Wednesday, September 19, 2007

More Heidegger: Death Mountain in the Black Forest

Patrick Lakey, Heidegger: Hut, Todtnauberg,
Black Forest, Germany, I, 2005.

Excerpts from Leland de la Durantaye's charming account of a pilgrimage - with attendant Heideggarian biography - to Todnauberg. From Cabinet Magazine:

I stood on a steeply sloping hillside deep in the Black Forest, panting, bathed in sweat and covered in mud. A group of llamas had stopped grazing nearby to watch me. After disorientation and fatigue, flying, driving, walking, and running, after springing over an electrified fence and sliding down a wooded slope, after losing my phone, my wife, and my bearings, I had at last found Martin Heidegger’s hut.

... Too intelligent not to make a virtue of necessity, Heidegger cultivated a quaint and bucolic image, wearing to his lectures a traditional outfit that his more metropolitan students dubbed “the ontological suit.”

... And so he retreated to the Black Forest, and on long walks along its wooded paths, in glades and clearings, skiing down its slopes, and in long hours poring over books in his hut, he patiently crafted a special language for his unusual task. One thing was immediately apparent: it wasn’t pretty. German played a role in this. For him, “the forgetting of being,” as he called it, began early: with the translation of Greek texts into Latin. Things did not get any better with the translations from Latin into the burgeoning Romance languages. But German, in its rugged seclusion, had been spared and, what is more, possessed what he saw as an elective affinity with Western philosophy’s native language, Greek. (Once asked about English’s status as a philosophical language he curtly responded that it had ceased being one in 1066.)

... A few hundred yards away was a sign with a photo of the aging Heidegger, looking frankly smug, and a short text with the incipit: “Wer gross denkt, muss gross irren”: “He who will think greatly, must err greatly.”

... Celan continued his hauntingly beautiful explorations of the German language, leading Adorno to retract his declaration that writing poetry after Auschwitz was not possible. In July of 1966, Celan, since grown famous, gave a reading in Freiburg. He had long been an admirer of Heidegger’s writings on poetry, just as Heidegger had long been an admirer of his poetry. Celan accepted Heidegger’s invitation and was driven from Freiburg into the heights of the Black Forest for a meeting at the hut. Celan took a drink from the wooden well outside with the star above it, wrote a few lines in the guestbook, and the two men went for a walk. Heidegger marveled at Celan’s knowledge of the natural world—flowers, plants, trees, animals—and it was the healing powers of this natural world with which Celan began a poem he wrote a week later about his visit. “Todtnauberg,” begins, “Arnica and eyebright,” the first a flower to treat bruises, the other for pained eyes. But the flora of the poem changes as the poet thinks of the book he signed. “Whose name did it record/ before mine — ?” he asks.

... Much disturbed by the experience, Celan returned to this well and its star in the poem he wrote a week later, evoking, as well, “a thinker’s/ word/ to come,/ in the heart”—or, in other words, what so many awaited from Heidegger. That word Celan hoped would come—a word of acknowledgement and apology for his role in the Nazi party—never did and, ever more depressed by so much he recalled from his past and saw in his present, Celan drowned himself in the Seine in 1970.

See also:
Patrick Lakey: German Photographs (1724—2005)
Translation at the Mountain of Death

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