Now in a new translation, an imaginative, darkly radiant fable about a pair of brothers, formerly warriors, whose idyll is shattered by an encroaching fascistic force.
Set in a world of its own, Ernst Jünger’s On the Marble Cliffs is both a mesmerizing work of fantasy and an allegory of the advent of fascism. The narrator of the book and his brother, Otho, live in an ancient house carved out of the great marble cliffs that overlook the Marina, a great and beautiful lake that is surrounded by a peaceable land of ancient cities and temples and flourishing vineyards. To the north of the cliffs are the grasslands of the Campagna, occupied by herders. North of that, the great forest begins. There the brutal Head Forester rules, abetted by the warrior bands of the Mauretanians.
The brothers have seen all too much of war. Their youth was consumed in fighting. Now they have resolved to live quietly, studying botany, adding to their herbarium, consulting the books in their library, involving themselves in the timeless pursuit of knowledge. However, rumors of dark deeds begin to reach them in their sanctuary. Agents of the Head Forester are infiltrating the peaceful provinces he views with contempt, while peace itself, it seems, may only be a mask for heedlessness.
Tess Lewis’s new translation of Jünger’s sinister fable of 1939 brings out all of this legendary book’s dark luster.
Ernst Jünger (1895–1998) was a German philosopher, writer, and entomologist who became widely known for Storm of Steel, his memoir of World War I. He was the author of six novels, including The Glass Bees (available from NYRB Classics), and dozens of works of philosophy. During his lifetime, he received the Goethe Prize as well as the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Tess Lewis has translated works from the French and German, including books by Peter Handke, Anselm Kiefer, and Christine Angot, and for NYRB Classics, The Storyteller Essays by Walter Benjamin. Her awards include the 2017 PEN Translation Prize and a Guggenheim fellowship. She serves as the co-chair of the PEN Translation Committee and is an advisory editor for The Hudson Review.
Jessi Jezewska Stevens is the author of the novels The Exhibition of Persephone Q and The Visitors. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Foreign Policy, The Paris Review, and elsewhere.
Maurice Blanchot (1907–2003) was a French writer and philosopher whose books, including Death Sentence, Thomas the Obscure, and The Space of Literature, frequently blended narrative and theory.
“The classical beauty of the writing, in Tess Lewis’s exquisite translation, gives a sense of the author’s sympathies. . . . [H]is short, prismatic book is beautiful.” —Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
“[A] literary achievement of the highest order.” —Nil Santiáñez, The Massachusetts Review
“[Jünger] was a sporadic critic of the moral obtuseness that grew like vines all around him.” —Thomas Meany, Harper’s Magazine
“Jünger’s coolly detached empirical style, with its Nietzschean cadences evident in On the Marble Cliffs
, has its detractors. . . . Yet the primacy of his poetic imagination, his born naturalist’s observational perceptiveness, and the noble humanness undergirding his writing lend it unequivocal greatness.” —Will Stone, Times Literary Supplement
“On the Marble Cliffs
might be called Jünger’s descent into the maelstrom, a record of terror seen and survived. . . . An allegory that does not moralize, its hermeticism is inviolable and inimitable.” —Thomas R. Nevin, Ernst Jünger and Germany: Into the Abyss, 1914–1945
“On the Marble Cliffs
is a great book and virtually no one I’ve ever mentioned it to has read it.” —W.S. Merwin