A Visit with Günther Anders in 1986

Since 2000 I have been maintaining a page about philosopher Günther Anders (1902-1992) on the internet (link back to that page). In May 2003 my fellow professor of German history Nathan Stoltzfus (author of Resistance of the Heart: Intermarriage and the Rosenstrasse Protest in Nazi Germany [amazon page]) e-mailed me the following:

I hope you're doing well. I was just browsing your superb website for ideas about texts to use for a course in Weimar and Nazi Germany, when I saw your page on Guenter Anders. I was impressed with your family story. And the coincidence that I also visited Anders when in Vienna several years after you -- March 1986. I was impressed with his work, and at the last minute before a trip to archives and interview with Simon Wiesenthal and a few others, I wrote to Anders (I had no idea until I read your page of how he got his name, which is pretty amazing). I too visited Anders at his flat in the Lackierergasse. At that time it was still cold, and I was impressed with the way Anders had to seemingly pinch pennies. The flat was coldish, and there was a room back in the corner without any heat at all--where the books were! Arendt's books, and his books. He signed one after the other for me (nothing personal like in yours of course). As was my habit then, I asked whether I might record our conversation, but he declined. He was still writing, but it was so slow and sad because his fingers no longer worked well. It wasn't a problem of mental acuity. I was fortunate that he responded immediately upon receiving my letter, and invited me in. We talked about the McCarthy era, his trouble politically with the US, Hannah Arendt.

In 2010 the literary critic Fritz J. Raddatz published his diaries. In them he describes a visit in Anders' apartment in Vienna in 1986. As this quotation taken from a Sept. 15, 2010 review of Raddatz' diaries in Die Welt shows, he was far less star-struck than the two students who visited him during that decade (Stolzfus and myself):

In diesen Einsamkeitspassagen sind die Tagebücher fast berührend, anrührend. Fast. Ebenso wie an den Stellen, wo er alte Größe beschreibt, die der Kulturbetrieb ausgespieen und vergessen hat – etwa der Besuch bei Günther Anders im Januar 85 in seiner "unbeschreiblich ärmlichen, dreckigen, 'anspruchslosen' Wohnung – 1 kaputter Stuhl, 1 zerrissenes Sofa, 1 wackliges Tischchen – war bedrückend. Küche ein Schweinestall, verfleckt, voller Reste, geronnener Speisen, dreckigem Geschirr, Eisschrank förmlich speckig – er wollte partout 'Kompott' essen, mitten im Gespräch und wie zwei Marx Brothers arbeiten wir beide in dieser vermisteten Küche an einem Schraubglas mit allerlei verrosteten Zangen.

In these passages of loneliness the diaries are almost touching, moving. Almost. Even where he describes aging greats who were spit out and forgotten by the institutional producers of culture -- for example his visit with Günther Anders in January 1985 in his "indescribably miserable, dirty, 'undemanding' apartment -- 1 broken chair, 1 torn couch, 1 wobbly little table -- was depressing. Kitchen like a pigsty, stained, full of leftovers, curdled food, dirty dishes, fridge downright greasy -- he just had to have 'fruit compote' in the middle of the conversation, and like two Marx brothers in this manure-shed of a kitchen we worked on a screwed-tight canning jar with all kinds of rusty pliers. "

page created by H. Marcuse, April 10, 2004, updated Oct. 6, 2010
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