• • •
Dem Himmel. Diese siehet
Der Dichter. Gut ist es, an andern sich
Zu halten. Denn keiner trägt das Leben allein.
The heavens. These the poet
Sees. It is good to keep
To others. For no one bears life alone.1
• • •
The following document lists relevant sources, translations, and discussions pertaining to the two-part fragment “Communismus der Geister” (“Communism of Spirits,” hereafter CdG). The fragment, first published in 1926, has been attributed to German poet Johann Christian Friedrich Hölderlin, although the attribution is debated. The document provides URL links for some of the references listed. It also provides links to corresponding PDF files, when available, including photo reproductions of the fragment.
Recently, the fragment has received renewed attention in English with the simultaneous publication of three documents authored by Joseph Albernaz, Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. These three documents (listed immediately below) consist of a short introduction to a new English translation of the fragment, the translation itself (co-translated with David Brazil), and a 23-page scholarly discussion of the materials (“The Missing Word of History: Hölderlin and ‘Communism’,” hereafter MWoH). In the latter, Albernaz presents his essay as follow:
It contains a discussion of [Communism of Spirits]’s manuscript and editorial history, an analysis of its content and context, an argument for Hölderlin’s authorship and dating (to circa 1794), and a reflection on the significance of Hölderlin’s coining of “communism,” with a view to his legacy and reception up to the present. (MWoH 8)
The three documents can be accessed online (see below). The links to The Germanic Review may require institutional subscription (the “Introduction” is offered in free access at the time of writing). However, the same three documents have also been made available on Albernaz’s Academia.edu page.
Joseph Albernaz, “Introduction: Friedrich Hölderlin’s ‘Communism of Spirits’,” The Germanic Review: Literature, Culture, Theory, Vol. 97, Issue 1, 2022 pp. 1-4.
Hölderlin. Friedrich, “Communism of Spirits,” trans. by Joseph Albernaz and David Brazil, The Germanic Review: Literature, Culture, Theory, Vol. 97, Issue 1, 2022, pp. 5-6.
Joseph Albernaz, “The Missing Word of History: Hölderlin and ‘Communism’,” The Germanic Review: Literature, Culture, Theory, Vol. 97, Issue 1, 2022, pp. 7-29.
At the time of writing, these three documents taken together offers one of the most thorough engagement with this fragment in English language. Many of the references listed here are mentioned in the “Introduction” document as well as in Albernaz’s main essay. Footnotes in both these texts offer important bibliographical indications.
This entry might be updated when new documents become available. One can quickly access the three sections of this entry using the following link:
• • •
• • •
Below is a list of some of the main sources where the fragment can be consulted, including copies of the manuscripts. Throughout, it is important to keep in mind CdG is two related fragments (see Albernaz, “Introduction” 2): “Communismus der Geister” and [Disposition] (the latter is a title assigned by the editors of the Grosse Stuttgarter Ausgabe, hence the brackets).
Another important aspect is the fact these manuscript fragments do not bear Hölderlin’s handwriting, but rather the handwriting of Christoph Theodor Schwab. Most of the information below can be found in Albernaz’s essays. Additional details are provided here, including links and relevant PDF scans. Each source is individually referenced in chronological order of production, followed by accompanying comments.
“Communismus der Geister” Cod.poet.et.phil.fol.63,V,g,13-14 (PDF), and [Disposition] Cod.poet.et.phil.fol.63,V,g,24 (PDF), both document from Württembergische Landesbibliothek, Hölderlin-Archiv, shared with permission.
These are the call numbers2 for the two fragments preserved at the Württembergische Landesbibliothek, in Stuttgart. These fragments are not included among the 373 digitized manuscript items of the Hölderlin collection available through Württembergis Landesbibliothek digital library (search for Hölderlin-Archiv), nor are they included in the diachronic presentation of the Homburg manuscript collection (Homburger Folioheft)
As Albernaz explains in his main essay: “The text of CoS is found in Konvolut Vg, a neglected bundle of manuscripts in the Hölderlin Archive at the Württemberg state library in Stuttgart.” (MWoH 9). Albernaz offers a color facsimile of the first page bearing the title “Communismus der Geister” (MWoH 11).
As mentioned, one important aspect common to both fragments is the fact they were not written by Hölderlin. Both rather display the handwriting of Christoph Theodor Schwab (1821-1883), editor and biographer of Hölderlin3. The assessment about the handwriting in both fragment can be found in Friedrich Beissner and Adolf Beck’s edition of Hölderlin’s complete work (Sämtliche Werke), Grosse Stuttgarter Ausgabe (hereafter StA), Volume 4.2, pp. 804-805 (see below for more details about this edition).
The four physical pages of the manuscript for “Communismus der Geister” all show a handwritten note from an archivist in brackets: “[nicht von Hölderlin, Abschrift von Chr. Th. Schwab]” (“not from Hölderlin, transcription from Chr. Th. Schwab”). The fragment also makes heavy use of abbreviations. Adolf Beck provides a thorough examination of these in his accompanying reading of the text (Lesarten4) (see again StA 4.2, pp. 804-805).
Neither of the two parts of the CdG fragment is dated. One of Albernaz’s main contributions is to propose c.1794 as a probable date of creation (compare with the Berlin Edition started by Hellingrath, which dates the fragment to 1793, in Volume 3, page 617: see below for more details).
Zinkernagel, Franz (1926). “Neue Hölderlin-Fünd,” Neue Schweizer Rundschau, Vol. XIX, Issue 4, April 1, 1926, pp. 333-348. Permalink (see specifically pp. 343-346, for both the discussion and the fragment)
As signalled in StA 4.2 (pp. 804-805), the first publication (Erster Druck) of the fragment is due to Franz Zinkernagel (1878-1935), also referenced in the “Introduction” essay by Albernaz. This essay is currently available online, as part of the online archive of Neue Schweizer Rundschau. Zinkernagel provided the second fragment with the editorial title [Disposition zu einem Aufsatz] (“Outline for an essay”). The critical discussion about the two-part fragment is found on pages 343-344, 346. See also Albernaz (MWoH 10).
