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The Way of the Anarch

Essay
Richard Tseng

The Way of the Anarch

Imagine waking up to find that the wrong side had won the last global conflict and the bad guys are in charge. No, this isn’t the log line of Philip K. Dick’s Man in the High Castle, but the feelings of one General George S. Patton. The greatest tank commander America had ever seen declared in 1945, “We fought the wrong enemy.” A sentiment that is in no way related to his death by car accident before year’s end.

Though we’ll never know his thoughts on all the “progress” that’s happened since his demise, it’s doubtful the military man who so loved the virtues of war would be much impressed by the out-of-control obesity rates and general unfitness for war of the average American today, much less the wokeness which has pervaded military culture across the West. You don’t need the conspiracies of a shadowy cabal pulling all our strings to know that much of humanity today has more or less enslaved itself.

I share this anecdote not as a supporter of the Axis cause, but to remind us all that there were indeed two sides to the story. The Nazis, long since caricatured by a thousand war movies as killer meth-head zombies in smart uniforms, were actually young men fighting and dying to protect their country. One highly decorated anti-Nazi who fought, saved lives, and very nearly died seven times for the German army through both World Wars before enduring a world order imposed by victors he detested, was Ernst Jünger.

Eumeswil: Our World in a City

Jünger’s response was to serve the public as best he could, and to write. Supposedly set in the post-apocalyptic future, Eumeswil, the fictional city-state of Jünger’s eponymous novel, sounds eerily similar to the world we find ourselves in today.

Eumeswil is a place where “values keep growing more and more shallow. First, they were present, then still respected, and finally annoying.” Where “the very word ‘value’ is suspect.” A society deeply suspicious of its government:

“To wrest gold from the individual, to rob him of his claims—these are the strivings of the states; while he seeks to hide his gold from them. They ‘only want what’s best for him’—that is why they take it away from him. They hoard his gold in deep vaults and pay with paper that loses more value every day.”

It is a place where “irony, the classical weapon of the underdog,” is frequently and impotently used. True crime “is the main source of entertainment.” The press, unable to report the truth, reports the opposite: “Defamation to the point of character assassination is the usual livelihood here.”

Later, Jünger explains what happened to honest work: “The tribunes were redistributors; they raised the prices of bread for the poor in order to make them happy with their ideas—say, by building extravagant universities whose jobless graduates became a burden to the state (hence once again to the poor) and never touched another hammer.” Such policies went hand in hand with legislators who saw themselves as “blenders of people,” “destroying the elites and egalitarianizing the demos into a mass… deporting people and filling the gaps with foreign mercenaries and workers.”

Such policies can’t last forever, “Once authority is worn down to the final thread, then the tyrants or despots come. Auctoritas yields to potestas, as Don Capisco explained.” In Eumeswil, that tyrant takes the form of the Condor, a naval commander who seizes power and reestablishes stability. The coup brought bloodshed, along with severe restrictions to the freedoms once abused and frittered away by the common folk. It’s not the worst dictatorship. While comparable perhaps to Franco’s Spain or one of the less remarkable tyrannies that befell Athens before the Classical Period, it’s definitely no democracy. Not that one truly existed by the time Eumeswil fell, anyway.

The New World Order Has You

If you did awaken in an evil tyranny, the common Hollywood narrative would be to join the resistance, learn kung fu and bullet-bending, and be done with the corrupt fat-cat elites in 90-120 minutes. Reality doesn’t play like that. In all likelihood, you’d do nothing of the sort.

Suppose you could overthrow the evil empire, what happens afterward?” Hollywood, despite its pretensions to the contrary, is very much a part of the mass consumerist machine targeting adolescents and the adolescent-minded. It preys upon and exploits our college-age savior complexes. Thus it’s no wonder that their movies serve up simple solutions for overthrowing unjust regimes, but roll credits before addressing the complex problem of how to build a better one. Perhaps the truth is you can’t: you can only build a better version of yourself, and that’s already plenty hard.

Enter Eumeswil. Its protagonist is Martin, the Condor’s personal bartender, historian, and self-styled “anarch.” His way of life within the dark belly of leviathan offers a model not just for thriving, but for one’s soul to shine.

Jünger: Survivor of Chaos and Tyranny

If hardship and trauma help a man see the truth more clearly, then you couldn’t ask for a better author than Jünger. Born into a reputable aristocratic family, he nonetheless saw action throughout the First World War and was wounded seven times, receiving numerous decorations including the Pour le Mérite. The highest military honor of the German Empire was only awarded some 700 times during the war and Jünger was one of only eleven infantry company leaders who received it.

