fredag den 16. september 2022

Hyperion - Friedrich Hölderlin (1797)



Friederich Hölderlin’s “Hyperion” is novel written like a poem. Or poetry in the shape of a novel. Either way it is the sort of reading you are not supposed to blaze through but read slowly to enjoy the cryptic images it conjures. Unfortunately, I am a rather plebeian reader on whom that sort of flowery writing is rather wasted and that heavily influences my opinion on this book.

While it is something you are supposed to analyze your way to work out, I understand that this is a fellow, Hyperion, who has returned to Greece and from there sends letters to someone named Bellarmin, who I suppose is a friend. This Bellarmin apparently has talked him into telling his life story.

As a young man Hyperion met an older man named Adamas whom he loved as a father. Adamas disappeared and Hyperion met Alabanda whom he seems to have had a homosexual relationship with. It certainly takes bromance to another level. Hyperion does not like Alabanda’s friends, possibly he is jealous, so he leaves him. Then he meets Diotima, and she becomes the love of his life. Though what he loves more than anything is to set his people, the Greek, free from the Ottomans, because the Greeks are a noble people who founded civilization. So, when the Russians and the Ottomans go to war, Hyperion joins a rebellion and becomes some sort of officer together with Alabanda. Unfortunately, the rebels do not live up to Hyperion’s lofty ideals and is merely a rabble, so Hyperion gets depressed and wants to die. So does Diotima. Hyperion changes his mind, but too late to save Diotima. This makes Hyperion really depressed so he goes to Germany in exile, but the Germans are terrible people so now he is back in Greece to write his story, which is the story we have just been reading.

The story apparent is one about a hyper-sensitive guy who seems to get carried away, even overwhelmed, by emotions at every turn. Nothing is simple and easy for this guy, and everything from the morning breeze to the plight of the Greek people becomes loaded with higher meanings far beyond what reality can answer, hence Hyperion’s life is one of disappointments. I would say this is a guy with mental health issues, but for that I would probably be crucified as someone lacking sensibility for the higher arts.

My copy came with a lengthy analysis of the text of which I understood even less that the actual novel. This appears to be a very important text from the nascent German romanticism. Hyperion is supposed to be our priest to teach us… well, that is not really clear, but my assumption is the beauty of nature and that the intrinsic value of beauty is all that really matters.

I have to say that I was not particularly overwhelmed by this text. Or maybe I should say that it lacked appeal to me because it was actually rather overwhelming. I kept worrying that this guy would go over the edge and become raving mad and maybe he should go back to his medication. To me, this sounded like a bad case of bipolar disorder with each part of the sinus wave making Hyperion lose touch with reality.

It was not surprising for me to learn that Hölderlin actually was mentally ill and in the end succumbed to schizophrenia. Poor guy.

I could easily image a lot of people liking, even adoring the poetic nature of this text and the melancholic suffering it expresses, but I think I passed that phase some time back in the nineties.


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