Eternity Enshrined in Black and White
“Letters are just thinner books,” Jean Paul once said, and that certainly holds true in his case. His love letters – to Charlotte von Kalb, Emilie von Berlepsch, Caroline von Feuchtersleben and many more – represent some of the most beautiful examples of German writing extant. His correspondence with colleagues such as Jacobi and Tieck is laid out on different literary templates, and contains equally shining examples of different literary genres, including the Platonic dialogue and essais in the fashion of Montaigne. Dealing with everything under the sun, these missives probe the spirit of the time, including its darker aspects, yet are inexorably imbued with Jean Paul’s characteristically sardonic flair: he wonders, for example, what would happen if “a group of close friends sat down at a table together and sent one another letters across it.” .