David Frum

07.23.12

A P.S. on Ernst Jünger

Former FrumForum contributor Mark Yzaguirre emails in with a follow-up for the Storm of Steel review:

I was pleased to see the blog highlight Ernst Junger's Storm of Steel in David's Book Club. It is a great book and I'd like to suggest another book of Junger's - his 1957 novel called The Glass Bees.

The Glass Bees is one of my favorite novels. Its central plot revolves around a Junger-like character called Captain Richard who is hired to be the head of security for what we would now call a nanotech/robotics company, led by a charismatic celebrity CEO. The book also touches on life in postwar Europe, the nature of marriage in middle age and a host of other items. When the book came out, critics didn't know quite what to make of it (was it science fiction or something else?) because of the technology discussed in the book and because the idea of an high tech inventor-CEO as a cultural icon seemed hard to imagine. Needless to say, the book now reads as being quite prophetic. Another aspect of the book is a certain degree of hallucinatory imagery, influenced by how Junger spent the 1950s. After serving in two world wars and entering middle age, he moved to Switzerland and befriended a chemist named Albert Hofmann. Hofmann was the inventor of LSD and turned Junger onto it in 1951. This led to a certain burst of creativity for Junger, as one might imagine.

A professor friend of mine who is very familiar with Junger and he sent me the following quotes from Junger regarding Erich Maria Remarque, which shed some light on why he wrote Storm of Steel. These quotes come from a 1929 newspaper interview (translated by a friend):

"I am of opinion that war is necessary. It is nothing but a continuation of politics by different means. I am a disciple of Nietzsche, and take the greatest delight in a struggle for power wherever it occurs and whoever wins."....Referring to Herr Erich Maria Remarque, Junger declared he appreciated that 'All Quiet' was a "camouflage" in that it created the opinion that Germany was dominated by internationalism and pacifism. 'My book [STORM], however, was written to make it clear that we combatants are not so awfully unhappy" he said.

A rather intense fellow.