Updated 20 December 1998
(On Ernst Junger)
Ernst Junger is a prominent contemporary German writer, whose literary and political fate is a classic symbol of everything avantgarde, lively, and nonconformist in European culture of the twentieth century. A participant and witness to two world wars, one of the chief theoreticians of German Conservative Revolution in 1920s-1930s, inspirer of national socialism, who quickly turned into a "dissident from the right" after Hitler came to power, survived official disfavor during Nazi totalitarian rule, only to be ostracized by the victors during the "de-nazification" campaigne, whose talent and profundity of thought allowed him to overcome the bias of "democrats." Today, Junger is by right considered to be the emblem of the twentieth century, a mouthpiece not only of the "lost generation," but of the "lost century," full of passionate and dramatic struggle of the last sacral splashes of national life against the suffocating profanity of contemporary technocratic universality.
Junger is the author of many novels, essays, articles, and short stories. He is diverse, versatile, complex, at times contradictory and paradoxical. But the main subject of his works always remains the same - the Laborer, central, almost metaphysical character, whose overt and latent presence is felt in all of his pieces. It is no coincidence that the best known and conceptual of his books, which he was editing and rewriting all through his life, is called "The Laborer."
The Laborer, "Der Arbeiter," is the central type of all those political, artistic, intellectual, and philosophical trends, which, notwithstanding their diversity, are brought together in the concept of "Conservative Revolution." The Laborer is the main hero of the Revolution, its subject, its existential and aesthetic pivot. We are talking about a special type of modern man, which in a most critical experience of profane reality, being at the very heart of technocratic soulless mechanism, in the iron bowels of totalitarian war or hellish industrial labor, in the center of nihilism of the twentieth century, finds in himself a mysterious fulcrum, which takes him to the other side of "nothingness," to the elements of spontaneously awakened inner sacrality. Through intoxication with the modern world, Junger's Laborer perceives the radiant immovability of the Pole, crystal cold of objectivity, in which Tradition and Spirit appear not as something old, ancient, but as Eternal, as eternal return to the timeless Origin. The Laborer is not a conservative or a progressive. He is not a defender of the old and not an apologist for the new. He is the Third Hero, Third Imperial Hero (according to Niekiesch), the new Titan, in whom, through the utmost concentration of modernism in its most venomous and traumatic forms, through industrial and frontal chaos, opens up a special transcendental aspect, which mobilizes him for a metaphysical, heroic act. The Laborers are people of the trenches, factories, "nomads of asphalt," deprived of inheritance in technocratic civilization, taking the challenge of split reality and amassing in their souls special energies of a great rebellion,as brutal and objective as the agressive nature of industrial- bourgeois environment. Ernst Junger is the creator ofpolitico-ideological concept of "total mobilization," which became the theoretical and philosophical base for many conservative revolutionary movements. "Total mobilization" is the necessity for a general awakening of the nation for the purpose of building a new civilization, in which Heros and Titans, bearers of the flame of National Revolution born willfully from the abyss of social alienation, will be at the center.
But, according to Junger, "total mobilization" of masses, nations, peoples is based on a special, unique existential experience, without which the Revolution will either turn into a materialist degenerate form, or will be reanimated by inertial pharisaic conservatives. That is why the existential aspect is given priority in Junger's works, which show an entire gallery of types of the"third hero" (novels "The Steel Storm," "A Heart in Search for Adventures," "On Marble Cliffs," "Escape to the Forest," "Heliopolis," etc.), who is following the way of inner Revolution, exploring the most extreme and risky forms - war, mysticism, drugs, erotism, borderland psychic states. Nietzsche's formula "that which does not kill me, makes me stronger" is Ernst Junger's credo in literature, as well as in life. Just like his characters, he calmly drinks champagne.
In 1995, Ernst Junger turned 100 years old. But time is not imperious in regard to his crystal intellect and dazzling talent. Not long ago, in a letter to the publisher of the Belgian magazine "Antaeus" Christopher Gerard, Junger wrote: "XXI century will be the century of Titans, and XXII - the century of Gods."
These words contain a short resume of the creative work of a great contemporary writer, Laborer, and hero Ernst Junger
Translated by Victor Olevich