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Hyperion, or, The Hermit in Greece
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1001 book reviews > Hyperion by Friedrich Holderlin

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Tatjana JP | 295 comments Rating: 3 stars
This book is a must read, although it is not an easy read. Holderlin's biography is truly impressive: friend of Hegel and Schelling, Fichte's student, acquaintance of Goethe, Schiller and Novalis this German writer became Nietzsche's favorite poet, while his ideology was appropriate by Nazis.
In Hyperion, only novel he wrote Holderlin was impressed by ancient Greece. That's why he made his main character a Greek. A novel has not so easy to read epistolary form, and after a while you realize is going back in chronology. The novel mostly is a philosophical and not at all story driven selection of various thoughts and reflections of life and death, nature and its beauty, friendship and patriotism.
At the end of the novel Holderlin is strongly criticizing German thinking of the time, and is fascinated by ancient Greece and their philosophy, democracy, times of heroes and mythology.


Diane  | 2051 comments Rating: 3.5 stars

Although not an easy read, it was much easier than I anticipated, given the year it was written and the fact that it is translated. Holderlin's skills as a poet shine through in the lovely prose. I would love to read some of the author's poetry.

The love interest of the hermit in the book was based on Holderlin's lover, who was also his boss's wife. They had to part ways when their affair was discovered and she died shortly thereafter of influenza. It is believed that this loss contributed to his descent into mental illness. Even though the book was written before her death, there are a lot of parallels between the main character and the author.


message 3: by Pip (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pip | 1482 comments This is not an easy read despite the excellent translation by Ross Archibald which was publlished in 2018. It is a series of letters from Hyperion, who is Greek, to a German friend. Epistolary novels were all the rage in the 1790's. It was published in two volumes, published two years apart. Hyperion is a romantic figure who first idealises Ancient Greece and then joins a war to expel the Turks from Greece. He idealises his soldiers in the same way that he idealised antiquity and is disillusioned when his soldiers go on a bloody rampage. The war is lost, his one true love has died of a broken heart in his absence and he renounces the world to live as a hermit, having excoriated modern Germany first. Classic romantic subject matter. However, even in translation it is possible to appreciate the wonderful imagery he evokes.


Book Wormy | 2082 comments Mod
3 stars on this one.

I feel I would have gotten more from it if it was a school book with someone to guide you through all the symbolism and meaning as a casual reader I appreciated the poetic use of language, I rolled my eyes at all the melodrama and ultimately despite only finishing this last night most of it has already leaked out of my brain.


Gail (gailifer) | 1540 comments Hyperion; or, The Hermit in Greece is a classic romantic German novel written in the late 1790's which has the unique distinction at the time of displaying a series of events and having the narrator record both the reactions to those events at the time they happened and the reactions to those events at the time of the writing. Hyperion is living as a hermit in Greece at the time that he launches into his recollections through writing letters to a friend Bellarmin. He chronicles a number of life cycles of joy and grief, joy being introduced in the ideal of a man Alabanda who symbolizes the individual human ideal and the love of action, and Diotima who symbolizes the ideals of quiet oneness with nature and beauty. Hyperion loves them both but comes to grief when he sets out with Alabanda to fight in a Greek fight for independence from the Turks. Ultimately he loses them both and exiles himself first to a fragmented Germany and finally to a Greek island. However, as he works through his recollections Hyperion come to a point whereby he knows that engaging in the world through his writing is a method of balancing the two disjunctive ideals.
The romantic language is both powerful and distracting to this modern reader.


Leni Iversen (leniverse) | 483 comments Pro:
-Poetic prose
-Sublime nature descriptions and expressive imagery
-Early case of bisexual protagonist
-Influenced Nietzsche's early work
-Lots to discuss

Con:
-Excessive imagery and nature descriptions
-Melodrama
-So Much Drama!
-Protagonist has mood swings that can give a reader whiplash; he's up and down like a yo-yo, often in the space of one sentence. Admittedly sentences tend to run long, with that very German aversion to the full stop.

This will never be a favourite of mine, but I might still read it again in the future. Or maybe just dip in and out so I can bob around in the pretty and pompous prose.


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