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An Aside on Cultural Destruction

An Aside On Cultural Destruction

Dear Beverly:1

Thanks for your charming letter of November 16th. It was a great pleasure indeed, to meet you at last, after we had such ex­tensive relations by correspondence and telephone, when you did your marvelous work in ironing out all sorts of stylistic defects in the Ecumenic Age.

In the meanwhile, the Thomas Szasz book on Karl Kraus has arrived, and I have read it immediately. It is very amusing, with excellent translations of some Karl Kraus pieces which are difficult to translate indeed.

Kraus’ attack on Freud, which must be dear to Szasz’ heart for personal reasons (as I presume from the remarks he made on our evening together), is for Kraus only a minor item in his work, but it certainly is important to convey it to an American public that is obsessed with Freud. His correction of Jones’ presen­tation of the issue is most valuable. In some instances he has not made as good a case as he could have made.

The famous sentence of Kraus “Zu Hitler faellt mir nichts ein” is not the isolated aphorism as which it is usually quoted, requiring an explanation of Kraus’ attitude towards National Socialism, but the first sentence of a book, 300 pages long, giving a devastating analysis of National Socialism.

The famous opening sentence is then elaborated in a long introductory part, that a satirist cannot say anything about Hitler because any satirical exaggeration of the actual evil is sur­passed by the atrocities to be described. And then he proceeds to describe the atrocities, in the light of Goethe’s Faust.

The book, Die Dritte Walpurgisnacht, is covered under deadly silence by the literary critics in Europe and America, because it makes clear be­yond a doubt that the National Socialist atrocities are the ultimate transformation into action of the criminal destruction of Western culture and language by the very intellectuals and journalists, in­cluding the literary critics, who dominate the public scene in the so-called democracies.

With all good wishes for your new, elevated position, I am

Sincerely yours,

Eric Voegelin

20 November 1977

 

Notes

1. Beverly Jarrett was the editor for The Ecumenic Age, later editor-in-chief of LSU Press. She negotiated the agreement to publish Voegelin’s Collected Works. She subsequently became director and editor-in-chief at the University of Missouri Press and bought rights for Missouri to complete the Collected Works edition with the help of Ellis Sandoz at the Eric Voegelin Institute.

 

This excerpt is from Selected Correspondence 1950-1984 (Collected Works 30) (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2004)

Eric VoegelinEric Voegelin

Eric Voegelin

Eric Voegelin (1901-85) was a German-born American Political Philosopher. He was born in Cologne and educated in Political Science at the University of Vienna, at which he became Associate Professor of Political Science. In 1938 he and his wife fled from the Nazi forces which had entered Vienna and emigrated to the United States, where they became citizens in 1944. He spent most of his academic career at the University of Notre Dame, Louisiana State University, the University of Munich and the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. More information about him can be found under the Eric Voegelin tab on this website.

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