Dark Fates

Frank Kermode

  • The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald
    Flamingo, 226 pp, £14.99, September 1995, ISBN 0 00 223912 4

Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Blue Flower is a historical novel based on the life of the poet, aphorist, novelist, Friedrich von Hardenberg, a Saxon nobleman who wrote under the name of Novalis and lived from 1772 to 1801. He figures largely in all accounts of the German literature of the time, and Georg Lukács is not much more extravagant than other critics in calling him the only Romantic poet. He spoke of the need to romanticise the world by the action of intellect and imagination; in this novel he parodies his teacher Fichte, crying: ‘Have you thought the washbasket? Now then, gentlemen, let your thought be on that that thought the washbasket!’ He also dwelt on self-annihilation, and in his last years made a cult of death.

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