Apropos the publication of his play Conversation in the Mountains (which Pierre Joris described here on RSB as "absolute awful drivel"), TEV asks John Banville "What first inspired you to write about the meeting between Celan and Heidegger?"

Well, I’ve always been fascinated by the thought of these two extraordinary figures encountering each other—the philosopher who had been a Nazi, the poet whose parents had been destroyed in a Nazi work camp—at the famous “hut” in the Black Forest. The meeting took place on July 25th, 1967, the day after a reading by Celan in Freiburg which Heidegger had attended. The conversation in the hut was not recorded, and neither man gave an account of it. Hans-Georg Gadamer, the philosopher, later reported that Heidegger had told him that “in the Black Forest, Celan was better informed on plants and animals than he himself was.” Besides the flora and fauna, did they talk about the war, about Nazism and Heidegger’s refusal publicly to account for, much less apologise for, his membership of the Party? I could not resist speculating (more...)

Readers Comments

  1. Hi Mark,
    imagined meetings between historical figures are always fun - often much more satisfying than when it happens in real life. I just read an amazing one (imagined meeting) in Artificial Respiration by Ricardo Piglia: Kafka meets Hitler in an Austrian café before the First World War:
    (my translated précis from memory so wildly inaccurate)

    'Kafka listened to this failed artists' ideas in horror, he knew that if it was possible to imagine such things, it was inevitable that they would one day come to pass'

  2. Those meetings seem to tend to amount to something like Joyce met Proust and asked him to pass the salt, which Proust did & Joyce thanked him.
    Though then again there's Gauguin & Van Gogh holed up in the Yellow House. Dostoevsky & Turgenev in Baden-Baden.

  3. Hello Mark,

    Maybe they chopped wood together whilst talking about Holderlin?


  4. Yes, Dfcrrenmatt isn't exactly known for his houmur, at least not in his crime novels, although I find the play Romulus the Great pretty funny. The Visit is supposed to be a tragi-comedy, but I've both read it and seen it staged and on TV, and never actually found myself even slightly amused. On a tangent, Leif GW Persson, who isn't really a favourite author otherwise, riffs nicely on some of Dfcrrenmatt's ideas in The Dying Detective (which isn't available in English, alas.) Frisch, however, did write with a sense of houmur. (Just don't mention him among Bachmann fans - that will not win you any friends.)A lot of authors of this period come across fantastically well in their letters, diaries and autobiographies, so it's nice so much is available in English. (Oh, and regarding transitional authors, I always find it interesting that so many of the Viennese greats never managed it, despite living well into the 1930s.)For short stories that you might like more than Walser I can pass on a recommendation of Peter Altenberg. Some of his material is pretty odd (as was he!), but I *think* the translated snippets fall into the more readable category. "Reader beware", because I haven't checked this.On crime and what one reads in-between, I'm currently rereading the James Bond novels. Interesting juxtaposition...

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