Hans Magnus Enzensberger dies

The writer Hans Magnus Enzensberger dies

He died on Thursday at the age of 93, as Suhrkamp Verlag announced, citing the family. / Hans Magnus Enzensberger dies

He was a son of Diderot and a poet and thinker in the finest tradition of the Enlightenment.

Perhaps he should be remembered like the “Flying Robert” in one of his most famous poems: “Open the umbrella / and take to the skies. / Seen from you, / I keep getting smaller and smaller, / until I’m gone. / I leave nothing / but a legend . . .» This flying Robert, named Hans Magnus Enzensberger, opened up his umbrella because the weather in his Germany was always “bad”. It carried him here and there. He was a puffball, with whom ideologically no state could be made, a combative and yet peaceful guarantor only of himself.

Years ago, when visiting his work apartment on Werneckstraße in Schwabing near the English Garden, he joked that one should stick with Gottfried Benn when it comes to the subject of death: “The worst thing: / don’t die in summer / when everything is light / and the earth for spade lightly.” Somewhere there is still a letter from Gottfried Benn, which he once wrote to Hans Magnus Enzensberger, the prospective radio editor. However, as he later noted about the Benn letter in his volume “Survival Artists” (2018): “It’s not worth looking for, because it only contained a polite refusal and no snappy slogans with which he masked how difficult it was for him the price that was due for his survival and his later triumph. With all love, those who owe him a lot, like me, would do well to free themselves from his spell in good time.”

Hans Magnus Enzensberger dies
Hans Magnus Enzensberger dies

A Revenant of Diderot and “Relic of the 20th Century”

The circle of influence and the radiance of the now deceased poet, essayist, translator, publisher and intellectual Hans Magnus Enzensberger cannot be overstated. HME, as his name came to be abbreviated soon after he entered the literary scene at the end of the 1950s, was the decisive, even authoritative and internationally respected intellectual authority in the Federal Republic for more than half a century. “The old Federal Republic,” as he said with a mischievous grin on his 90th birthday. “Born in 1929 – that is, a relic from the twentieth century,” is how he described himself in his scrap-book “Fallobst” 2019. He seemed more goblin-like every time you met him – this one by Rainald Goetz in ” Irre” so-called “most brilliant BrillantSepp Germany”, who was “lifelong … in front”.

Hans Magnus Enzensberger dies / Unique flair for social change

In fact, Enzensberger always was. As early as 1958, his unique intuition, his sense for global social changes, led him to formulate a theory of mass tourism. In 1992, Enzensberger, far ahead of everyone else, dealt with the consequences of migration for Western society in “The Great Migration”.

Hans Magnus Enzensberger dies;

As a revenant (and translator) of the French Enlightener and Encyclopédie editor Denis Diderot – his “Lar”, his household god, of which he owned several first editions and which he still read in old age – he was an exceedingly curious person. “What is an intellectual and what must, should, may, can he do?” he asked rhetorically in a 1984 BR radio essay about Diderot as an ideal-typical appearance. For Hans Magnus Enzensberger it was clear: he can, may, should, must do everything. He always saw intellectuals as omnivores, as omnivores – just like Enzensberger’s preferred genre: poetry.

The seal is an “omnivore”

Poetry was at the center of this life: “There are specialists in poetry: the social critic, the nature poet, the love poet, etc., they are all specialists,” he once said. “I don’t stick to it, because I think poetry is omnivorous. It can be about anything, e.g. a scientific question or a crime, even small things, an affect, an anger – everything is possible.” In 2003, for example, Enzensberger, who once portrayed himself in the poem “The Flying Robert”, created a best-selling poetry with his 99 mediations “The Story of the Clouds”.

The titles of the poems contained therein alone may illustrate Enzensberger’s wealth of interest and irony: “Little Night Music on the Hotel Toilet”, for example, “Motivational Research” or: “Final Regarding the Question of Certainty”. As one of the poems puts it, he is always concerned with “surprises” and also started his “earth-coloured little song” to the potato. He even dedicated an unforgettable light-footed song of praise to a slowly disappearing bar of soap as a symbol of all transience in the volume “Blauwärts” (2013): “The soap. How proud it was / how lush / it smelled at first / through how many hands it passed , / How self-sacrificingly she served. / And the dirt was there again and again. / She has remained immaculate. / She has consumed herself without complaint / She has become smaller and smaller / imperceptibly / thin almost transparent / until she was completely / gone one morning.” / Hans Magnus Enzensberger dies

Hans Magnus Enzensberger dies / An author of tremendous mental agility

No other author has commented on the course of time with such mental flexibility as Hans Magnus Enzensberger – it is not for nothing that one of his volumes of essays was called “Zigzag”. Camp thinking was alien to him. Programmatically these lines, which he read in 1963 at “Group 47”: “Always someone else / than me / that’s me.” Enzensberger liked to say that it is not a tree that is forced to put down roots and remain in one and the same position. He also praised this mobility of Denis Diderot: “The form of existence that Diderot had discovered for himself required and made possible an unprecedented mental and social mobility. He was responsible for everything and got involved in everything.” So did Enzensberger, from an early age. In his autobiographical report “Tumult”, which he presented despite his great aversion to “veteran stories” in 2014, he looked back on the politically turbulent 1960s.

