Svenska Dagbladet on Hanna Engelmeier’s essay COMFORT

Michael Ekman has reviewed Hanna Engelmeier’s COMFORT. FOUR EXERCISES (Matthes & Seitz Berlin 2021) for Svenska Dagbladet.

»A child can be comforted by an ice cream, but where can an adult find comfort? In her collection of essays „Comfort“, German cultural scientist Hanna Engelmeier draws on writers such as Rilke, Adorno, David Foster Wallace and Barbro Lindgren in her search for solidarity in the face of desolation.«

»The need to seek comfort in writing may be ancient. The subtle wisdom in this book is as sobering as it is uplifting, as surprising as it is magnificent. In short, it’s to die for!« Judith Schalansky

That reading is far more than the meaningful grasping of letters is shown by the four exercises that this essay gathers. They bring reading together with writing, listening, praying and enjoying: Franz Xaver Kappus, known to few today, inspired Rilke through his letters to explore the fundamentals of poetry that continue to inspire writers (and readers) today. The audio recording of David Foster Wallace’s speech „This Is Water“ and a radio play on Walt Disney’s Aristocats attest to a reading that is listening. Eileen Myles finds a role model as a child in reading a Joan of Arc comic, and Adorno indulges in ice cream alongside criticism. In this constriction of critique and enthusiasm, canon and pop, everyday life and aesthetics, personal and theoretical offen reveals with each successive chapter exactly what the title promises: four exercises that celebrate text and by-text cleverly, full of wit, yet with seriousness, and add up to a quiet but unconditional reading recommendation for hard times and not-so-hard times.

»In her essay, [Engelmeier] succeeds in respecting the small without underestimating the large, which should be comforting for some readers, and simply gratifying for everyone else.«Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Hanna Engelmeier, born in Münster in 1983, works as a research assistant at the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities in Essen. She received her doctorate with a thesis on the history of German anthropology at the time of the early Darwin reception. Since 2014, she has been a writer for the magazine Merkur, where her column on „Physical Training“ has been running since the beginning of this year.