Ernst Jünger’s Dangerous Encounter—the Detective Closes the Case on the Adventurer

Martin Rosenstock


Ernst Jünger’s detective novel Eine gefährliche Begegnung (1985) dramatizes a clash between the concept of adventure and the principles of order and modern scientific inquiry. Set in Paris, in 1888, the text tells the story of a murder investigation. Two adventurers embody, respectively, adventure’s origins in medieval chivalry and adventure’s eighteenth- and nineteenth-century form of colonial exploration; the detective embodies nineteenth-century advances in applied science as well as modern anthropological and psychological theories. Jünger’s narrative engages with defining nineteenth-century texts, such as Bertillon’s writings on anthropometric identification, Cesare Lombroso’s theories on the nature of the criminal, and Gustave Le Bon’s analysis of mass psychology. These texts articulate a rationalist ethos, advocated in Jünger’s novel by the detective. The opposing principles of unregulated individual freedom and a fanciful code of honor, embodied by the adventurers, are depicted as relics of a bygone age, whose passing can only be lamented, not remedied.

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