Enzensberger, who did everything he could to escape the “tepid Federal Republic”, lived in Stranda, Norway at the time, but traveled extensively. The routes he covered are astonishing: Cuba, Cambodia, Czechoslovakia, the USA, the Soviet Union, Italy, India and Tahiti – Enzensberger was almost everywhere between 1963 and 1970, but hardly ever in Germany. Nevertheless, he was perceived there and worldwide as an important leading voice in Germany, especially at the time of the student revolts. He was described as “Fidel Castro‘s bard and chief ideologue of the 1968ers”. He later said: “These are labels that are stuck on you, you have to live with them. There’s absolutely no point in denying that. It’s a cliché, and a cliché has a life of its own and I have no ambition to eradicate it , I won’t be able to do that either, it just sticks with you.”

Founder of the magazines “Course Book” and “TransAtlantik”

The same happened to Enzensberger with an essay that became famous about the “death of literature” (1968) in the magazine “Course Book” he founded: “The text that I wrote at the time begins with my saying that ‘the “Death of literature” since Hegel, since 1800 a standing speech has been a topos in philosophy. And that this death bell has been ringing for 150 years. That’s how the whole thing goes. That is, when someone has announced the ‘death of literature’ , then it was probably Hegel, but not Enzensberger.” In addition to the course book, he founded the magazine “TransAtlantik” with his own Brio in the 1980s – for him another “toy” in which, in his words, “there was no ban on elegance”. The aim was once again to break out of the “target group of those who agree”. After that he created “The Other Library”. As in his “Museum of Modern Poetry”, Enzensberger discovered numerous literary talents. “It’s all a big pile of dung, literature, and a few orchids are blooming on it,” he said: “And if you find them, you’re of course happy. It doesn’t happen that often either, but I remember WG Sebald, for example, or Christoph Ransmayr, those are moments of happiness. That cheers me up when I find others who – I’ll say it impudently – who are also good.” / Hans Magnus Enzensberger dies

A lover of mathematics

Even the “Enzensberger constant”, which said that there were supposedly no more than 1354 readers of sophisticated poetry in any language community, demonstrated Enzensberger’s love of mathematics. “The Number Devil”, his “pillow book for everyone who is afraid of mathematics”, became a bestseller. In addition, with his own zest, he founded an entire genre of cultural criticism that has been copied countless times in the arts pages: the anatomy of television programs and mail order catalogues, the apology for ill-reputed mediocrity, the defense of normality against those who despise it.

In 2019 he, the declared “friend of radiophony”, came to the BR broadcasting center for the last time to present the sequence of scenes “Eureka!” to speak on the 250th birthday of Alexander von Humboldt: another world spirit that he admired and whose rediscovery he campaigned for. There are many sentences in this imaginary conversation, which Hans Magnus Enzensberger put into the mouth of Alexander von Humboldt, but which could easily be his own. “People take me for a jack of all trades” is one of them. Enzensberger was reflected in Humboldt – also in this sentence: “In order to achieve your goals, you have to think in the long term, like a strategist. And in an emergency, stick to the Bible. Be gentle like the dove and clever like the snake. ” / Hans Magnus Enzensberger dies

Networker ahead of the letter

Enzensberger was like Humboldt, a great explorer: a networker with the urge to collaborate. “He always said: Alone you are lost,” says Enzensberger: “Because there are always people who know something that you don’t know. You have to join forces with them so that something useful comes out of it.” No other German writer had the sovereignty to turn his “Favorite Flops” (2010) into a book in which he frankly reported on his many failed projects.

For Enzensberger, however, the poetry was above all. She came to him floating lightly, so also in “The Sin of the Titanic” (1978), his comedy in 33 cantos, in which it says: “Further reasons that poets lie: / Because the moment / in which the word is happy / is pronounced, / is never / the happy moment. / Because the thirsty / cannot bring his thirst / over his lips. / Because those who despair / do not feel like saying: / ‘I am a despairing person’. Because the dying , instead of saying: / ‘I’m dying now’, / lets only hear a faint sound / that we don’t understand.” Now Hans Magnus Enzensberger has died. We bow to him in deep gratitude. / Hans Magnus Enzensberger dies

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