- Der lange Sommer der Theorie: Geschichte einer Revolte, 1960–1990 by Philipp Felsch
Some will remember the days in the last decades of the previous century when professors and graduate students in numerous countries awaited eagerly the next translation of a work by Adorno, Althusser, Barthes, Baudrillard, Blumenberg, Blanchot, Derrida, Foucault, Negri, or Kristeva. When fresh theoretical material became available, many, according to Felsch, would explore the books with the intensity of a talmudic scholar. If you wanted to change the world during that period, you first had to think through theory. As Felsch puts it, at least a generation of people in the West turned theory into a “lifestyle accessory.” Felsch’s book attempts to capture the frisson linked to theory in those days (from the 1950s to the fall of the Berlin Wall), a time when jailed terrorists like Andreas Baader (of the infamous Baader-Meinhof group) were reading theory in order to align their praxis. Felsch has sifted through the papers of Peter Gente and Heidi Paris of the Merve publishing house in Berlin, one of the prominent theory presses of its time in West Germany and still going strong, to lay out the cultural nexus in which the publishers at Merve negotiated with many prominent academic thinkers, some of whose works were published by Merve. Felsch concludes the book with a suggestion that the microcosm of characters who appeared at Gente’s funeral in 2014—“professors, translators, celebrities, and aged bohemians”—represents the wide influence not only of Merve but also of a lifestyle accessory.
Bruce Krajewski received the Modern Language Association’s Scaglione Prize in 1997 for his translation of Gadamer on Celan. Professor of English and rhetoric at Texas Women’s University, he is the author of Traveling with Hermes: Hermeneutics and Rhetoric and the editor of Gadamer’s Repercussions.