Hölderlin, Friedrich (1926). Sämtliche Werke und Briefe, historico-critical edition (Kritische-historische Ausgabe) by Franz Zinkernagel, Volume 5 “Nachlese – Briefe an den Dichter,” Leipzig: Insel, pp. 324-328. Internet Archive, PDF.
After the announcement of his discovery in the Neue Schweizer Rundschau, Zinkernagel included both fragments in his own edition of Hölderlin Sämtliche Werke. Started in 1914, the edition was completed in 1926 with the publication of the fifth volume, where the fragments can be found, along with short editorial comments printed in smaller font. The item linked above at the Internet Archive has “1914” has its publication date. That’s not the publication date of the fifth volume, rather the year of publication of the first volume in the series. This edition of the Sämtliche Werke mostly carries the materials, with few editorial comments. Zinkernagel’s main editorial work (Lesarten und Erläuterungen: readings and explanations) were left out. It is only recently, in 2019, that they were finally published under the title Kritisch-historische Ausgabe von Franz Zinkernagel 1914-1926 (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2019; the books comes with a CD-ROM containing 1354 pages of the Sämtliche Werke und Briefe). CdG is not mentioned in this document (neither in the book, nor the CD-ROM).
Hölderlin, Friedrich (1943). Sämtliche Werke. Historisch-kritische Ausgabe, ed. Norbert Hellingrath, Friedrich Seebass, and Ludwig von Pigenot, Volume 3 “Gedichte – Empedokles – Philosophische Fragmente – Brief – 1798-1800,” Berlin: Propyläen, pp. 617-621. PDF.
The fragment is included in the Historical-critical edition (Historisch-kritische Ausgabe, also known as the Berlin Edition or Berliner Ausgabe) of Hölderlin’s complete work initiated by Norbert von Hellingrath in 1913 and completed by Friedrich Seebass and Ludwig von Pigenot in 1923. The first edition (Leipzig: Georg Müller) had six volumes, of which only the first three were published while Hellingrath was still alive. This first edition precedes Zinkernagel’s publication of his discovery in 1926, and consequently does not carry the fragment. The volume from 1943 referenced here is part of the third edition, published in four volumes.
In this volume, the two-part fragment is classified among the “Philosophische Fragmente” (p. 614ff). More specifically, it is presented alongside other fragments which authorship is disputed (“bezüglich ihrer Autorschaft z. T. umstrittene Stücke gebracht” p. 617). The second part of the fragment is given a different editorial title: [Aufsatz-Entwurf über die Geschichtsperioden] (“Draft Essay on Historical Periods,” on page 621). This is the reference used in Martin Heidegger’s essay “Die Armut” (1945/1994: see “Discussions” below for more details).
Both parts are preceded by a short editorial comment. For “Communismus der Geister”, the editors underline how Hellingrath did not considered the text, in Schwab handwriting, to be genuine (hence, it was not printed in previous editions). It is suggested the style is closer to Schelling. The editor nonetheless signals the necessity to consider the fact that Schwab, who knew Hölderlin’s handwriting well, estimated the fragment to be genuine and included in the Hölderlin Papers (Hölderlinpapieren). 1793 is given as the estimated date for the fragment.
For the second part, titled [Aufsatz-Entwurf über die Geschichtsperioden], the matter is different. In the editorial note at the bottom of page 620, the proximity of this outline with the other part is asserted. The fragment is considered genuine based on the relationship between its themes, and themes found in Hölderlin’s late work (specifically the relation between the ancient world and the religious world).
Hölderlin, Friedrich (1956). Sämtliche Werke (Tempel Klassiker series), ed. Paul Stapf, Berlin & Darmstadt: Tempel, pp. 985-987. PDF.
A copy of this edition in one volume (1150 pages, including the table of content) is available at the Internet Archive, although the description is incorrect (it is misidentified as a volume of the Grosse Stuttgarter Ausgabe). This volume of the Tempel-Klassiker series is not a critical edition and contains very little explanations. The title of the first fragment is spelled “Kommunismus der Geister” (with a “K”), and as with the Berlin Edition (1943), the second part of the fragment is titled [Aufsatzentwurf über die Geschichtsperioden].
The volume is listed in the “Hölderlin-Bibliographie 1956–1958” compiled by Maria Kohler for Volume 11 (1958-1960) of the Hölderlin Jahrbuch (1960, pp. 239; available online at the Hölderlin-Gesellschaft website). Paul Celan is said to have owned a two-volume copy of this Tempel-Klassiker edition5.
Hölderlin, Friedrich (1961). Sämtliche Werke (Grosse Stuttgarter Ausgabe), ed. Friedrich Beissner, Adolf Beck, Ute Oelmann, Volume 4, Part 1 “Der Tod des Empedokles – Aufsätze: Text und Erläuterungen,” Stuttgart: Cotta / W. Kohlhammer, pp. 306-309. PDF.
Completed between 1943 and 1985 in Stuttgart in 8 volumes, the Grosse Stuttgarter Ausgabe (hereafter StA) was for long time the most complete and authoritative for the complete work of Hölderlin. It is also the only edition entirely available online, hosted and maintained by the Württembergische Landesbibliothek: “Zur Stuttgarter Hölderlin-Ausgabe online”. All volumes can be downloaded in PDF form and are fully searchable.
As noted in Albernaz’s “Introduction” the fragment appears toward the end of the volume, in a subsection of the “Appendix” (Anhang) titled “Zweifelhaftes” (doubtful, questionable). Far from being a mere detail, this labelling explains why CdG has long been –still is, to an extent– considered apocryphal: not authored nor written by Hölderlin himself. Albernaz’s recent contribution is entirely shaped (and documented) as an argument against this curious exclusion: indeed, the fragment is excluded by way of its inclusion in the “complete work” of Hölderlin (this predicament is not unique to CdG, as other items are filed under Zweifelhaftes in StA 4.1; other volumes of the series includes a Zweifelhaftes subsection).
Alongside CdG, StA 4.1 also carries Friedrich Beissner’s explanation or discussion (Erläuterungen) of the two-part fragment, on page 427 (PDF). Beissner brings attention to the placement of the title (“Communismus der Geister”) and the “stylistic improbability” (“stilistischen Unwahrscheinlichkeit”) to exclude Hölderlin’s authorship. In doing so, he also mentions a letter written by Hölderlin in 1790, arguing that it cannot be used as an argument in favor of Hölderlin’s authorship (see immediately below for more about this letter). On the same page, commenting the second part of the fragment, [Disposition], Beissner asserts that it must be the draft for a continuation of the first (main) part6.
