10/01/2009

Nemo, eternal returning

A common idea in 19th century was that of an eternal recurrence of all things, initiated by statistical phantasies in Lagrange's books on mathematical astronomy. The key text about it was written by Blanqui. Walter Benjamin took Blanqui's philosophical essay on a kind of eternal recurrence as the most intense and explicit expression of the spirit of the 19th century after the loss of the ideals of the french revolution. Blanqui wrote it in prison, where he was denied to read anything than science books, which included Lagrange's analytical mechanics. Nietzsche took the idea up and - aside the idea of evolution - it caused him for a long time to think about studying the natural sciences. Earlier, Blanqui had been the head of a kind of secret army of revolutionaires, described by Toqueville as strange and frightening outcasts when they stormed the french parlament or national assembly. He was declared war by the french government before making him a kind of mythical figure: "the man of 40 years prison". The extensive quotes of Blanqui in Benjamin's "The Arcades Project" sound so similar to statements of Cpt. Nemo in Verne's novel that I wonder if Verne took Blanqui as model for that figure. Then, the faszinosum of Verne's Nemo would come from the bad conscience of the philistines for having betrayed the "wretched of the earth"s hopes and sufferings at the french revolution, turned into a fairy tale, like the horrors of the thirty years war in Germany return in Grimm's fairy tales.