Georg Büchner

By: Jerrold Freitag
October 17, 2013

buechner

“When the mind is tired, where should it go to rest?” GEORG BÜCHNER (1813–37) was the other possibly mad German to keep us wondering whether psychosis drives the brilliance or whether blowing one’s own mind is, in fact possible. “A fool! A fool! Who’ll barter my reason for his folly?” The socially unhinged, revolutionary writer was dead at 23 but managed a dramatic fragment bent enough for Herzog-Kinski to produce Woycek in 1979. Büchner reported on taught mindscapes and fatalistic human flaws — not as the obvious keys to tragedy or a particular play — but as keys to the whole theater, the structure and institutions that form when our collective tragedies fuse. “The individual is foam on waves, greatness is mere coincidence…” isn’t pre-Sisyphean, but a unifying basis we share. The abyss is what we have in common. It’s where we’d make connections if “looking down into it [didn’t] cause vertigo.” Sure it’s exhausting. But is it better we fill airtime with platitudes, weather reports or, when alone, whistle past graveyards? “Get to know one another? We’d have to break open our skulls and wrench the thoughts from the fibers in each other’s minds.” And why not? It’s our nature. Free the child! “The people are like the child; it needs to smash everything to see what’s inside.”

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On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Evel Knievel, Nathanael West.

READ MORE about members of the Autotelic Generation (1805–14).

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What do you think?

  1. Nice, Jerrold; great to see some 19th century heroism here also, though I must nominate Alban Berg’s “Wozzeck” is the all-time ultimate BÜCHNER masterpiece.

  2. I was Jerrold’s professor and know he learned MORE about Büchner than he mentions here. Hilo reader, look up his great drama of the French revolution, Danton’s Death, his comedy Leonce and Lena, among others and be surprised.

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