Despite the deaths of countless comrades-in-arms, his side still lost. Jünger, who would devote thousands of words to criticizing the Weimar Republic in the following years, “hated democracy like the plague.” But he was no stereotypical aristocrat leisurely pontificating from atop his Great War laurels. Jünger became a renowned entomologist after the war, for which an important prize for his field, the Ernst-Jünger-Preis für Entomologie, was named after him.

For Jünger, one of the more odious foundations of our current liberal democracy was the notion that society should dedicate itself to maximizing security, ease, and comfort. Jünger instead believed that man finds his measure in the capacity to withstand pain and sacrifice. A theme he expounds upon at greater length in his most famous work, Storm of Steel. For Jünger, war took on mystical significance. Nowhere does one come closer to the truth of their willingness to endure pain and sacrifice than in the service of one’s fellow warriors. He even went so far as to riff on Nietzsche’s aphorism, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger; what kills me makes me incredibly strong.”

Jünger’s conviction would be put to the ultimate test in 1944 when Jünger’s eighteen-year-old son, Ernst Jr., was imprisoned for engaging in “subversive discussions.” Jünger and his wife successfully appealed to the judge’s mercy and got him transferred to Italy, only to suffer what most parents consider a fate worse than death that same year. Ernst Jr. was shot dead with no clear answer as to whether his killers were enemy or SS.

Despite his political opinions and belief in the value of war, Jünger virulently opposed Nazism. He spoke out against the Third Reich on numerous occasions, refused several seats in the Reichstag, turned down an invitation to head the German Academy of Literature, and quit the veteran’s organization for the regiment he had served in when its Jewish members were expelled. Nonetheless, he served in World War II as an army captain, and was decorated again for rescuing a soldier. Clearly, as a selfless war hero, refined gentleman, accomplished entomologist, and bestselling author, he was as befitting of the term, “Renaissance Man” as anybody living today.

What does a Renaissance Man and heroic warrior do when he finds himself living in the wrong time? He not only fights, but thrives. Then he leads his comrades through the breach. In Eumeswil, he offers liberation for those who cannot liberate society with a hard yet simple truth: through the way we live, we can at least liberate ourselves.

Don’t Be a Doormat: Be a Dormouse

To best understand Martin, Eumeswil’s protagonist and proxy for its author, and the anarch’s way of life, you must understand the muscardin or hazel dormouse. Why would a lion of a man such as Jünger adopt such a diminutive animal as the anarch’s totem? Because the hibernating dormouse is excellent at a few things: working on its own projects, building underground shelters, and weathering the harshest winters. Bonus: With as many as two litters a year, the dormouse ensures the survival of its kind.

Martin spends his day in academia peering through time and witnessing past events on the luminar (a device suspiciously like those rumored to be hidden away in Vatican vaults), then dons formal wear and attends the Condor and his retinue in his stronghold, The Casbah, most nights.

Always a historian, he makes secret notes of the Condor’s conversations, studying the mechanics of actual power, along with the private utterances of its various players. There is the Domo, who is the Condor’s right hand man; Attila, the wild man who seems a little touched by his extended time spent in the woods; and the dignitaries and potentates from neighboring empires they must occasionally entertain. On his days off he goes alone into the country to squirrel away munitions and supplies prepping in case the regime he nominally serves collapses.

When he’s not doing any of the above, Martin is dallying with his protege/girlfriend or his mistress. In love, as in life, according to Martin, “Est modus in rebus—one must know the rules, whether one is moving in a tyranny, a demos, or a bordello.”

It’s a sturdy life for the bastard son of an embittered professor. One that affords him privileges unavailable to most citizens of Eumeswil. He even manages to acquire the mentorship and surrogate fatherhood of a wizened historian, Vigo, while finding in his rival, Bruno, a kind of older brother. Meanwhile, his biological father and legitimate half brother remain hopeless democrats who delight in bemoaning their fates while doing nothing to actually change the status quo. “Dear old Dad, in contrast, still pours his wine into the same decaying wineskins, he still believes in a constitution when nothing and no one constitutes anything.”

It is in his wilderness hideout where Martin most closely resembles the dormouse. Reading, studying, learning, dreaming; life there is one of endless preparation virtually indistinguishable from hibernation. What makes an Anarch more than a human dormouse, though, is his capacity for ultimate violence. Unlike his craven kin, Martin recognizes in himself the capacity to kill without hesitation. Among the plans within plans he makes to prepare for societal collapse is who to take with him into his bunker, when he may have to kill them to protect himself and the others, and when to lay down his own life. Unlike the dormouse who spends his life hiding, Martin the Anarch knows exactly how he will face and even overcome death.

