Heidegger's Hütte

Fascinating book in the mail yesterday from MIT press: Adam Sharr’s monograph Heidegger’s Hut (foreword by Simon Sadler; prologue by Andrew Benjamin). I have long quarrelled with myself, commentators & other translators if in Paul Celan’s poem “Todtnauberg”, the German “in der / Hütte” should be translated as “in the / hut” & have myself preferred to keep the German word “Hütte” which would, I believe, link the poem more directly to Heidegger for one, and bring over a load of meaning that the Eglish word “hut” does not carry in this specific context. In the case of Sharr’s book this is of course not a problem, though I still can’t think of the place as a “hut” which brings to mind other types of architectural constructs. Be that as it may, as Sadler suggests in his forewrod, “[t]his is the most thorough architectural ‘crit’ of a hut ever set down, the justification for which is that the hut was the setting in which Martin Heidegger wrote phenomenological texts that became touchstones for late-twentieth-century architectural theory.” Of course he wrote many other texts in that place too — as well as using it in 1933/34 for nazi indoctrination sessions. No doubt a place heavily laden with psychic energy-twists, even though a couple years ago I had, out of the blue, two emails from an elderly lady who accused both Celan and me of turning Todtnauberg into a nasty dark place when in fact, she who had lived close by there all her life, knew that it was indeed a peerfectly idyllic place.

Here is the original blurb I wrote for the book, on whose backcover you can find a shortened version:


Here is a fascinating backdoor entry into Heidegger’s (in)famous hut — that mythologically and ontologically so easily over-invested dwelling place in the Black Forest mountains of Southern Germany — from its architectural ground plan and local wood shingles to the loftier reaches of the philosopher’s thought. Author-architect Adam Sharr gives us no fawning laudatio, but a revealing, nonpartisan, demythologizing reflection on the relation between place and thought. In the process he casts Heidegger’s reflection on building, dwelling, and thinking into a new, cooler, and wider light — reaching beyond its specific locale to questions of provincialism versus cosmopolitism, localism of sustainability versus global technological society, authenticity versus agency.


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3 Responses

  1. Andrew Shields says:

    When I translated the Arendt-Heidegger letters, I chose to say “hut” for two reasons. First, it felt right to me. Secondly, it seemed like the word that people usually used. I say “seemed” because it was just a feeling I had; the other options all seemed non-standard, as it were.

    When I received the galleys, the copy editor had changed “hut” to “cabin” all the way through the book. I said I wanted it changed back. I have never dared to check the printed book to see whether the final version contains “hut” or “cabin.”

  2. Andrew Shields says:

    I did actually also want to mention that, living in Basel, I have been to Todtnauberg several times, and it is a beautiful little mountain village, tucked into a beautiful valley. One of the special features of the place is that it is at the end of a dead-end access road, i.e., there’s no thru traffic!

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