Jürgen von der Wense - A solitary genius like Mahler or Nietzsche and odd like Bruckner, he was a universe to himself. Marvelous and homeless like the storm

Jürgen von der Wense, A Shelter for Bells: From the Writings of Hans Jürgen von der Wense, Epidote Press, 2018.  

Composer, translator, folklorist, aphorist, poet, and wanderer Hans Jürgen von der Wense was born on the 10th of November 1894 in Ortelsburg, East Prussia. One day before his seventy-second birthday, Wense died in Göttingen, Germany. He left behind numerous diaries, three thousand photographs, six thousand letters, and many thousand loose sheets of writings on natural history, mineralogy, poetry, folklore, and music, to name but a few of the subjects that were a focus of his studies. These writings were filed in hundreds of binders, arranged alphabetically, and comprised three major works: Epidot, a collection of fragments, the Wanderbuch, on his walking, and the All-book, an encyclopedia.
A brilliant polymath and aphorist, Wense aspired to create the All-book from his extensive writings. An encyclopedia arranged by keyword, it would collate his aphorisms, adaptations, and translations from more than one hundred languages, including those of the Middle East, Africa, Asia, South America, and Oceania. It would also include his detailed interpretations of the myths, poetry, and philosophy of ancient cultures. The folders for the All-book were in a constant state of reworking and regrouping, part of an endless process of editing and expansion. Ultimately this monumental work was never finished and Wense only published about fifty pages of text in his lifetime.
Wense arrived in Kassel in 1932 and discovered the Hessian and Westphalian highlands, a landscape for which he was to develop a deep love. A devoted and enthusiastic walker (not unlike his Swiss contemporary Robert Walser or German compatriot W. G. Sebald), Wense documented his wanderings in countless photographs, maps, letters to friends and journal entries. By the end of 1940, he had settled in the university town of Göttingen and began to write the Wanderbuch, about his comprehensive and profound surveys of the landscape between Göttingen, Paderborn, and Eschwege. It is believed that he walked nearly 42,000 kilometers, or the equivalent of once around the earth, within just one hundred square kilometers of the highlands. In a letter to his mother dated December 2, 1937, Wense offers a beautiful insight into his work when he writes, “Versteh: Meine Wanderungen sind Wallfahrten.”


...A brilliant polymath and radical genius, like Artaud, Nietzsche, or Mahler, Wense lived among libraries and landscapes, without academic or familial consolations—often in near poverty—but canopied by his fever-longing to excavate and share the forgotten splendor of the things of this world. Radical, also, in his wandering, Wense is believed to have walked nearly 42,000 kilometers, or the equivalent of once around the earth, within just one hundred square kilometers of the Hessian and Westphalian highlands.

I first discovered his writings through a small book titled Epidot, which was published by the legendary German Publisher Axel Matthes in 1987. Further extracts from Wense’s universe would very slowly follow over the next decades, through the tireless efforts of Dieter Heim (Wense’s close friend and the executor of his estate), Matthes & Seitz, and Blauwerke. There is, in his work, no ivory tower scenario, no flight from living, but instead the will to see, at any cost, the radiant truth of the universe, which he wanted to inventory in its totality—in its most natural state. Hans Jürgen von der Wense was to me the last, and dearest, in a great tradition of visionaries. A nomad between the various sciences, cultures, and literatures of the earth—he is a man who could have been invented by Borges. Yet he lived and was his own universe—marvelous and homeless as the storm.- Herbert Pföstl
Splinters from EPIDOT:

Movements are not created, they only find each other. That something happens is only ... luck,
an act of genius. God himself is permanently surprised. True art.

Biographies must become prophetic. Every life is a divination. Genius is a sacrifice, from which God foretells himself. The life of a genius is fragment, secret knowledge.

Flaws must enter the composition like poisons in medicine.

To be free means to be free from opinions. To be sociable with the stars above. To be rich from spending one's life. To embrace it with one's knowledge, to know it with one's heart.

Wisdom is a crisis.

Sudden happiness is a great loss, so we become sick, because it breaks our habits, unsettles our vanities, when we realize, how long we had been content with the platitudes of feeling.
This joy whisks me from my destiny.

Everything we experience is an answer.

What is noble about the sun is not her warmth but her distance.

We embrace the ocean when we drown.

Consolation: nature has no opinion of me.

People without love have no destiny, they only improvise. With the speed of a falling weight my destiny increases because of love.

The meaning and goad of navigation is the secret, to sail after the sun and to go down with her. The meaning of travel is religion. Wanderlust is our nobility: a marvelous striving without destination. Seafarers were the first aristocrats.
With Columbus begins the downfall. His high caravels, filled with mutineers and robbers: the image of rabble. He thought he found paradise, but every paradise was discovered by the devil.
The rainbow is the banner after the battle between the sky and earth.