The contents place his early intellectual development in a radically new light. Although only of these letters are included in the present volume, their publication has exceptional significance. By interweaving, in chronological sequence, letters written by Lukacs with letters he received, this collection draws the strands of his early life together into a variegated pattern.
Georg [György] Lukács (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Lukacs was brought up bilingually, and approximately half of these letters were originally written in Hungarian, half in German. They are lucidly translated, with a supporting introduction and footnotes which greatly add to our understanding of the cultural context. Lukacs was a product of that segment of the central European bourgeoisie which masterminded the development of industrial capitalism in Austria-Hungary. It was the lavish resources and enlightened patronage of this segment of society — above all, of cultivated Jewish families — which made possible the artistic efflorescence of Vienna and Budapest at the turn of the century.
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His relationship with his mother was indeed fraught with tension. But the letters from his father are among the most warm-hearted in this whole collection. In a generation preoccupied with Oedipal rivalries from Freud and Kafka to the Expressionists , Lukacs was privileged to receive unstinting paternal support. Of course it was possible for beneficiaries of the capitalist system to be anti-capitalist in outlook Lenin is the outstanding example.
It was the feudal remnants in Habsburg Hungary that Lukacs despised, not the cultivated bourgeoisie. His high-minded intellectual pursuits were all devoted to the enhancement of bourgeois culture. After the failure of a premature application in Budapest in , he redoubled his efforts to gain professional status by lobbying influential friends at the University of Heidelberg.
It was not until December , the very month of his conversion to Communism, that Lukacs received from Heidelberg the official letter rejecting his application. One might have supposed that the horrors of the war of would have sufficed to turn a free-floating intellectual into a radical opponent of the old regime.
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But here again the letters tell an ambivalent story. Lukacs certainly could not share the conviction of patriots like Max Weber that the war had ushered in an era of national grandeur.
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And his exchange of letters with the dramatist Paul Ernst is exemplary in its critique of the glorification of Prussia. In his eagerness to attain academic respectability, he avoided any utterance which might have been politically compromising.
Instead he concentrated on aesthetic writings designed to enhance his university career. Again he did not hesitate to exploit his privileged connections. This is the leitmotif which haunts his tragic early relationship with Irma Seidler, the woman to whose memory he dedicated Die Seele und die Formen.
They had met in in Florence, where Irma was studying painting.
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It is this sense of inescapable solitude which informs both his letters and his early writings. He pictures himself, in a confessional fairytale sent to that same friend, the art critic Leo Popper, as a Midas terrified that his touch will turn the women he meets into golden statues. This is the realm not of Marx but of Kierkegaard.
One might indeed also invoke the theories of Freud, as Lukacs himself does as early as February in a letter analysing his difficulties in communicating with Irma. A sense of having been rejected by his formidable mother, in early childhood, cast a long shadow over his emotional development. The vibrant informality of her letters, totally different from anything else in the correspondence, suggests an unlimited capacity for subverting bourgeois norms. Bruno swept up and saw to the marketing. She was not a housewife in the German sense.
Lena had spent years in prison for her revolutionary activities. But at this stage it was not Lenin but Tolstoy who inspired his desire to go beyond existing social forms. These first hints of a political reorientation might lead us to suppose that he welcomed the Russian Revolution of But at this point the letters fall strangely silent. There is a remarkable paucity of contemporary evidence as to his reaction to the events of — and nothing to suggest a political conversion.
There were undertones of messianic expectation which help to explain why a number of members of the Circle in addition to Lukacs later became communists. International customers please refer to our shipping terms.
Lukács Reads Goethe
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