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3 - From Das Antlitz des Weltkrieges to Der gefährliche Augenblick: Ernst Jünger, Photography, Autobiography, and Modernity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 February 2023

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Summary

ERNST JÜNGER WAS ONE of the preeminent autobiographers of twentiethcentury Germany. He published in an astounding variety of genres in the course of a long literary career, but his output is dominated quantitatively by life writing, understood as a broad category that includes forms of self-representation that have conventionally been marginal to mainstream literary and publishing culture. Differentiating Jünger's autobiographical works from his nonautobiographical works is ultimately both tricky and pointless: hybrid texts such as Das abenteuerliche Herz (The Adventurous Heart) and Subtile Jadgen (Subtle Pursuit) defy categorization, while Jünger mined his own life experiences as a source for fictions such as Afrikanische Spiele. But what ensures the centrality of life writing within his oeuvre are the diaries, a form in which he published throughout his life. His final volume of diaries, Siebzig verweht V (Seventy Passes V) was published in 1997, the year before his death, rounding off a career that had begun with In Stahlgewittern (Storm of Steel, 1920), a quasidiaristic account of the author's experiences as a soldier on the Western Front in the First World War. In Stahlgewittern is the book that made Jünger's reputation both within Germany and beyond, and continues to be his most popular text.

The publication history of In Stahlgewittern offers an interesting case study in life writing, in the sense that it dramatizes in explicit form the moment of retrospective revision that is an irreducible element of all autobiographical texts. As is well known, there are seven distinct published versions (Fassungen) of the text, with Jünger revising it in 1922, 1924, 1934, 1935, 1961, and 1978. While a detailed comparison of the various versions exceeds the scope of this chapter, the textual changes made by Jünger in the course of his revisions are of central relevance to other kinds of life writing with which Jünger was concerned and which form the central focus of this discussion. The title page of the first edition reads:

In Stahlgewittern. Aus dem Tagebuch eines Stoßtruppführers von Ernst Jünger, Kriegsfreiwilliger, dann Leutnant und Kompanie-Führer im Füs.-Regt. Prinz Albrecht von Preußen (Hannov. Nr 73). Mit 5 Abbildungen und dem Bilde des Verfassers.

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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2010

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