User Tools

Site Tools


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) is present in the various periods of Vilém Flusser’s thinking and of fundamental importance. Goethe is especially mentioned in Bodenlos. Eine philosophische Autobiographie [No Firm Ground: A Philosophical Autobiography], published in German in 1992, which assembles memories, conversations, and lectures. When talking about his flight from his hometown Prague to escape persecution by the Nazis, Flusser says he carried with him only one Hebrew prayer book and Goethe’s Faust.

Based on the medieval legend in which a man sold his soul to Mephisto, Goethe’s Faust is a dramatic poem divided into two parts that symbolically explores the search for meaning and knowledge. In Bodenlos, Flusser refers to the devil’s image when he realized that he felt like a “tormented animal” (Bodenlos, 1992, p. 26; translated from the German). Flusser watched Prague fall apart and saw his emigration as a diabolical choice that led him into an “abyss of nothingness” (ibid., p. 28; translated from the German).

Echoes of Goethe’s work can also be found in other texts, especially in Flusser’s book The History of the Devil, first written in German in 1956 and 1957 and published for the first time in 1965 in Portuguese as A História do Diabo. The book is “a description of the evolution of the diabolic arms and instruments” (The History of the Devil, 2014, p. 6). It is structured according to the relationships among the seven deadly sins and fundamental reflections on knowledge. Each sin represents a diabolic action and, ironically, a step in human progress. In the essay “Em Busca de Significado” [In Search of Meaning] written in 1969, Flusser reviews his intellectual career and concludes: “Goethe is always with me, perhaps for being everything I cannot be […].” (“In Search of Meaning,” in: Writings, 2002, p.202)

Original article by Lucia Leão

You could leave a comment if you were logged in.
johann_wolfgang_von_goethe.txt · Last modified: 2021/11/05 17:47 by