M.In the middle of life this person was surrounded by death. His childhood sweetheart Irma Seidler killed herself. As People’s Commissar of the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic, he had deserters shot in 1919. In exile in Moscow, he witnessed the Stalinist show trials to which many of his internal party friends and enemies fell victim. His brother was murdered in the Mauthausen concentration camp in 1945. Imre Nagy, in whose reform government he joined in 1956 as Minister for Popular Education, was executed after the Hungarian uprising was put down. “Just this much: I am alive. And that means that I will now stay alive, ”wrote Georg Lukács in 1911, at the age of twenty-six. He stayed alive until June 4, 1971 – caught up in a century of violence. Thick-skinned he made his way through time, obstinately he grasped her in his thoughts.
The biography that this outwardly torn, inwardly closed life would have deserved is probably still in progress. Instead, on today’s fiftieth anniversary of his death, a volume with texts by Lukács will be published. According to the wise decision of the editors, he collects “not excerpts from major works, but primarily lesser-known, but symptomatic texts” by the philosopher. Among them are cheeky obituaries to Wilhelm Dilthey (“It would be an exaggeration to lament Dilthey’s death as an irreplaceable loss”) and Georg Simmel (“He was a Monet of philosophy, who has not yet been followed by Cézanne”), cool reviews of Books by Sigmund Freud and Carl Schmitt, a scrupulous treatise on “Bolshevism as a moral problem”, a polemic against philosophers who are drawn into the “Grand Hotel Abgrund”, a senior teacher plea for literary “realism”, a warning against the “fateful Splitting Socialism and Democracy ”from 1946, a moving acceptance speech for the Goethe Prize of the City of Frankfurt in 1970, a Spiegel talk about the student movement and the Cold War. It should not be overlooked that Lukács expressed “the greatest skepticism regarding the freedom of speech in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” in this conversation.
A reactionary work in every respect
Lukács’ main works, the main features of which are clearly recognizable in this collection of texts, have their own reasoning. His rise to fame began with the “Theory of the Novel”, written in 1914/15, in which he wanted to remedy the “transcendental homelessness” of man through the “rounded totality” that he saw as modeled in art. Even more influential was the book “History and Class Consciousness” from 1923, which, according to the incorruptible testimony of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, “was for a time the Bible of what was called ‘Western’ communism”. In it, the feeling of being lost turned into the experience of self-loss under the rule of capitalism. The editors of this edition, Axel Honneth and Rüdiger Dannemann, have dedicated their own studies to this “reification”.