This letter gives us a brief insight into Evola’s mind following World War 2. Despite the partial paralysis he suffered due to the bombing campaigns on Vienna in 1945, Evola did not cease to produce both new work and translations of texts which he believed would advance his cause – the renewal of a Traditional society.
Across his career, Evola translated Oswald Spengler’s Decline of the West, Otto Weininger’s Sex and Character, and most controversially: The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (I will here note that he reiterated frequently (see, Myth of the Blood) that he did not believe the text to confirm a Jewish conspiracy, though he did believe the text outlined historical and current events and had value for that reason).
With this letter Evola was reaching out to Ernst Jünger in the hop of translating his text The Worker: Dominion and Form (Northwestern University Press publishes an English translation). However, he never ended up translating the text but instead wrote his own adaption focusing on Jünger’s early thought. As he states in this letter to Jünger, he was particularly ‘acquainted with your work up to, let’s say, On the Marble Cliffs.’1 Evola was not in agreement with Jünger’s later work, but he also had his disagreements with Jünger’s The Worker as well. Indeed, Evola had disagreements with every text he translated, he was very firm in his own beliefs.
Some may see it insulting of Evola to have taken a variety of Jünger’s writing and compiling something new, Jünger does not appear to have seen in this way. According to the introduction to the ‘Edizioni Mediterranee’ edition of Evola’s book, Ernst Jünger may have actually overstated (or ‘misremembered’) his relationship with Evola. It appears they never did meet, though they seem to have remained in contact. And as seen in the letter below, Evola did have an enormous amount of respect for Ernst Jünger.
Regarding my translation: I have endeavoured to remain as close as possible to the text itself. Not just the words themselves, but the structure of the letter itself. Included in the book is a photocopy of the letter in German from Ernst Jünger’s archive. After completing the translation from Italian to English, I also compared my translation with the German copy as well. The only changes made have been aesthetic. The ‘greeting’ and ‘good bye’ have been left in Italian as replacing them with English equivalents removes some of the meaning behind Evola’s letter, it removes some of the authentic feeling behind his intention. They verbatim translations of these are added as footnotes at the end.
I am intending to purchase some of Evola’s untranslated work. Mainly the following texts from Amazon:
Writings of mysticism, asceticism and freedom (1940-1941)
The individual and the becoming of the world
If you would like to help me obtain these texts, and also move to a new platform before September, I would be very grateful [Paypal]. It means a lot to me that over this year an increasing amount of people are reading my work, I hope to continue posting a lot more in the future (and a few books as well).
Illustre Signore! 2
My name may be familiar to you, possibly due to Dr Armin Mohler – from whom I recently received an inscribed copy of Heliopolis.3 Or through other close acquaintances we share from the Reich – e.g. Carl Schmitt4 and Baron Von Gleichen.5
I have been paying close attention to your work, particularly your texts on ‘the worker’.6 I am most acquainted with your work up to, let’s say, On the Marble Cliffs. It is for this reason that I write to you, as I believe I can provide an Italian translation of The Worker. Because of the parallel between the first and second post-war period,[note 7] I believe that the problems presented in your text [could be] very relevant to this era. On the other hand, the solutions that were believed to have be found in the Reich and Italy during the inter-war period, were for the most part pseudo-solutions, substitutes, the consequences of economic events.8 I believe that this book could in this day and age have an “awakening” effect.
Now, we have an obstacle to overcome since I do not have the aforementioned book, and it is difficult to obtain. Dr Mohler wrote to me that even you have in your possession only a single copy for your archive. However, maybe it is possible to find someone in your circle of acquaintances who can either sell or loan the book – with my formal or informal assurance that the book being returned once the translation is complete.
And also: who would we need to contact to acquire the translation rights?
I apologise for the request.9 However, it has nevertheless finally given me the opportunity to contact you, for which I feel honoured.
Con particolare stima
il suo devote
- On the Marble Cliffs is a book by Ernst Jünger published in 1939.
2. The direct translation (in the context of the two words together, signore by itself is informal “mister”) ‘Eminent Gentleman!’ or ‘Distinguished Gentleman!’ does not really work the same as Illustre Signore!
3. Heliopolis is a book by Ernst Jünger published in Germany in 1949.
4. Carl Schmitt was a German political theorist, a member of the Nazi party and (in my own opinion), well and truly worthy of the title philosopher. His work is still challenged in academia due to his involvement with the Third Reich. However, some Left-wing academics have continued to push back against this – for example, Slavoj Zizek and Giorgio Agamben. His books Political Theology (1 and 2), Concept of the Political, Dictatorship and more are available in English. Evola and Schmitt kept in close contact, though they differed a lot on their beliefs.
5. Writer, translator and philosopher, and a descendent of the famous philosopher Friedrich von Schiller.
6. Evola is not directly referring to The Worker as he is attempting in this letter to obtain a copy of the text. He would be referring to some of Jünger’s inter-war writings (between WW1 and 2). Jünger, along with Heidegger, were concerned with the effects of technological development on Man (Jünger was especially concerned with the technology in war). Jünger has multiple essays on this subject, it is worth quoting verbatim from his essay The Machine. To shorten or highlight only small sections would be a sinful error:
‘Truly, the machine had taken much from us. It made our life more energetic, but it also took away its lustre. Taking away the whole from us it turned us into specialists. We thought we’d be able to make it work for us as if an iron servant, but instead were grinded up by its wheels. When Keyserling in his “Travel-journal of a Philosopher” stated that in the end it was a great delusion that we achieve everything with machines, leaving ourselves only the function of control.
With every new machine the strain on us grows – it is enough to look at statistics.
However, it is important to understand that the motion of machines is of a compulsory character. It runs over whomever stands in its way, becoming a means of destruction. Any protests will crash against its steel shell, like the protest of English factory workers who revolted against the use of first steam machines. One cannot deal machines with bare hands –
this is a lesson we learned from fiery battles of military technology. And here is something else that is important to remember: the machine is not at fault for the world losing its deeper dimension – which is exactly the reproach used against it by the false desire to “internalize.” Only man himself is at fault, if one can at all talk about faults when it comes to such matters.’
The Worker, like Evola’s socio-political work, seeks to identify the social disorders arising from ‘progress.’ Inspired heavily by Nietzsche (Heidegger considered Jünger to be the only true follower of Nietzsche), Jünger sought to correct our path. What is man? What is man becoming? How can we correct this trajectory?
7. Evola seems to be alluding to the emotional state following the defeat of the Third Reich as being identical to the inter-war period following the WW1 defeat that brought forth the ‘Conservative Revolutionaries’ (see Armin Mohler’s text The Conservative Revolution in Germany 1918-32.
8. Evola may be referring in particular to the reparations demanded from Germany following WW1. Economists like John Maynard Keys were highly critical of the treaty (see John Maynard Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace, 1920).
9. “Scusi questa richiesta che me ha tuttavia offerto.” Evola appears to have felt slightly uncomfortable with his first contact to Jünger being to ask him for something.
10. “With great esteem, yours truly, J. Evola”