24. Grasping Hermeneutics*

Peter Szondi was a very important influence, in my personal and intellectual life first of all, but equally in the history of my work, thanks to the discussions we carried on for more than twelve years about literatures—of which he was a marvelous connoisseur and judge—and about the theory of interpretation. His dense and demonstrative essays have surely transformed literary studies, and they have even more effectively rehabilitated the status and the rights of reflection in this area. After his death, I was asked to edit, with the help of some of his students, a major posthumous work that was published starting in 1971 by Suhrkamp (Frankfurt); the work included his truly innovative Einführung in die literarische Hermeneutik (Introduction to Literary Hermeneutics). The pages that follow constitute the afterword to the French edition (Paris, 1989). [1]
The course of the same name marked a turning point in Szondi’s positions. He had combated the idea that works have an internal autonomy based on a system of established values that can be rendered explicit, although the system itself had not been questioned; consequently, he had emphasized the stages of social and historical mediation. Then, during the 1960s, he came to take the construction of the works increasingly into consideration, by including forms of poetic expression through the aesthetic character of textuality. This new orientation led him to take an interest in the birth of a non-theological hermeneutics, proper to literature, starting in the eighteenth century. Countering Gadamer, he showed what an immense liberation had come to light at the point when, pulling away from general hermeneutics, another more specific gaze, anticipating Mallarmé, had striven to shed light on the technical problems of verbal creation and composition.


[ back ] * Originally published as “Dire les herméneutiques,” in: Jean Bollack, La Grèce de personne: les mots sous le mythe (Paris, 1997), pp. 115–116.
[ back ] 1. See belowf, Chap. 25.