In StA 4.2 (published in 1958), on pages 804-805 (PDF), we find further relevant comments pertaining to the transmission (Überlieferung) and readings (Lesarten) of the text, this time penned by Adolf Beck (editor of this volume). On page 804, he signals that the handwriting is from Christoph Schwab and adds in parenthesis that he also presumes Schwab to be the author (“der vermutlich der Verfasser ist”). The same comment is repeated on page 805, for the second part of the fragment, [Disposition].
CdG is again mentioned by Adolf Beck in his explanation (Erläuterungen) for the letter by Hölderlin mentioned by Beissner in StA 4.1. This letter, also discussed by Albernaz (see MWoH 2, 20), was written in mid-November of 1790, to his sister Heinrike (diminutive “Rike”). In it, he discusses his plans to visit the chapel of Wurmlingen:
Today it’s the fair. Rather than getting pushed around in the hustle and bustle I’m going for a walk with Hegel, who is in the same room as me. We’re going to the chapel at Wurmlingen with the famous view. (Friedrich Hölderlin. Essays and Letters, ed. and trans. Jeremy Adler and Charlie Louth, Penguin: New York, 2009, p. 6; see StA 6.1, page 57, where the letter is identified “BR 36” for Briefe or “letter” no. 36; the same numbering system is used in the French Pléiade edition, published by Gallimard in 1967: see pp. 64-65)
Beck’s discussion can be found in StA 6.2, page 568-569. While suggesting that the walk mentioned by Hölderlin might have inspired what he described as the “religious-philosophical fragment” (das religionsphilosophische Fragment), he reiterates Beissner’s judgment by asserting that the fragment certainly has not been authored (verfasst) by Höderlin (“sicher nicht von Hölderlin verfaßt”).
Hölderlin, Friedrich (1976). Sämtliche Werke. Frankfurter Ausgabe, ed. D.E. Sattler, Volume 6 “Elegien und Epigram” ed. D.E. Sattler and Wolfram Groddeck, Frankfurt: Roter Stern, pp. 74-75. PDF.
This reference does not contain the CdG fragment. It is listed here to signal this very absence. As noted, both by Bruno C. Duarte and Joseph Albernaz, the CdG fragment was not included in the 20-volume Frankfurter Ausgabe (FHA) (plus 3 supplements; 9,000 pages, along with 2,760 facsimile), published between 1975 and 2008. Albernaz adds a precision: in Volume 6, Sattler comments on “Konvolut Vg,” the bundle of manuscripts in which Schwab had filed the CdG fragment, providing possible indications for its exclusion from the Frankfurter edition (MWoH 13). The indications can be found on pages 74-75, referenced above. For more about the significance of the Frankfurter Ausgabe, see footnote no. 6.
• • •
Below is a chronological list of various translations of the CdG fragment, in chronological order of publication. For each entry, the language of translation is first provided in brackets, along with the year of publication. This is followed by the translated title of the fragment, the name of the translator (if known), and the full bibliographical reference. When available, a URL link and a link to a PDF document of the translation is provided. Some of these translations are listed in Albernaz’s “Introduction” (see page 1, footnote 2). This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, if only because the search for translations in non-Latin scripts presents challenges.
As noted by Albernaz, this edition only offers a translation of the first part of the fragment. The second part, [Disposition] is not included, not in this 1956 edition, nor in subsequent editions. According to the editors of the 2004 reedition, this 1956 edition was completed only in 1963. The translation of the title takes some liberty regarding the German title (compare with Jacques D’Hondt’s translation below). This translation is also listed in the “Hölderlin-Bibliographie 1956–1958” compiled by Maria Kohler for Volume 11 (1958-1960) of the Hölderlin Jahrbuch (1960, pp. 242; online; note that while listing the content of the anthology Kohler spells the fragment “Kommunismus der Geister”).
This translation is based on the version published by Beissner, in StA 4.1, pp. 306-309 (in the accompanying essay, the volume is incorrectly dated from 1951: it should read 1961). This French translation is preceded by a 20-page essay, referenced in the “Discussions” section below.
[Italian, 1995] “Il comunismo degli spiriti,” trans. Domenico Carosso, in Il comunismo degli spiriti. Forma e storia in un frammento di Hölderlin, Rome: Donzelli, pp. 67-75. PDF.
This Italian translation is included in a book entirely dedicated to CdG, also writen by Domenico Carosso. More information can be found below, in the “Discussions” section. The translation, based on the version published in StA 4.1 (Carosso dates this volume from 1951: he is likely carrying over the typo found in D’Hondt, as it should read 1961; see Il comunismo degli spiriti, page 20, footnote 3).
This Spanish translation is based on Paul Stapf’s 1956 edition of the Sämtliche Werke published in the Tempel Klassiker series (see above, in the “Sources” section), although it does not include the second part of the fragment (which in Stapf’s edition is titled [Aufsatzentwurf über die Geschichtsperioden]). The translation is preceded by a short editorial comment. Revista Filosofia is the journal of the Master of Philosophy, at the Faculty of Humanities and Education of the Universidad de Los Andes (ULA, Mérida, Venezuela).
Alberto Arvelo Ramos (1936-2010) was a prolific writer and a professor at the Philosophy Department of the ULA. In 2011, he was the subject of a documentary film directed by Alejandro Victorero. An obituary is available online: “Falleció el escritor venezolano Alberto Arvelo Ramos” (August 2, 2010).
This Greek translation is based not on the German text, but on the French translation produced by Jacques D’Hondt for the Cahier Hölderlin published by Édition de L’Herne, in 1989 (see above). It includes both parts of the fragment. It this 100th issue of Ουτοπία, it is accompanied by a full translation of the essay Jacques D’Hondt wrote about the fragment for the same Cahier Hölderlin (see Discussions below).
This English translation covers both part of the fragment. It appeared alongside an essay by Bruno C. Duarte discussing the apocryphal fragment (see below, in Discussions). It does not explicitly indicate which source was used (Duarte’s essay have references to different editions of Hölderlin’s Sämtliche Werke).
