A History of Clouds
In these 99 meditations, poet and novelist Hans Magnus Enzensberger celebrates the tenacity of the normal and routine in everyday life, where the survival of the objects we use without thinking—a pair of scissors, perhaps—is both a small, human victory and a quiet reminder of our own ephemeral nature. He sets his quotidian reflections against a broad historical and political backdrop: the cold war and its accompanying atomic threat; the German student revolt; would-be socialism in Cuba, China, and Africa; and World War II as experienced by the youthful poet.
Enzensberger’s poems are conversational, sceptical and serene; they culminate in the extended set of observations that gives the collection its title. Clouds, alien and yet symbols of human life, are for Enzensberger at once a central metaphor of the Western poetic tradition and ‘the most fleeting of all masterpieces’. ‘Cloud archaeology’, writes Enzensberger, is ‘a science for angels’.
‘In his most recent collection, A History of Clouds, [Enzensberger] brings a scientific eye to a traditional subject, jumbling the pastoral language of “gigantic nomads” with technical prhases such as “rotational symmetry.”’ —The Guardian
‘[Enzensberger is] one of the holy trinity of German postwar literature (alongside Grass and Walser).’ —The Guardian
‘This latest collection from one of the most respected poets in Germany was published in German in 2003. The book is a welcome addition to the body of Enzensberger’s work available in English and is a powerful reminder of the efficacy of his curiously wide-ranging intellect. As the title suggests, A History of Clouds is a series of meditations, on time, mortality, politics and the human condition, among other subjects. But Enzensberger never sinks into rhetorical preaching, even when dealing with the most contentious themes. Instead he relies on his seasoned wit and a touching attention to detail.’ —Colophon
‘After reading this wonderful volume of poetry one would like to call Enzensberger simply the lyric voice of transience.’ —Sueddeutsche Zeitung
‘With this book Enzensberger reveals himself both as a spokesman of persistence and as a decelerator.’ —Neue Zuercher Zeitung
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