ULTIMA INSULA – an interview with Carl Abrahamsson
“Besuch auf Godenholm” (“Visit to Godenholm”) is a 1952 novella by the German writer Ernst Jünger. The book was published in English in 2015 by Edda Publishing. Ernst Jünger’s masterful prose has been translated from German by Annabel Moynihan. This edition also contains an introduction by Ernst Jünger expert Elliot Neaman and illustrations by Fredrik Söderberg.
“Visit to Godenholm” is edited by Carl Abrahamsson, a Swedish writer and film-maker who’s also worked with photography and music as artistic expressions. He edits and publishes the annual occultural journal “The Fenris Wolf”, which collects material from the colourful grey area between art and esotericism.
JÚLIO MENDES RODRIGO When was the first time that you came across Jünger’s works?
CARL ABRAHAMSSON Michael Moynihan sent me a copy of ”The Details of Time” in 2000. It’s an anthology of Jünger’s conversations with Julien Hervier. I immediately got turned on. What a mind! What a life! Living to be a 102, being in two world wars, seeing all the major changes of Europe firsthand, while also being interested in the psychedelic and transcendental, and being friends with Albert Hofmann and so many other interesting people. After that, I just started collecting anything available in English and Swedish. I’m very happy about the current Jünger renaissance.
JMR “The Anarch” and the “Forest Rebel”: with which one of these two figures do you identify the most?
CA I would say they’re essentially the same. But the Forest person takes action in his/her sense of detachment: he or she moves away from the center. I’m probably more of an anarch in the sense that I keep trying to analyze what’s going on but keep most of it to myself while being wrapped up in the outer world. However, I’m also in the privileged position to be a writer and publisher with a great outreach so of course I act out and am very free in my work. So I’d say I identify with the anarch but to a degree I’m also a a very concrete ”Waldgänger” who has a hard time staying in the forest all the time.
JMR Now let’s imagine an apocalyptic scenario: if you were in charge with the task of saving from oblivion just one of Jünger’s books, which one would you choose and why?
CA I would take ”On the Marble Cliffs”, as that very much contains everything that’s essential: the individual’s relationship and attitudes to major shifts. How to retain dignity in chaos? ”Eumeswil” is more elaborate in this sense, but to me ”On the Marble Cliffs” is just more of a magical book. I always find new things in it and yet I’ve read it so many times!
JMR In his book “Annäherungen”, Jünger has a chapter titled “Looking back at Godenholm”. In it, the author says that “Visit to Godenholm” could never be a success. He also adds that although he knew this even before writing it, this filled him with sorrow, as if he was shaken with cold, when he saw it in the bookstore fronts. Among all the unprecedented English translations of Jünger’s books, why have you chosen this one in particular?
CA At first it was pure egoism. I wanted to read the book. I can read German but only on quite basic levels. And Jünger’s language is very rich. So that’s what set it in motion: I wanted to read the book. Annabel had already translated a Jünger text for ”The Fenris Wolf 4”, so I knew she was capable. Then came the altruistic side: that great little book needs to be out there for others to read too. The publishing of the book has made a lot of people very happy and that has made me happy too.
JMR The translation was made by a remarkable artist: Annabel Moynihan, a member of Blood Axis (a well-known American Neofolk/Post-industrial band). Is there any particular reason for this choice?
CA As mentioned, I knew she could do it. She’s a dear friend and also loves Jünger’s work and philosophy in general. I don’t think it would have happened if I had to work with someone I didn’t know.
JMR The same question about Fredrik Söderberg, who illustrated the book.
CA Well, Fredrik and me have run the publishing company Edda since 2011 and and he’s illustrated two of our Crowley books and many other things, including two monographs of his own, as well as the cover art for Fenris. I turned him on to Jünger and suggested the project. Of course he was all for it.
JMR After reading “Visit to Godenholm”, Romanian writer Vintilǎ Horia, in a letter addressed to Jünger, said that in his opinion the title was connected with the house of the gods and the ultimate initiation: Death. Do you agree with Horia’s assumption?
CA Not necessarily, although death is of course the ultimate transcendence. I perceive that the book is more about the necessity to go through the smaller kinds of transcendences in life. People from different backgrounds go to see the magician at Godenholm and are temporarily changed: as persons, as persons in relation to the other persons, and also in their worldview. The state of mind passes when the experience in question is over, but one can integrate possible revelations when you’re back from Godenholm too.
JMR Jünger is scarcely published in English. What about your home country, Sweden?
CA In the 1970s, there was a revival through the great publisher Bo Cavefors. ”Eumeswil”, the drugs anthology, the French WW2 diaries, ”On the Marble Cliffs” were all published. Since then, there have been a few more collections and re-issues, but not too much unfortunately. If I did things in Swedish I would probably publish more Jünger, but I stick with the English.
JMR Jünger’s life crossed the entire 20th century and his work is deeply interconnected with that period. Can we consider him a mandatory reading for turbulent times?
CA Oh, indeed. It’s so easy to get attached and involved in chaotic processes. But the detached standpoint allows you to see clearer and ultimately realize that it’s all patterns and circles. People are very predictable, both as individuals and collectives. And they also prefer to live in denial about the fact that whatever’s going on at the moment is NOT unique. That denial usually makes them make all the wrong decisions. Humans can be wonderfully creative and innovative on individual levels but the collective endeavors usually end up the opposite. Reading Jünger takes you to a timeless and mythical zone which inspires you to deal with life in a more intelligent way: from the perspective of the individual and, in extension, of the anarch.
JMR Do you have any further plans to publish other works from Jünger?
CA No. I think other publishing companies like Telos are making a better effort to get more Jünger out there. I was mostly interested in Godenholm because of the psychedelic/philosophical angle, and now that’s been taken care of.
JMR Any final words?
CA Read. Think. Live.