Perhaps the secondary school teachers have given him a bad name with their dull learning-by-heart and stupid interpretations of ballads and familiar quotations. For in fact Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805) is one of the most spirited figures in German-speaking literature. While the French Revolution raged in Paris, Schiller revolutionized the history of German thought – first in Stuttgart and then in Jena and Weimar. His personality was charismatic, his enthusiasm contagious, and he had a gift for making great friendships. What Schiller set in motion – even Goethe was carried away by it – was later named "German Idealism", and Beethoven turned it into music: "Freude, schöner Gotterfunken…".
This book reestablishes the broken connection to a true genius. Rüdiger Safranski traces the life of a litery giant – from his bleak beginnings at the Karlsschule in Stuttgart to the final years in Weimar when undiminished willpower enabled him to wrest his late work from a body wrecked with illness – and explains why Schiller could become, alongside Goethe, the brightest star of German intellectual life. His biography is also a portrait of a creative epoch that brought onto the same stage not only Schiller and Goethe but also Novalis, Hölderlin, Schelling, the Schlegel brothers, Fichte, the young Hegel, Tieck, and Brentano – and it may well mark the beginning of a Schiller renaissance.
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