The Way of the Anarch—the Way of True Nobility

The key to making it under any system, according to the historian who’s seen them all, is competence. Says Martin, “A man who knows his craft is appreciated anywhere and anytime. This is also one of the means of survival for the aristocrat, whose diplomatic instinct is almost irreplaceable.”

Competence in a valuable skill allows the anarch to operate at a remove thanks to the freedom from material needs it allows him. While Martin believes “The special trait making me an anarch is that I live in a world which ‘ultimately’ do not take seriously,” he would also agree that it’s harder to remain in good humor after days on an empty stomach.

Martin earns enough as a night steward to free him from the material obsessions of his impoverished contemporaries, enabling him to pursue loftier preoccupations. The man who knows how to operate under any system no longer feels compelled to destroy it. “For the anarch, however, decay is a process like any other,” and tyranny is but a part of that process.

Be Anti-Anarchist: Be for Something

As Victor Frankl famously wrote, “Those who have a ‘why’ can bear almost any ‘how.” But for Martin, there is a caveat: the ‘why’ you select need not come with an unnecessarily torturous ‘how,’ nor should you select one that only superficially serves your ‘why.’

Those who don’t clearly define and serve a strong purpose end up committing a near-identical sin as the socialists of George Orwell’s day: they don’t love freedom; they just hate order. Instead of identifying what they’re for, they half-define themselves by everything they’re against. Martin sees this as the chief failing of many of the anarchists who don’t make it through “the eye of the needle” that is life in Eumeswil.

Once order is established, many ‘freedom fighters’ and ‘free speech advocates’ often reveal themselves as adolescent minds with self-destructive anti-authority streaks. The political is often a cover for the pathological, and the ire of many anarchists stem not from the government but from authority itself. It is to Martin’s credit that, as the bastard son of a father he loathes, he did not fall into this trap. Instead, he observes his marginalized brother and father clinically, taking the steps necessary to pursue his life’s aim of understanding how power functions in Eumeswil, throughout time, and across civilizations.

A lesser form of anti-authoritarian would be the publishers of The Wren, Eumeswil’s main rag of satirical opposition. When push comes to shove, they toe the line but are allowed to exist under the auspices that they are “actually doing something” critiquing power on behalf of the people. In reality, they merely articulate the sentiments of a particularly resentful segment of the literati. They are allowed to exist by the authorities so that those dumb enough to subscribe to such publications or be seen reading them in public may be followed. A secret role of the court jester, of which even the jester himself may be unaware, is that he brings those laughing too hard to the king’s attention.

The anarchists are not so astute. Many either blew themselves up, were “disappeared” or, as was the case with Martin’s assistant who acted for the cause by committing petty thefts, expressed their romantic “why” through a “how” indistinguishable from that of common criminals. He was eventually blown up by a booby-trapped suitcase for his troubles.

As night steward, you might think Martin’s ”how” is a worse fit for his “why”, but you’d be wrong. Martin knowing his purpose and his willingness to do anything to serve it gives his night job entirely new meaning. There, he can observe the workings of power up close without getting more involved than mixing its drinks. Every night, he uses a coded shorthand to take note of the conversations of city rulers, foreign dignitaries, and summoned underlings, gaining first-hand exposure to what the wielders of power really think, not just what’s allowed into the historical records. Instead of sterile economic theories from a phonebook-sized biography by David McCullough, Martin gets gems like:

“The Casbah, I must here point out, considers the free flow of cash more important than, say, freedom of the press and other postulates which, as the Domo always says, ‘are all well and good, but won’t buy you anything.’ He also says: ‘The first thing people here ask is whether the books are balanced.’”

And what does The Condor do to balance the books?

“Private excess should benefit aesthetic life and finer handicrafts all the way to bookbinders and cooks, while government excess should benefit the comfort of the masses, especially in the form of games. Distribution of bread is to be avoided; even superfluous buildings are preferable. Of course, these should be artworks; and that is precisely our problem.”

All this is possible because for Martin, government authority is neither good nor evil but a fact of life. “Although an anarch, I am not anti-authoritarian. Quite the opposite: I need authority, although I do not believe in it.” Authority supplies the rules by which an anarch might play his own games. “While not acknowledging the law, he does try to recognize it like the laws of nature, and he adjusts accordingly.” In other words, he makes “use of their rules without submitting to them.”