• • •
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of every fleeting mention of CdG, nor is it a list of general discussions about Hölderlin and communism. The objective is rather to collect references where the fragment CdG is explicitly discussed (whether it is about the issue of authorship, about its content, or about both). Some of these discussions are thorough and lengthy, while others are limited to a few lines of text. As with the translations listed above, each item appears in chronological order, alongside the language of the reference. A full bibliographical notice follows, accompanied by a relevant URL link and PDF document, where it applies. Each time, accompanying notes further document the reference.
[German, 1928] Wilhelm Böhm, Hölderlin, Vol. 1, Halle-Saale: Niemeyer, pp. 117, 228, 315-334. PDF.
This is the first volume of a massive, two-volume biography of Hölderlin written by Wilhem Böhm (1877-1957). In the first volume published in 1928, the fragment is mentioned on several occasions, but specifically discussed and analyzed over the course of a 19-page section (pp. 315-334, in the first volume). The discussion is entirely focused on the content of the fragment: Böhm does not discussed the matter of authorship and seems to take it for granted.
Along with Paul Ernst, Böhm (1877-1957) had previously edited the Friedrich Hölderlins. Gesammelte Werke published in three volumes in 1905 (Jena and Leipzig: Eugen Diederichs). In 1926, not long after Franz Zinkernagel’s first publication of the CdG fragment in Neue Schweizer Rundschau, Böhm mentioned it in an essay he wrote about another important fragment, “The Oldest Systematic Program of German Idealism,” which he attributed to Hölderlin7. In the “Afterword” to this essay from 1926, Böhm enthusiastically mentions Zinkernagel’s discovery of the two-part fragments. Furthermore, the question of authorship seems to make no doubt to him, as he suggests Zinkernagel’s caution on the topic is likely superfluous (“Zinkernagels große Vorsicht in bezug auf die Echtheit der nur von Schwabs Hand überlieferten Texte nun wohl überflüssig wird.” 1926, p. 425).
First published in 1940 (Bremen : Schünemann, 580 pp., with subsequent reeditions by the same publisher), this biography by Wilhelm Michel (1877-1942) was reissued in 1963 with a foreword by Friedrich Beissner, and then again on a number of occasions (see the entry for Wilhelm Michel in the Katalog der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek). In his 1990 essay on Hölderlin biographers, Emery E. George observes of the one authored by Michel: “of any biography of the poet, this one has come closest to the status of a definitive work”(“Hölderlin and His Biographers,” 1990: 64).
Michel mentions the fragment “Communismus der Geister” briefly on a few occasions. In the 1963 edition, the mentions appear on page 63-64, 168 (spelled “Kommunismus”), 226 and 5318. On pages 63-64, the fragment is quoted at lenght and discussed in the context of Hölderlin’s relationship with Hegel. Michel cite Zinkernagel’s fifth volume of his 1926 “Hölderlinausgabe” as the source for the fragment (see “Sources” above). Michel also highlights the relationship between the theme of the fragment and Lessing’s Spinozist motto “Έν καì Πãν.” (p. 64).
Michel observes that while the CdG fragment does not have Hölderlin’s style, it has his spirit9, and the spirit of the friendship that connected him to his friends (Hegel and Schelling): “Die Fassung hat nicht Hölderlins Stil, sondern weist eher auf Hegel. Aber Hölderlins Geist und das, was ihn mit den zwei Freunden verband, ist deutlich in der Niederschrift zugegen.” (p. 63)
This short lecture on the theme of “poverty” revolves mostly around a single line extracted from the second part of the CdG fragment, [Aufsatz-Entwurf über die Geschichtsperioden] (as it is titled in the edition used by Heidegger):
Es koncentrirt sich bei uns alles auf’s Geistige, wir sind arm geworden, um reich zu werden.
For us everything is concentrated upon the spiritual, we have become poor in order to become rich. (trans. Thomas Kalary and Frank Schalow, “Poverty,” in Heidegger, Translation, and the Task of Thinking: Essays in Honor of Parvis Emad, 2011, p. 3; online, access restricted)
The first version published in German in 1994 opens with this quote, which is provided with the reference “(III3, 621)” (see p. 5)10. In the accompanying editorial comment (“Editorische Bemerkung”) appended at the very end of the version published in 1994, Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herrmann (1934-2022) further documents the reference for this quote, as well as for another quote used in the lecture (not related to the CdG fragment): “Die beiden Hölderlin-Textstellen werden von Heidegger nach der dritten Auflage (1943) der Hellingrathschen Hölderlin-Ausgabe wiedergegeben.” (1994, p. 11). Heidegger is using the third volume of the Sämtliche Werke. Historisch-kritische Ausgabe initiated by Norbert Hellingrath11 (the CdG fragment would only appear in Beissner’s Grosse Stuttgarter Ausgabe in 1961). To the extent Heidegger’s lecture is concerned with the spiritual dimension of “Communism” (instead of the material dimensions), Heidegger likely consulted the first part of the fragment, or at least its title (“Communismus der Geister”), although it is not once mentioned explicitly. Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe develops this aspect in the presentation he penned for the French translation of the lecture he co-authored with Ana Samardzija in 2004 (see below for more details).
As indicated by von Herrmann, the 12-page manuscript for this 1945 lecture was published in volume 73 (Part 1) of the Gesamtausgabe, along with accompanying notes (Zum Ereignis-Denken, ed. Peter Trawny, GA 73.1, Frankfurt: Vittorio Klostermann, 2013, pp. 869-884; at the time of writing, this volume has not yet been translated).
Heidegger also recopied the same line (calling it a motto: Leitwort) from the second part of the CdG in a fragment on language ([Fragen zur Sprache]), along with the same reference to the 1943 edition of the third volume of Hellingrath’s Sämtliche Werke. Historisch-kritische Ausgabe. This fragment is collected in Volume 74 of the Gesamtausgabe: Zum Wesen der Sprache und Zur Frage nach der Kunst (Frankfurt: Vittorio Klostermann, ed by Thomas Regehly, 2010, page 164). The English translation of GA 74 was published in the summer of 2022: On the Essence of Language and the Question of Art (trans. Adam Knowles, Polity Press, 2022; see Wiley.com).
