“Marvelous. . . . Wonderfully imaginative. . . . Sparkling.”-Wall Street Journal
“Stunning. . . . Read this book: in equal measure it will give you hope and trouble your dreams.”-Laura Dassow Walls, author of Henry David Thoreau: A Life and Passage to Cosmos: Alexander von Humboldt’s Shaping of America
Georg Forster (1754-94) was in many ways self-taught and rarely had two cents to rub together, but he became one of the most dynamic figures of the Enlightenment: a brilliant writer, naturalist, explorer, illustrator, translator-and a revolutionary. Granted the extraordinary opportunity to sail around the world as part of Captain James Cook’s fabled crew, Forster touched icebergs, walked the beaches of Tahiti, visited far-flung foreign nations, lived with purported cannibals, and crossed oceans and the equator. Forster recounted the journey in his 1777 book A Voyage Round the World, a work of travel and science that not only established Forster as one of the most accomplished stylists of the time-and led some to credit him as the inventor of the literary travel narrative-but also influenced other German trailblazers of scientific and literary writing, most notably Alexander von Humboldt. A superb essayist, Forster made lasting contributions to our scientific-and especially botanical and ornithological-knowledge of the South Seas.
Having witnessed more egalitarian societies in the southern hemisphere, Forster returned after more than three years at sea to a monarchist Europe entering the era of revolution. When, following the French Revolution of 1789, French forces occupied the German city of Mainz, Forster became a leading political actor in the founding of the Republic of Mainz-the first democratic state on German soil.
In an age of Kantian reason, Forster privileged experience. He claimed a deep connection between nature and reason, nature and politics, nature and revolution. His politics was radical in its understanding of revolution as a natural phenomenon, and in this often overlooked way his many facets-as voyager, naturalist, and revolutionary-were intertwined.
Yet, in the constellation of the Enlightenment’s trailblazing naturalists, scientists, political thinkers, and writers, Forster’s star remains relatively dim today: the Republic of Mainz was crushed, and Forster died in exile in Paris. This book is the source of illumination that Forster’s journey so greatly deserves. Tracing the arc of this unheralded polymath’s short life, Georg Forster explores both his contributions to literature and science and the enduring relationship between nature and politics that threaded through his extraordinary four decades.
2016--Winner of the Leipzig Book Fair Prize (Non-fiction) 2015--Winner of the Gleim Literature Prize "A rich and exciting book. . . . It imagines Forster as a thinker and therefore the relationship of the two main parts of his biography--circumnavigation and revolution--unite for the first time."--Gustav Seibt "S ddeutsche Zeitung " "The two key concepts of the era, 'nature' and 'revolution, ' which were in Forster's thinking and actions, Goldstein reconstructs in an impressive way: in a thrilling, lucid style drawing on Forster's diaries, letters, and works."--Oliver Pfohlmann "Neue Z rcher Zeitung " "The revolution is not a figment, but a natural phenomenon, a 'self-ignition of the reason' for Forster. To have developed this relationship, a 'natural revolution, ' from Forster's natural and human science is Goldstein's no small merit."--Alexander Kosenina "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung " "Goldstein explores Forster's experience of life and the ambivalent relationship between nature and philosophy. He shows Forster as more than a shipwrecked hero, but rather as an insightful thinker who was as bold as he was stoic."--Benedikt Erenz "ZEIT " "Using extensive quotes, Goldstein thrillingly depicts Forster's great journey, the impressions and ordeals of which are said to have remained with him for life."--Janika Gelinek "Neue Z rcher Zeitung " "An extraordinary life story that is thrilling to read."--Lina Kokaly "Radio Bremen "
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