How an Anarch Gets a Job

A question every frog and aspiring Sigma male who wants out of mom’s basement needs to consider: How does someone like Martin, with his unconventional views and not-exactly-pro-authority life stance, get the job of night steward to the rich and dictatorial in the first place?

For starters, the anarch maintains a pleasant and attractive demeanor.

“Before going down, I stand before the mirror and view Emanuelo [the Condor’s nickname for Martin]: clothing, physical appearance, smile, and movements must be casual and pleasant. It is important—we can learn this from women—to look the way others picture us in their wishes”

Unlike the anarchist, whose pathological hatred for order makes his barely-hidden desire to burn everything down easily detectable to any interviewee, the anarch doesn’t have to hide.

“My case did not cause the committee any headaches; there was no problem. I am, if I say so myself, anything but oblique, I am as straight as an arrow: going neither right nor left, neither up nor down, neither east nor west; I am perfectly balanced. Granted, I deal with these antitheses, but only in history, not in current events; I am not committed.”

When asked for his opinion on his boss-to-be, he calls a spade a spade. This candor makes him paradoxically more trustworthy:

“The examiners know that; enthusiasm is suspect. Hence, I earned points by expressing myself objectively, as a historian, in regard to the Condor. I believe that under the influence of a hard drug, I said: ‘He is not a leader of the people; he is a tyrant.’”

Something to note about tyrants: They know what they are. Even if they still have to make a show of living by ideals, they prefer pragmatism in private. And so, if you want to get a job in the echelons of power, you have to demonstrate discretion, but also a willingness to divulge what you really think. Your true thoughts don’t need to align with what the establishment wants people to think, either. Sometimes coolness is preferable. While the fanatical zealots and ideologues are useful for a certain kind of work, they are too emotionally volatile, to be trusted with a task like mixing the dictator’s drinks.

The attendant who pours the drinks ultimately picks the poison.

Understand the Difference between Power and Its Trappings

Whether it’s your dinner date or a potential business partner, a good rule of thumb for judging their character lies in scrutinizing how they treat the waiting staff. The noble explanation is because you want to see how a person treats those over whom they have all the power. But a baser reason is that you can see whether they recognize the illusory nature of power.

The trope of “the butler did it” was such a standby during our most class-conscious eras (Victorian England and Eisenhower America) that it eventually became cliché. It worked because nobody suspects that the help holds the greatest power of life and death over the elites. Nobody, that is, except the help themselves—and the true nobles they serve. For a truly noble person knows that we are “all connected,” that character comes through in one’s conduct, and that so-called “underlings” can do a lot worse than spit in your soup if you don’t appropriately respect them.

Martin knows it wouldn’t be difficult for him to kill the Condor, as do the Condor’s men. This is why every applicant is subjected to a battery of psychological tests under the influence of psychoactive serums before being hired. It is only Martin’s ideologically-blinded father and brother, and his tenured colleagues in academia, who see Martin’s night job as beneath them.

Jünger recognizes the difference between power and the trappings of power. Most people not only fail to see this distinction, but they are easily deluded into chasing the latter over the former. Who wants to be Consul of the Roman Empire when everyone knows the emperor calls all the shots and farms the top “elected” office for scapegoats?

Likewise, what does it matter to live under a democracy if all the electable candidates ignore the people’s will in favor of impractical theories? Wouldn’t it then be better to subsist under a so-called “tyrant” who actually attends to public needs?

There are several examples of the discrepancy between power and its empty trappings throughout Jünger’s novel. Prestigious yet useless status symbols, like the academic offices occupied by Martin’s impotent father and brother, or The Wren, the opposition rag whose writers carry a rebel’s mystique despite being effectively castrated for revealing their disloyalty. Meanwhile the phonophore, Eumeswil’s version of our ubiquitous cell phone, only allows ranking cadres to contact others directly, restricting the rest to receiving public broadcasts. The steward, because of his proximity to the Condor, gets one of the best ones and yet you could only tell the difference if you scrutinized it up close.

While the impotent chase after the trappings of power, the discerning anarch pursues only as much power as he cares to wield.

The luminar, the aforementioned scrying stone that can show one any period of history they wish, is only available to trustworthy academics. Martin has earned a coveted spot among them while staying out of departmental politics with the same deftness that he employs navigating state politics. He finds mentors, seeks out like-minded souls, and learns the merits of their opponents.