While it is not possible to list every translation of Die Armut, one cannot be overlooked, as it is preceded by an essay that explicitly engages with the CdG fragment: the French translation published by Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Ana Samardzija, published in 2004. It is listed below, as a separate item, chronologically (under “2004”).
[French, 1989] Jacques D’Hondt “Le meurtre de l’histoire,” in Hölderlin, Cahier de L’Herne No. 57, ed. Jean-François Courtine, Paris: L’Herne, pp. 219-238. PDF.
This is one of the most thorough and relevant engagement with the CdG fragment currently available. Jacques D’Hondt (1920-2012), who also provided a French translation of the fragment in the same volume (see “Translations” above), is mostly known for his pathbreaking work on Hegel, having published the first biography of the German philosopher in French language (Hegel. Biographie, Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1998). Jacques D’Hondt also wrote on the topic of the French Revolution in relation to romanticism, as well as on Karl Marx philosophy.
Aside from acknowledging the novelty in the use of the word “Communismus” (which he likens to a “world premiere” p. 222), D’Hondt also examines the authenticity of the fragment, but not separately from its content. In other words, he suggests the concepts such as authenticity and authorship might not be best suited for a text titled “Communismus der Geister.” He argues Hegel, Hölderlin, Schelling and their friends were serious about the communal nature of their ideas12:
Ce goût de la recherche et de la création en commun se rattache à des orientations philosophiques profondes, et caractéristiques de l’époque. L’œuvre n’appartient ni à l’un, ni à l’autre, ni à personne. Elle émane, en dernière instance, d’un esprit impersonnel, supérieur, le seul créateur véritable. (p. 223)
D’Hondt dates the fragment from circa 1790. He also analyses the fragment in relation to various themes: Middle Ages, unity of the spirit, community, Spinozism, common good, and pantheism.
[French, 1989] Jacques Grandjonc, Communisme / Kommunismus / Communism. Origine et développement international de la terminologie communautaire prémarxiste des utopistes aux néo-babouvistes 1785-1842: Historique, Vol. 1, Trier: Karl-Marx-Haus, p. 63, footnote no. 164, PDF. Copies of both volumes can be found online: Vol. 1, Vol. 2.
While this is a short mention in a footnote, the reference to Jacques Grandjonc (1933-2000), who was a Germanist and specialist of Marx (he worked as an editor for the Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe), is nonetheless important. Grandjonc’s two-volume examination of the origins of the word “communism” (in French, English, and German) remains unmatched13. It offers a prehistory of the lexical field attached to the idea of community (“vocabulaire communautaire”), before the word “communism” acquired a more stable and systematic meaning in the 1840s.
For such a study, a title like “Communismus der Geister” written in the mid-1790s should be significant. Yet, Grandjonc relegates the reference to a footnote, arguing it is misleading (“fausse piste”). In doing so, he refers to Volume 3 of the third edition of the Berliner Ausgabe, from 1943 (i.e. Hellingrath’s edition, completed by Seebass and Pigenot). The page range he offers (pp. 617-620) excludes the second part of the fragment. Arguing it must have been added by Schwab, Grandjonc judges the title “Communismus der Geister” to be inauthentic: “… dont le titre à tout le moins ne peut être considéré comme authentique” (p. 63).
In his essay, Albernaz suggests there are issues with Grandjonc’s assessment (MWoH 25, footnote 56). At least two can be further documented here. First, Grandjonc refers to Jacques D’Hondt to suggest the fragment (not the title) bears Hegel’s handwriting. Nowhere in his essay “Le meurtre de l’histoire” entirely dedicated to the fragment does D’Hondt –a specialist of Hegel– suggest it is written in Hegel’s handwriting (1989, see above). D’Hondt rather follows Beissner and the StA in attributing the handwriting to Schwab. D’Hondt further adds that neither the handwriting, the layout, nor the style corresponds to Hölderlin, no more than to Hegel (“…pas plus d’ailleurs que de Hegel.” p. 221)14. Second, Grandjonc’s suggestion that a French translation of the CdG fragment was published in “Leonhard, Hölderlin, Seghers (1963), p. 81” is incorrect. That page is the end of an introduction by Rudolf Leonhard, where he merely mentions the title of the fragment (PDF: front/end matter). A translation of the fragment is not included in this volume.
Grandjonc’s two-volume study is the result of a thesis (thèse d’État) he submitted in 1979 (available online). As noted, the first edition was published in 1989, by the Karl-Marx-Haus, in Trier (volumes 39/1 and 39/2 of the Schriften aus dem Karl-Marx-Haus). In 2013, the two volumes were reedited as a single volume by French publisher Malassis (website). It was republished again in 2021 as a single volume by French publisher La Grange Batelière (website).
[French, 1994] Jean-Marie Vaysse, Totalité et subjectivité: Spinoza dans l’idéalisme allemand, Paris: Vrin, pp. 129-132. PDF.
Vaysee’s brief mention and discussion of the CdG fragment does not cover the question of authorship. Instead, Vaysse refers to Jacques D’Hondt translation and essay (1989) in a footnote.
The reference is nonetheless valuable to the extent that it further highlights the relation between Hölderlin and Spinoza (Hölderlin read Spinoza and wrote about his ideas). Vaysse brings the idea of a “communism of spirits” alongside Spinoza’s pantheism: “Pour Hölderlin, comme pour Spinoza, la véritable conmunauté est abolition de toutes les scissions.” (129). In another footnote, Vaysse quotes from Alexandre Matheron’s important book, Individu et communauté chez Spinoza (Paris: Minuit, 1969), where the author uses the expression “communauté des esprits” in relation to Spinoza, without any reference to Hölderlin (Vaysse, 1994, p. 129, footnote no. 2; Matheron, 1969, p. 612: PDF). Elsewhere, comparisons could be made with Averroes’s theory of the unity of the intellect, and Karl Marx’s “general intellect”.
At the time of writing, this is the only book (75 pages) entirely dedicated to the CdG fragment (both parts). As mentioned in the “Translations” section, it also offers an Italian translation of the entire fragment, along with the German text. The chapter dedicated to the history of the fragment (“La storia del testo” pp. 19-26) mostly relies on documents and arguments shared in Jacques D’Hondt’s essay “Le meurtre de l’histoire.” The other chapters focus on topics such as the notion of form, individual and community, Christianism and science, Spinoza, and Heidegger.
