Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Heidegger's Notes on Klee in the Nachlass

Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Heidegger's Notes on Klee in the Nachlass

Article excerpt

Translated by María del Rosario Acosta López, Tobias Keiling, Ian Alexander Moore, and Yuliya Aleksandrovna Tsutserova1

If only great minds are surrounded by legend, then Martin Heidegger is certainly one of them. Here, one would have to list not only those defamations surrounding the rectorate-that he participated in the burning of books and denied Husserl entry to the library. Something positive, something more cheerful would have to be recounted here as well. In this case, one would be crediting Heidegger with skills which he himself did not really dare to believe he possessed and with works he never wrote: this is exactly what has happened in the case of speculations surrounding Heidegger's work on Paul Klee in the Nachlass.

But even legends often have a basis in facts. If, in the case of reproaches concerning Heidegger's political engagement, these facts were his assumption of the rectorate and the associated admission to "the" party, in the case of Klee, it is Heidegger's enthusiasm for Klee's opus, related both verbally and in writing: as both Petzet and Pöggeler independently and credibly relate,2 after having experienced the art of Klee, Heidegger thought he had to write a "second part" and a "pendant" to the artwork essay. With Klee, art "transforms itself [sich wandele];'5 with his art, "something has arrived which none of us glimpse as of yet [etwas eingetroffen, was wir alle noch nicht erblicken] ,"4

This enthusiasm for Klee has irritated and led astray many who have taken an interest in it. Heidegger was initially approached by Georg Schmidt, director of the public art collections of the city of Basel, with the (unfulfillable) request to write the Klee book.5 Furthermore, in his monograph on Heidegger, Walter Biemel writes of a "lecture at a gathering of architects in Freiburg i. B. entitled 'Paul Klee'"in 1956.6 This lecture is mentioned by Otto Pöggeler, too.7 According to Annemarie Gethmann-Siefert, this lecture took place in 1960, again at the gathering of architects in Freiburg; in addition, she claims to be aware of "extensive, unpublished preparatory writings and elaborations" for this lecture.8

Truth be told, this lecture is not to be found in the Nachlass,9 and neither are there "extensive . . . elaborations." In contrast to the high expectations, what is contained in the Nachlass are meager, bullet point-style notes; seventeen sheets of paper in total that do not at all resemble a lecture or preparatory work for such a lecture.

The best and most obvious way of avoiding false legends has always been to put the matter and the facts of the matter [ Tat-Sache] on the table, i.e., in this case, to publish the notes. There would be nothing to object to here, if such did not contradict the express instructions of the author. Martin Heidegger himself decided that his sheets of notes (and not only those on Klee) would not be allowed to be published as long as copyright law was in effect. But even after that date, Heidegger did not see it fit to have these sheets edited, since occupying oneself with them would only make sense for experts on the subject matter.

Thus, the only remaining option was the path taken here (one might call it a middle path or not): to describe Heidegger's handwritten notes and to sketch out the direction of Heidegger's interpretation. Such an attempt does not only pursue the negative aim of dispelling legends. Heidegger's notes on Klee-fragmentary, elliptical, and enigmatic though they may be in many respects-are interesting and instructive enough to teach one to look at Klee's work differently and to find a new way of accessing this artist whom Heidegger valued "higher than Picasso"10 Of course, these notes will be meaningful only for those who are well read and at home in Heidegger's later philosophy.11

I.An Account of the Handwritten Notes

Heidegger's notes on Klee are comprised of seventeen sheets of paper sized DIN A 5 and smaller. They are generally written in German script with blue ink and blue ballpoint; individual words are underlined in red or blue; some sheets feature sketches of Klee's works. …

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