Unlike so many of our tenured professors today, Martin does not allow his identity to be subsumed by ponderous minutiae. Instead, both the glitter of high office and the dusty daydreams of academia are mere distractions. Martin the anarch seeks just enough power to access what’s needed to carry out his true life’s mission: solving the problems of history that stretch back into the distant past and will continue long into the inscrutable future.

Know Your Ultimate Power

Martin covets none of the empty positions eliminated with every regime change because he already wields the ultimate power polite society has conditioned all of us to forget: the power to kill.

“The anarch can kill anyone, and this is the basis of his self-confidence, yet he kills only where and when he likes—in any case, far more seldom than the criminal, the chauffeur, or the state. The archaic figure of the mercenary is more consistent with the anarch than is the conscript, who reports for his physical examination and is told to cough when the doctor grabs his scrotum.”

The tyrant can tell you to kneel, but you decide what it means to comply.

“In practice, self-discipline is the only kind of rule that suits the anarch. He, too, can kill anyone (this is deeply immured in the crypt of his consciousness) and, above all, extinguish himself if he finds himself inadequate.”

Once you realize the power to kill is the only power you truly have, the rest just isn’t worth pursuing for its own sake. The anarch is freed by this power. Whatever is needed for an anarch to accomplish his goal is attainable, it’s up to him to get it.

“Responsibility… Is the Anarch’s Ultimate Authority.”

To one raised on the homilies of the Western consumerist democratic lifestyle, Martin equating his experience of Eumeswil with “the feeling of constantly being on vacation” is utterly incomprehensible. “Liberty or death” is the one slogan anti-fascists and anti-communists can chant together. And yet here is a man who not only bears the yoke willingly but appears to sing its praises!

In Martin’s defense, he is not praising tyranny per se any more than those of us who live under the plastic-saturated, tchotchke-pushing, pharmaceutically-plastered present would praise capitalism. He’s merely pointing out how to win. Unlike his father and brother, Martin seeks to thrive on his own terms in whatever environment he finds himself. In doing so, he surpasses his kin and realizes what unbiased historians know: remove the blinders of your upbringing, and you will discover that any game is winnable so long as you set your own victory conditions and play to the appropriate ruleset.

There’s a reason even those who claim to hate the dystopian futures of Mad Max or Bladerunner can’t help but “vacation” again and again in these film franchises. As awful as these futures might be, they offer the tough and competent the freedom to realize their true potential. Like Eumeswil, they are places where an Anarch “writes his text on a blank page and vanquishes destiny.”

But Jünger’s point is that one need not wait until the next global cataclysm to pursue the path of the Anarch. After all, Jünger’s apocalypse happened between 1914 and 1945, and he did not like the world of comfort, sedation, and pleasure maximization that followed any better. My guess is that if you are reading this publication, you relate to Jünger on some level.

Every human in history finds themselves in a world left over from the end of the last one. The way of the Anarch is to take on the challenge of making life in any world worth living.

Lastly, Have Contingencies

If the Anarch’s purpose is grander in scope than climbing atop the heap of any system, then he must be prepared for that system’s inevitable collapse, whether it comes during his lifetime or not.

Says Martin, “According to Thales, the rarest thing he encountered in his travels was an old tyrant.” But the democracy Martin’s tyrant replaced was one in name only, and the one which returns will be little different.

“If the Condor is overthrown by the tribunes, little will change, for they, too, would need to practice violence. Only the style will differ. The tyrant is replaced by demagogues. The demagogue remains at the helm by orienting the plebiscite according to his wishes.”

At the very least, the Anarch must prepare for a violent interregnum. He needs stockpiles of food, water, ammunition, and diversions. A tricky task under any system where lack of faith is perceived as treason. Thus, an Anarch must also be wily. Martin gets around this by feigning an interest in birdwatching for a professor who specializes in birds. In this way, he is able to spend entire days undisturbed at his bunker in the hills, arriving with ammo and provisions hidden in his kit.

Some Criticisms and Defenses

As a scene setter, expounder of ideas, and relayer of historical insights, Jünger is fantastic. It’s hard to fault a book with such breathtakingly poignant—and prescient—passages such as:

“To keep from falling victim to a thief, conceal thy gold, thine absence, thy belief.”

“It is not only the fit who survive, but also the honest. The fact that these two survivals do not coincide in time goes back once more to Genesis, to the separation of the Tree of Life from the Tree of Knowledge.”

“Fresh fruits bestow solar cheer; no fire but that of the sun has touched them.”

“Every man has his Sinai and also his Golgotha.”