Domenic Carosso (1946-2020) wrote books on philosophy, gastronomy, and cinema (collaborating with Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub on a number of occasions between 1978 and 1988). He also published several translations (a translation of Hegel’s Fenomenologia dello spirito was left unpublished). He published additional essays on Hölderlin online: “Mihai Eminescu incontra Friedrich Hölderlin” (2016) and “Ernst Jünger lettore di Hölderlin” (2017)
[Italian, 1998] Mario Tronti, La politica al tramonto, Turin: Giulio Einaudi, 1998, pp. 188-189. PDF.
Mario Tronti briefly discusses the CdG fragment, which he borrows from Carosso. Following Carosso, he brings it in line with another fragment, the “The Oldest Systematic Program of German Idealism.” Tronti’s discussion is mostly concerned with the state of politics in the 20th century. The fragment offers an opportunity for comparison with the tumultuous time of the 1790s in Europe. The French translation of Tronti’s book in available online: La politique au crépuscule, trans. Michel Valensi, Paris: Éditions de l’éclat, see specifically the chapter “Kommunismus oder Europa.”
[French, 2004] Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, “Présentation,” in Martin Heidegger, La pauvreté (Die Armut), trans. Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Ana Samardzija, Strasbourg: Presses universitaires de Strasbourg, pp. 5-65 (publisher website).
Philippe Lacoue Labarthe (1940-2007) was a specialist of the work of Hölderlin and Heidegger, having published both extensive analysis and translations of their work (often in collaboration with Jean-Luc Nancy). In this presentation of a French translation of “Die Armut”, Lacoue-Labarthe promptly focuses on the source document used by Heidegger, but not mentioned in his lecture (aside from the opening quote): the CdG fragment. Lacoue-Labarthe quotes at lenght from the fragment (using StA 4.1 as a source), while also relying on Jacques D’Hondt analysis and translation (from 1989, listed above). In doing so, he mentions the first publication of the fragment by Franz Zinkernagel in 1926, and signales its classification in Beissner’s StA as “Zweifelhaftes” (“douteux” in French; see page 54 endnote no. 5). He also discusses the significance of the coinage of “Communismus” in German, referring indirectly to a publication by Jacques Grandjonc from 1975 (see page 55, endnote no. 12). He also acknowledges the earlier but partial French translation by Armel Guerne (see pp. 55-56, endnote no. 14).
[French, 2004] Rita Bischof, “Les romantiques allemands et l’impossible mythe de la modernité,” in Europe. Revue littéraire, Issue no. 900, “Le romantisme révolutionnaire,” April 2004, pp. 22-40. PDF.
Rita Bischof is an independent scholar based in Berlin. She wrote extensively on Georges Bataille, modernity, and the surrealist movement. In this four-part essay published in an issue of Europe entirely dedicated to revolutionary romanticism, Bischof explores the call for a new mythology that runs from the friendships of the Tübinger Stift all the way to the surrealist movement of the 20th century. The second part of her essay offers a detailed discussion of the CdG fragment. Like others Bischof also identifies a relation between the CdG fragment and “The Oldest systematic program…” fragment, suggesting that the former paved the way to the latter:
Il n’y a pas de doute: avec ces réflexions Hölderlin s’est déjà engagé sur le chemin qui mène quelques années plus tard au Plus ancien programme systématique de l’idéalisme allemand (pp. 28-29).
Bischof mentions a few details about the CdG fragment, including the date of first publication. In her analysis, she relies on the French translation by Jacques D’Hondt. Early in the second part of the essay, she asserts the value of the fragment is undisputable, regardless of the issue of authorship:
Même si par la suite on s’est demandé si Hölderlin en était vraiment l’auteur, s’il était seul à l’avoir composé, la valeur du texte est indiscutable. (p. 28)
A shorter version of the text, based mostly but not entirely on the second part of the French essay, was published the same year in the German art journal Herzattacke under the title “Über Holderlins Communismus der Geister”: Herzattacke. Literatur- und Kunstzeitschrift. 16. Jahrgang mit Sondernummer, 2004/1, Berlin, pp. 18-20, 25-27 (pp. 21-24 display two original lithographies by Mark Lammert; PDF). Only 95 copies of this volume were printed (for reference).
[French, 2004 or 2005] Anonymous, “Le bel enfer” in La fête est finie, Lille: La Brèche, p. 98-100. PDF. Available online (alernative link). Bibliographical references: Centre International de Recherches sur l’Anarchisme (CIRA); Le Catalogue général des éditions et collections anarchistes francophones (Cgécaf).
This reference points to a very brief mention of the CdG fragment. It is nonetheless listed here because the essay in which it appears was translated into various language, providing the fragment with additional visibility online (see below).
On page 99 (or on the accompanying website), the fragment is introduced as a “strange fragment by Hölderlin” along with the German title “Communismus der Geister.” Attention is called to the spelling of “Communismus,” atypical for the time it was produced, which is dated to 1798 (without further explanation). Aside from the title, the date, and the attribution to Hölderlin, the fragment is not documented in any way.
This book was published anonymously: no author is mentioned in the printed version, nor any other indication (year, publisher, city, etc.) aside from the table of content. The content of the book reproduces the content one can find on its online version. The fact that it is often associated with the anonymous publication Tiqqun might explains why excerpts can be found online, in the original French as well as in translations into various languages: English, Spanish (alt. link, alt. translation), Italian (translated by Marcello Tarì).
[French, 2010] Marc Goldschmit, “Hölderlin dans l’absolu romantique hors de lui,” in Po&sie, Vol. 4, No. 134, pp. 93-113.
Like others mentioned here, French philosopher Marc Goldschmit reads the CdG fragment alongside “The Oldest Systematic Program of German Idealism” (especially pp. 109ff). The authenticity of the fragment is assumed without discussion and dated as being posterior to 1790. Aside from that, the fragment is not documented, nor provided with any reference. Otherwise, this is currently one of the most thorough discussions of the fragment in French, after D’Hondt (1989), Lacoue-Labarthe (2004) and Bischof (2004).
