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‘His Night Side’
The Teachers: Part 1 of Eumeswil by Ernst Junger, Translated by Joachim Neugroschel
© 2019 James LaFond
2015, 1977 [original publication date], pages 3-69
Eumeswil is a far future science-fiction tale, most closely akin to Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun in tone and introspection if not style. The protagonist, Martin, nicknamed by his master, The Condor, a tyrant who has recently displaced the corrupt oligarchs known as the Tribunes, is a scholar by day and the tyrant’s steward by night. Junger paints differently, but with the same brush as Wolfe, an ancient, post-apocalyptic future, in terms of our classical antiquity. This is an excellent device for helping the reader appreciate the great age of human society in terms of the individual life, to give us that feel of many things gone.
The reading itself I found pleasant, not as an adventure, but as if Marcus Aurelius had somehow composed his meditations under the ever-watching eye of the 21st century surveillance-based police state of the post-human West. How a man born in the 19th century, writing in the 1970s, accomplished this bit of social modelling, is beyond this reader’s ken. Below are some quotes from the first segment of the book, devoted to a discussion of the narrator’s teachers, considered in the wan light of the shifting shadows of the tyrant and the collective, counterbalancing forces of evil, crushing the individual by chance, design and blind instinct.
“He sits in judgement over the dead when the merrymaking that roared around the powerful has long since hushed.”
-on the sorrows of the historian
“…when a circuit closes between two human beings.”
-on friendship
“…distinctions between races and regions vanish on the peaks.”
-on spiritual elevation
“Evil becomes all the more dreadful the longer it has been deprived of air.”
-on social corruption
“Soon we will belong to it;”
-on the passage of Time
“Some parents encumber a child for life with a name…”
-on wishful thinking
“If there is only one arm, it has a more powerful effect on the long lever; if many people have a say, they need fermentation: they infiltrate whatever exists, like yeast in bread.”
-on the relationship of city and fortress, of demos and tyrant
“A statement—imprecise but not untrue—can be interpreted sentence by sentence, until the thing finally rebalances and swings back into the center. But if an utterance begins with a lie, so that it has to be propped up by more and more lies, then eventually the structure collapses. Hence my suspicion that Creation itself began with a fraud. Had it been a simple mistake, then paradise could be restored through evolution. But the Old Man concealed the Tree of Life.”
The final quote I take to concern the seed of collapse at the center of every civilization.
Thank you, Mister Grey for the loan of this book.
I find Eumeswil to be very much in the spirit of Melville’s Moby Dick, a sketch of an unremarkable social but remarkably metaphysic perspective of life lived in the shadows, jealousies and designs of evil men.
Reverent Chandler: The Saga of Fend
‘My Eye Upon His Skull’
under a troubled master-eye
the combat space
into leviathan’s maw
advent america
crag mouth
the greatest boxer
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