The publication of EUMESWIL focuses attention on an important, though problematic, German writer of decidedly European stature. Drawing obliquely on Junger’s own experiences as an officer in the German army during World War II, and on his internal exile after the collapse of Nazism, the novel is a sustained and inventive meditation on the nature of power and on the individual’s resources in tyrannical times. Less dramatic than philosophical, EUMESWIL is a formidable, if not particularly endearing, achievement.
The novel is set in the utopian state of Eumeswil under the rule of the tyrant Condor. This ruler’s style and cultural tone are observed and analyzed by the narrator, Martin Venator, a historian by training, but a night steward at the Casbah, Condor’s seat of power. Venator’s journal is the core of the novel. It recounts not only scenes from the Casbah but also Venator’s efforts to establish a cultural alternative to Condorian reality. Appreciation of the narrator’s personal commitment is enriched by accounts of collective political attempts to resist or replace the tyrant. The text as a whole reveals Junger’s imaginative range and his extensive botanical and entomological knowledge. In general, the intellectual atmosphere of EUMESWIL is rather daunting.
Like many novels devoted to reflections on abstract themes, EUMESWIL is somewhat lacking in human interest. For all its individually arresting insights, the work seems ultimately to be less than the sum of its parts, an impression to which its episodic character contributes. Nevertheless, the historian-narrator’s sensory fascination with, and intellectual critique of, the machinery and symbolism of power provide valuable perspectives on the imaginative universe of a challenging writer.