This essay entirely dedicated to the CdG fragment was published alongside the 2018 English translation of the fragment by Hunter Bolin, in the same issue of Tripwire (see above “Translations”).
This five-part essay explicitly discusses the issue of authorship surrounding the CdG fragment. Like D’Hondt, Duarte examines the issue in relation to the themes present in the fragment. In doing so, he engages with Beissner’s argument, while describing visual aspects of the manuscript (its layout). He also compares the fragment to the “The Oldest Systematic Program of German Idealism,” but mostly to point out differences instead of similitudes. Like Albernaz, Duarte also borrows the theme of the “riddle,” present in the CdG fragment (Rätsel, or Räthsel as it is spelled on the fragment).
Bruno C. Duarte received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University Marc Bloch in 2007, with a thesis on Hölderlin produced under the supevision of Philippe-Lacoue Labarthe and Gérard Bensussan (Sudoc catalog). He translated a collection of essays on Hölderlin written by Lacoue-Labarthe into Portugese (Textos sobre Hölderlin, Vendaval editor, 2005). Also of interest for the topic at hand is an interview he conducted with Lacoue-Labarthe in 2005 in French (“De Hölderlin à Marx : mythe, imitation, tragédie,” Labyrinthe, Vol. 3, No. 22, pp. 121-133).
• • •
Friedrich Seebass once suggested a whole history could be written about the many ways Hölderlin’s written work was massacred: truncated texts, altered poems, destroyed letters. It is possible Beissner’s paradoxical, yet canonical exclusion of the fragment from the Sämtliche Werke might have sealed its fate from the perspective of historical-critical editions. However, both what the rich discussions documented above, and what Albernaz’s recent research further highlight, is just how valuable this particular fragment remains.
This evaluation happens despite, or maybe because of said exclusion. From having been authoritatively deemed inauthentic or improper, the fragment becomes properly suited for free use (“the free use of the proper” / “der frei Gebrauch des Eigenen”15). The double riddle it presents us with –its authenticity, but also the “riddle [Räthsel] whose solution is missing”– has clearly sustained a dialogue since it was first published in 1926. This is the dialogue that we are, while we listen to each other: “Seit ein Gespräch wir sind und hören voneinander”16.
In the process of sharing, we realize that our thoughts are not our own, but rather originates between friends, “in conversation and in correspondence” (“im Gespräch und Brief”). Partaking in this “communism of thought,” as Dionys Mascolo once called it, we are ultimately given the opportunity to rekindle with unity. The authorship of this unique fragment could ultimately be claimed by anyone who shares its concerns, well beyond –and certainly despite– any authoritative scholarship. For if there is one thing it reminds us, is that “communism” has been haunting our collective psyche for much longer than usually assumed (“κοινὰ τὰ φίλων εἶναι”: “friends have all things in common,” argued the Pythagoreans). This value, as Jacques Derrida once wrote regarding another apocryphal fragment, “[n]o philological fundamentalism will ever efface”. The massacre [Verhunzung] Seebass perceived is a loss that might have made us collectively richer: “wir sind arm geworden, um reich zu werden.”
• • •
For their assistance over various aspects of this research, I would like to thank Professor Joseph Albernaz, Ulrike Seegräber (Hölderlin Archive, Stuttgart) and Prof. Dr. Daniel Bellingradt. For their insightful input, I am also grateful to Prof. Sarah Choukah (Université de l’Ontario français), Prof. Gerardo Munoz (Lehig University), Andrew Santana Kaplan (Emory University), and Agata Mergler (York University). I remain responsible for mistakes and typos.
• • •
1. Friedrich Hölderlin, “Die Titanen,” in Sämtliche Werke (Grosse Stuttgarter Ausgabe), ed. Friedrich Beissner, Adolf Beck, Ute Oelmann, Volume 2, Part 1 “Gedichte Nach 1800,” ed. Friedrich Beissner, Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 1951, p. 218, lines 44-46. English translation by William McNeill and Julia Ireland, in Martin Heidegger, Hölderlin’s Hymn “Remembrance”, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2018, p. 140.↩︎︎
2. A few additional notes regarding the call numbers. Following the practice in use at the Württembergische Landesbibliothek (WLB), a full notation for the first fragment could read:
Cod.poet.et.phil.fol.63,V,g,13-14 [StA 4.1,306-308]
The first part is the item Signatur. It identifies the handwritten manuscript as being located in codex poeticus et philologicus folio 63, fascicle V [the roman numeral “5”], g [alphabetical ordering], pages 13 and 14. In the archive, the individual pages also have the usual mention of “r” and “v” for recto and verso (for instance the title page of CdG starts on 13r), as well as an indication if a side of the page was left blank (for instance, if the verso of a given page has no text, the note “v = leer” is added).
