Felix Hartlaub

Italian Journey - Diary of a Study Trip 1931

With drawings by the author. Edited by Nikola Herweg and Harald Tausch
(German title: Italienische Reise)
ca. 104 pages
Felix Hartlaub
Foto: Felix Hartlaub

Felix Hartlaub was born in 1913 in Bremen and died (missing) in 1945 in Berlin.

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»Everything is fabulously light and teeming, lustrous and festive.«

Felix Hartlaub (1913-1945), one of the great hopes of 20th Century German literature, went missing in Berlin in 1945 on one of the last days of the war. A historian by profession, Hartlaub left behind a small literary œuvre – his central work are his »Notebooks from the Second World War«, written in 1940/41 in occupied Paris, and later in the Führer Headquarters.

»His task [there] was to collect the news of the war effort as it came in and synthesise it into coherent narratives. Hartlaub was convinced the war was pointless and his position meant he was well informed about the way the war was actually going. A historian and an avowed European – ›I still can’t help but view Europe as a unity of multiplicities […]. The humiliation of one of the great European nations at the hands of another is always something incomprehensible, embarrassing‹ – in his letters he travelled back to a time when he visited these neighbouring countries not as a soldier of the occupying forces but as a tourist in search of the great European artistic heritage.« (from the afterword to Italian Journey)

Now published for the first time on the basis of a previously unknown manuscript recently discovered in the literary archive in Marbach, these diaries show how Hartlaub, the son of an art historian, began his career as an observer in words and drawings on this study trip to Italy undertaken in 1931 when he was still in school. His impressionistic and stylistically ambitious sketches capture the landscapes, places and ambiances of his journey from Basel to Florence, some of which he made on foot. In contrast to his later war diaries, people occupy a marginal position in his descriptions. In the latter half, the focus is on aesthetic observations – of architecture, museums, and artworks. The text is accompanied by more than thirty original drawings by the author.

An early document of a true master of penetrating feeling and observation who died before his time.