Additional Book Information
Series: NYRB Classics
Publication Date: January 31, 2023
On the Marble Cliffs
by Ernst Jünger, translated from the German by Tess Lewis, introduction by Jessi Jezewska Stevens, afterword by Maurice Blanchot
An NYRB Classics Original
The February 2023 selection of the NYRB Classics Book Club.
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.
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.