Martin Bodmer and the Promise of World Literature
Martin Bodmer and the Promise of World Literature [Martin Bodmer et les promesses de la littérature mondiale] is an essay by Jérôme David that maps Martin Bodmer’s intellectual trajectory onto the turbulent history of the 20th century. Bodmer initially saw his collection as a history of the human imagination over four millennia before coming to think of it, with Hitler’s rise to power, as one of the only possible refuges for humanism, then besieged by Nazi myths. Over the 1950s, Bodmer would come to see his massive library in the context a mystical temptation: assembling a unified Totality of human culture, and thereby offering a glimpse at a higher power.
In this essay, the reader learns that Bodmer’s efforts with the International Committee of the Red Cross were driven by the same ideals as those that motivated his intellectual and curatorial enterprise. The Bibliotheca Bodmeriana is a realisation of the “Spirit of Geneva” in the literary realm: a material utopia in the service of world peace.
Jérôme David, Martin Bodmer et les promesses de la littérature mondiale, Paris, Editions d'Ithaque, 2018. 165 pages.