: terse, clear and elegant.

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