“Genius is transmuted into visible harmony. This is its identity, its immediate link with the masterpiece that is the world. Genius dwells not in some afterlife but in our midst; anything is possible, now and here.”

And this characteristically German observation: “the delicious fragrance of attar of roses conceals a hint of skatole—the substance that gives excrement its fecal odor.”

Nonetheless, Eumeswil is a flawed story.

Two of the main criticisms of the novel concern its abrupt end and how little the anarch’s way offers for the spirit. The latter can be remedied fairly easily, for while the book does not offer a spiritual solution of its own, it does recommend picking a lofty purpose to pursue. The anarch’s way can still function as a kind of operating system on which to install the program that gives its users a reason to keep going.

In a sense, this is what all of us frogs and frog-adjacents are seeking today: a means to maintain the standards by which we can pursue our purpose. Whether that purpose is to be a revivifier of Pagan virtue, a resurrector of Christian codes of manliness, or a pure devotee of history doesn’t matter. What matters is that you find a means of serving it for as long as possible with whatever you have available.

The sudden Conclusion Is Harder To Defend.

When I say the novel ends abruptly, I mean it. It’s as if Jünger himself lost interest in Martin’s careful detailing of his life, its ideas, and the people within it.

Rather than test the scholar-steward, the author chose to have the key players just disappear, never to be seen again. Martin is asked one day to join The Condor and his inner circle on a hunting expedition into the woods. The night before his departure, Martin has a final confrontation with himself in the mirror and achieves a spiritual breakthrough that causes him to faint. The next morning Martin vanishes with The Condor’s retinue into the woods. An epilogue is penned by Martin’s brother, who discovers his writings and his bunker and assumes he was plotting a solo resistance that redeems him in his family’s eyes.

With such an unsatisfactory ending, it’s no wonder the way of the anarch never saw more widespread adoption. Who would follow a twenty-something who, in the final accounting, seems to leave behind little more than a dormouse nest, a journal, and a bartender’s order pad filled with chicken scratches? What evidence is there that his untested theory will turn out any better in practice than, say, communism?

Only Jünger himself, the anarch who authored Eumeswil, can answer these charges. For he not only navigated life under three regimes and two World Wars, but he was close enough to the levers of power to make a difference without coming so close that power could unmake him.

More importantly, he was free to make headway and even new discoveries in his chosen fields, achieving the near-impossible as an author of 70+ years who “never regretted anything he wrote.” Unlike his protagonist, Jünger did not succumb to a mysterious end, but carried out his philosophy of the Anarch to a very successful conclusion.

Conclusion: Eumeswil, the Ever-Present City

While Jünger places his city somewhere in post-apocalyptic Morocco, it intentionally bears shades of all the great cities and states that have endured beyond their prime. Martin knows this, frequently comparing Eumeswil to post-Renaissance Venice, Athens after Lysander and post-war Berlin. But Eumeswil could just as easily be Japanese-occupied Shanghai, Junta-led Argentina, Cold War Lisbon, or early 2000s Fallujah. Anywhere after society’s facades have crumbled and man is forced to find his own freedom within.

In many ways, we already live in Eumeswil. Perhaps we always have. No matter how good and orderly life gets, it will always be fundamentally disagreeable to a good segment of the populace. Even glimmering crystal cities are but a few stones—or mortar shells—away from Big Brother’s boots.

Says Martin:

“I must avoid an almost universal mistake: post hoc judgment. Thus, my dear old dad, harking back to better days, censures the corrupt standard of Eumeswil. But it is precisely the historical necessity of this corruption that eludes him. It is a condition like any other. The milk of human kindness has gone sour; no Cato will make it fresh again. Besides, any present time is grim; that is why better times are sought partly in the past, partly in the future.”

All you can do is measure how much you are living in Eumeswil and fight to thrive. Tyranny of one, a few, or the majority doesn’t matter.

For those who consider Eumeswil a novel in which “very little happens,” I don’t blame you. We get the principles of Martin’s philosophical system, but no plot to bend, warp, or break it. Just when we’re about to see how an anarch might adapt to Eumeswil returning to a state of nature, Martin dematerializes like Homer Simpson backing into a hedgerow.

All this might be the point. Martin’s final confrontation with himself in the mirror and his departure from the reader’s company can be seen as but one anarch heading into uncertain death after completing the challenge he’d set for his life. So little detail is given that the reader cannot share in this triumph because that was never Jünger’s intention. Instead, you must walk the path yourself to discover how it will feel.

Eumeswil is best taken as a prologue to the real adventure: yours.

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