Die Nachtwachen des Bonaventura

Die Nachtwachen des Bonaventura; The Night Watches of Bonaventura (1804, date on title page 1805)

This fictional text is divided into sixteen chapters or ‘night watches’. The anti-hero, Kreuzgang, is a former poet who has become a night watchman. As he witnesses the errors of his fellow human beings, he suffers from romantic agony, and considers life to be a grotesque joke.

The authorship of the text is uncertain and it was variously attributed to F.G. Wetzel, F.W.J. Schelling, Ludwig Tieck, E.T.A. Hoffmann and Clemens Brentano.

In 1987 Ruth Haag provided evidence that Ernst August Friedrich Klingemann (1777-1831) is the author, on the basis that Klingemann included the text in a handwritten list of his published works (see further reading list below).

The Nachtwachen anticipate the existential pessimism of Schopenhauer.

Bilingual Edition

Die Nachtwachen des Bonaventura; The Night Watches of Bonaventura, ed. and trans. by Gerald Gillespie, Edinburgh Bilingual Library 6 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1972)

Further Reading in English

Gerald Gillespie, ‘Bonaventura’s Romantic Agony: Prevision of an Art of Existential Despair’, Modern Language Notes 85 (1970), 697-726

Gerald Gillespie, ‘Night-Piece and Tail-Piece: Bonaventura’s Relation to Hogarth’, Arcadia 8 (1973), 284-95

Further Reading in German

Ruth Haag, ‘Noch einmal. Der Verfasser der “Nachtwachen von Bonaventura”, 1804’, Euphorion 81 (1987)