The second part identifies the location of the item in the Grosse Stuttgarter Ausgabe edition, in Volume (Band) 4, Part (Hälfte) 1, pages 306 to 308. See another example (JPG) of this notation system for a different item available in the WLB collection. The Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek uses the same notation system (same item, JPG). A detailed examination of the manuscript can be found in the corresponding “Lesarten” (readings) offered by Adolf Beck in volume 4.2 of the StA edition (1958: 804-805).↩︎︎
4. The translation for technical terms pertaining to German editorial practice is based on Contemporary German Editorial Theory, ed. Hans Walter Gabler, George Bornstein, and Gillian Borland Pierce, Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1995 (publisher website). See specifically “Translation of Technical Terms,” pp. xi-xii. ↩︎︎
5.See Charles Bambach, Thinking the Poetic Measure of Justice: Hölderlin-Heidegger-Celan, Albany: SUNY Press, 2013, p. 204. As noted by Albernaz, Celan does briefly mention the CdG fragment (MWoH 28). Two mentions can be found in Mikrolithen sinds, Steinchen. Die Prosa aus dem Nachlaß. Kritische Ausgabe, on page 38 (entry no. 48.7 from March 10, 1962) and page 119 (item no. 203.1, not dated). These two entries are covered by the critical apparatus included in the volume (Erläuterungen und Übersetzungen: explanation and translation). See specifically pp. 365-366, 583-585 (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 2005, PDF). This 948-page volume was republished in 2018 (same pagination applies). The English, Italian and Spanish translations available offers selections from the original German volume. In the English edition, the mentions can be found on pages 28 and 113, with no additional editorial note (Microliths They Are, Little Stone, trans. Pierre Joris, New York: Contra Mundum Press, 2000, PDF). ↩︎︎
6. Albernaz rightfully brings attention to the significant political dimensions of Hölderlin’s reception (MWoH 12-13). Friedrich Beissner joined the National Socialist Teachers League (Nationalsozialistischer Lehrerbund, NSLB) in 1933, and the Nazi Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, NSDAP) in 1937. As Albernaz acknowledges, this can hardly be used to explain Beissner’s treatment of CdG (that is, labelling it as “Zweifelhaftes” in the StA). For instance, the so-called Frankfurter Hölderlin-Ausgabe (also known as the Roter Stern edition, after its publisher) does not carry the fragment, even though its editor Dietrich Eberhard Sattler’s political views are in stark opposition to Beissner: “In the ongoing Hölderlin scholarship since the 1970 bicentenary, the new Frankfurter Hölderlin-Ausgabe (FHA) is rapidly acquiring both preeminence and notoriety among contributions that, knowingly or seemingly, have attempted to “color the poet red”.” (“Frankfurter Hölderlin-Ausgabe” review by Emery E. George, Monatshefte, Vol. 70, No. 1, Spring, 1978, p. 58; Sattler’s edition had previously been dubbed a “political event”; see also MWoH 13). Wilhelm Böhm, who enthusiastically accepted the CdG fragment as authentic (see “Discussions” above), was also a member of both the National Socialist Teachers League and the Nazi Party. In a book that played a significant role in advancing the theory of Hölderlin’s allegiance to Jacobin ideals (the “Deutsche Jakobiner” as the main chapter is titled), the French author Pierre Bertaux (1907-1986) dismisses the fragment in a footnote, aligning with Adolf Beck’s evaluation (i.e. the style is not authentic; see, Hölderlin und die Französische Revolution, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1969, p. 109 and p. 170, note no. 70, PDF). ↩︎︎
7. “Zweck der vorliegenden Betrachtung ist es, in Hölderlin den Verfasser nachzuweisen.” (p. 341). See “Hölderlin als Verfasser des ‘Ältesten Systemprogramms des deutschen Idealismus’,” in Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift für Literaturwissenschaft Und Geistesgeschichte, Vol. 4, Issue 3, 1926, pp. 339-426; online: institutional subscription might be required). Since its first publication in 1926, the CdG fragment has often been compared to, and discussed alongside “The Oldest Systematic Program…” fragment.↩︎︎
8.In the first edition from 1940, the corresponding page numbers are 59-60, 157 (spelled “Kommunismus”), 210 and 492 (Google Books). In the edition published in 2013 under the title Friedrich Hölderlin. Eine Biographie (Hamburg: Severus), the corresponding page numbers are 53-54, 141 (spelled “Kommunismus”), 189, 443 (Google Books). ↩︎︎
9. This is a common assessment in discussions about the CdG fragment: it might be apocryphal, but clearly it relates to Hölderlin’s ideas. In his essay “Le meurtre de l’histoire,” D’Hondt quotes Yvon Gauthier from his book L’arc et le cercle : l’essence du langage chez Hegel et Hölderlin: “Bien que ce fragment soit considéré comme douteux, on peut penser qu’il exprime fidèlement les idées de Hölderlin.” (Paris-Montreal: Desclée de Brouwer, 1969, pp. 117-118, note 22, PDF). ↩︎︎
10. The “3” indicated in superscript and reproduced in various translations is not a footnote, but rather follows the German convention for indicating editions of work. Heidegger is quoting from the third edition of the Berliner Ausgabe. The first two editions of the same Berliner Ausgabe were published in 6 volumes (instead of four, for the third edition), and do not carry the fragment Heidegger is discussing.↩︎︎
11. Heidegger’s essay “Hölderlin und das Wesen der Dichtung,” first published in 1937, is dedicated to Norbert von Hellingrath. See Erläuterungen zu Hölderlins Dichtung, GA Vol. 4, ed. by Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herrmann, Frankfurt: Vittorio Klostermann, 1981, p. 33.↩︎︎
12.For a closer examination of these relationships, see also Jacques D’Hondt’s Hegel secret : recherches sur les sources cachées de la pensée de Hegel (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1968, specifically the first chapter of the third part: “Éleusis“). ↩︎︎
13.In German, one can refer to Wolfgang Schieder’s 74-page study tracing the origin of the German word “Kommunismus.” See Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe. Historisches Lexikon zur politisch-sozialen Sprache in Deutschland, Volume 3, Stuttgrart: Klett-Cotta,  2004, pp. 455-529. The CdG fragment however is not mentioned in this document. ↩︎︎
14. In his essay from 1989, while D’Hondt does not refer to Grandjonc’s two-volume study (published the same year), he does refer to a much shorter analysis published by Grandjonc in 1983 (where the CdG fragment is not mentioned): “Quelques dates à propos des termes communiste et communisme” in Mots, Issue no. 7, October 1983, pp. 143-148. ↩︎︎
15. Letter to Casimir Ulrich Böhlendorff, December 4, 1801. Sämtliche Werke (Grosse Stuttgarter Ausgabe), ed. Friedrich Beissner, Adolf Beck, Ute Oelmann, Volume 6, Part 1 “Briefe,” ed. Adolf Beck, Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 1954, Item no. 236, p. 426. ↩︎︎
16. “Friedensfeier,” in Sämtliche Werke (Grosse Stuttgarter Ausgabe), ed. Friedrich Beissner, Adolf Beck, Ute Oelmann, Volume 3, “Hyperion,” ed. Friedrich Beissner, Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 1957, p. 536, line 92. The discovery and publication of “Friedensfeier” in 1954 is surrounded in controversy: see P.H. Gaskill’s “The ‘Fürst des Fests’” in Hölderlin’s ‘Friedensfeier’” (The Modern Language Review, Vol. 65, No. 1, Jan., 1970, pp. 94-115); David Constantine’s Hölderlin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988, pp. 246-250); Jean-Pierre Lefebvre’s “Guerre et paix autour de Friedensfeier” (Études Germaniques, Vol. 2, No. 262, 2011, pp. 239-263). ↩︎︎
• • •
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