Vittorio Klostermann – Rarefied Intellectual Spheres
1,497 titles published by Verlag Vittorio Klostermann are currently available in German bookshops. This figure should be enough to correct its rather one-sided image as Heidegger's publishers. The definitive edition of Martin Heidegger's complete works is undoubtedly one of the most significant commitments the company has ever made, but publisher Vittorio E. Klostermann (born 1950), who bears the same name as his father (1901-1977), the firm's founder, points to its far greater range: "Because the figure of Martin Heidegger has such great weight internationally, he naturally plays an important role in the company's profile as well. Even so, there are lots of readers who particularly prize us for our flagship philosophical series, the Philosophische Abhandlungen (Philosophical Monographs), or for our series of Thomas Mann studies, or for our broad range of legal history titles." Apart from this, innumerable individual academic titles and titles from earlier series (romance languages and literature, German language and literature, law, philosophy) can be found in the company's catalogue, as well as an edition of the works of Arnold Gehlen, the Thomas Mann Jahrbuch (Thomas Mann Yearbook) and the paperback Seminar Klostermann list. They have recently been joined by guides to the Kanji, the characters used in Japanese writing, which are to be followed by works on the Chinese characters.
HeideggerThe German philosopher Martin Heidegger did not want there to be a critical and historical edition of his oeuvre. Nevertheless, his complete works are planned to take up 102 volumes. 77 volumes have appeared since 1975, and the intention is to have completed the edition in 10 years time. There is plenty of interest in the project, according to Klostermann: "The original German-language edition alone has about 1,700 subscribers. Since the lion's share have not signed up directly with the company, but through booksellers, we do not know how many of them are private buyers and how many of them are institutional purchasers. However, sales figures of this kind cannot be achieved without an overwhelming majority of private subscriptions. Furthermore, the volumes are also being sold individually in great numbers, and some volumes are already in their third printing. More than half of our German-language edition goes abroad. In parallel to this, however, licensed editions are also appearing in translation in Japan, France, the USA and Italy (to mention only the most important foreign-language markets)."
Unfortunately, Heidegger compromised himself badly during the Third Reich and was viewed for a long time as someone who was not intellectually respectable. This was changed by the reception of his work in France and the USA with the result that his relative significance as a modern philosopher has come to be recognised today. However, the powerful gravitational pull of the philosopher's thought tends to lock his adepts into closed orbits: "Heidegger starts from the beginning in almost every text or lecture… Given that this is the case, no one who takes Heidegger's thought seriously can avoid a thorough examination of the complete works," believes Günther Figal, the editor of the extremely practical Heidegger Lesebuch (Heidegger Reader), which weighs in at just under 400 pages. Studying Heidegger can be a lifelong task, and Figal's collection offers beginners the opportunity to test out whether they are suited to such rarefied intellectual spheres.
German traditionsThe new Thomas Mann Chronik (Thomas Mann Chronicle) shows the value of intensive concentration on a single author. Some people see the great Thomas Mann as a continuation of the even greater Goethe. There is no denying that all the tensions of his time are also reflected in this concise, immaculately researched account of his life. Apart from Heidegger, Klostermann publish a complete edition of Arnold Gehlen, as well as Ernst Jünger and his just-as-erudite brother Friedrich Georg Jünger. These names might raise suspicions that this is a conservative publishing house, an impression the publisher is determined to dispel: "There was certainly a conservative line in the catalogue from the 1950s to the 1970s, but not exclusively. After all, my father's authors included Karl Mannheim, Herbert Marcuse, Werner Krauss and Werner Maihofer, among others. My father felt the quality of the authors was the most important consideration. The crucial thing for him was what they had to say – and the same is true in my case as well."
Publishing companies have to produce good booksThe pressures faced by publishers who place an emphasis on quality are growing all the time, which is why the various public funding programmes are now being joined by initiatives to promote quality work that are coming from the book industry itself. Vittorio Klostermann admits he does not believe German culture is seriously under threat, but he has still been keen to make a contribution: "I am one of the co-founders of the Kurt Wolff Foundation because I felt it was necessary to bring smaller, independent (but still highly professional) publishing companies more to the attention of the public. This has already succeeded to a certain extent, but it becomes evident time and time again that publishing companies really have to produce good books: it is the best way of getting noticed."
Since 1957, the company has been bringing out the comprehensive bibliography of German linguistic and literary studies known as Eppelsheimer-Köttelwesch, an online version of which has also been available since 2004, proving that the committed booklovers at Klostermann have no fear of modern digital technology. To his pleasure, Vittorio E. Klostermann has discovered that books are the most frequently purchased medium on the Internet. Maybe the Heideggerians will soon have a nice, practical DVD to look forward to.
Books published by Vittorio Klostermann:
Vittorio Klostermann. Frankfurt am Main. 1930-2000. Verlagsgeschichte und Bibliografie (Vittorio Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main 1930-2000: Company History and Bibliography), 387 pp.
Martin Heidegger: Gesamtausgabe. III. Abteilung. Unveröffentlichte Abhandlungen-Vorträge-Gedachtes (Complete Works, Part III: Private Monographs and Lectures), vol. 64, Der Begriff der Zeit (The Concept of Time), 2004, 133 pp.
Heidegger Lesebuch (Heidegger Reader), edited by Günter Figal, Seminar Klostermann, 2007, 399 pp.
Kurt Flasch: Was ist Zeit? Augustinus von Hippo. Das XI. Buch der Confessiones. Text-Übersetzung-Kommentar (What is Time? Augustine of Hippo: Book 11 of the Confessions, Text-Translation-Commentary), Seminar Klostermann, 2004, pp. 438
Gert Heine/Paul Schommer: Thomas Mann Chronik 1875-1955 (Thomas Mann Chronicle 1875-1955), 2004, 626 pp.
J. W. Heisig/R. Rauther: Die Kanji lernen und behalten. Bedeutung und Schreibweise der japanischen Schriftzeichen (Learning and Remembering the Kanji: The Significance and Forms of the Japanese Characters), 2005, 570 pp.
Winfried Hassemer: Erscheinungsformen des modernen Rechts (Manifestations of Modern Law), 2007, 263 pp.
Freelance journalist, Berlin
Translation: Martin Pearce
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e.V., Online-Redaktion
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