The most famous philosopher of Gorizia Karl Michelstaedter

The most famous philosopher of Gorizia Karl Michelstaedter

This year marks the 110th anniversary of the death of Carl Michelstaedter, the most famous philosopher from Gorizia, who is considered by some to be one of the most important European philosophers of the 20th century. Many are still confused by his sad fate. On the day he completed his dissertation "Persuasion and Rhetoric" (it. La persuasione e la retorica), in which he criticized modern bourgeois society, the young C. Michelstaedter committed suicide. After an argument with his mother, on October 17, 1910, he shot himself with a revolver in his home apartment in Travnik in Gorizia. He was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Rožna Dolina near Gorica.

A family of Gorizian Jews, irredentists

Carlo Raimondo Michelstaedter, in Hebrew Ghedalià Ram, was born on June 3, 1887, as the youngest of four children in a family of emancipated and secularized Gorizian Jews, father Albert Abram Michelstaedter and mother Emma Coen Luzzatto. He was influenced by kinship ties with the Jewish families Reggio and Luzzatto. His father's grandfather was the well-known Rabbi of Gorizia, Isacco Samuele Reggio (1784–1855), an important representative of the Haskalah movement or Jewish reformism. Carl's maternal aunt was Carolina Coen Luzzatto (1837–1919), an ardent Gorizian irredentist, journalist, and the first woman to hold the editorial position of any Italian daily.

The liberal-minded Michelstaedter family supported the irredentist movement, which also influenced Carl and his attitude towards Slovenes, especially during his education at the German grammar school in Gorizia. Carlo wrote a lot in the last months before his death, including short compositions and poems, and also painted a lot in between. In addition to his diploma, he devoted himself in particular to the work "Dialogue on Health" (it. Dialogo della salute). It is a philosophical conversation between two friends, Nin and Rico (Enrico), in the mouth of the latter he puts all the important theses about belief, which are also contained in his dissertation, in which he criticized modern bourgeois society. Despite the intense work, he felt lonely. He found understanding and encouragement in his mother, who was very concerned about the well-being of her son Carl. Just a few weeks before the tragic suicide, they exchanged several emotional letters. There is no sign of suicide in them. Carlo Michelstaedter sent his last letter on October 5, 1910, to the secretariat of the University of Florence. It contains a notice of the imminent completion of the diploma.

Kosovel on Michelstaedter

Anyone who would like to know more about the unfortunate Carl Michelstaedter should pick up Miha Kosovel's excellent diploma "Belief and Rhetoric with Carl Michelstaedter", which the author defended years ago at the Faculty of Arts and Theology in Ljubljana. More about Carl and his work will also be in the new issue of Zvon 6 magazine.

Renato Podbersic

Related articles