Historical Guests

Portofino, a World apart
March 2009

Ernst Bloch in Portofino

Ernst Bloch, who was part of that intellectual circle in Heidelberg that included the sociologist Max Weber, Karl Jaspers, the founder of German existentialism, and the hungarian Marxist philosopher Gyorgy Lukaks, was a great German philosopher of Jewish origins who opposed the Nazis and left Germany in exile in many European cities and then in America. In 1927 the philosopher stayed for quite some time in Portofino in a little house in the hills with the young polish girl Karola. Twenty years younger than him, she would eventually become his second wife.

There was still no electricity in that house and the philosopher had to write by the light of an oil lamp which he brought with him whenever he came to Italy. It’s true that progressstill wasn’t as diffuse then, but houses without electricity were rare in 1927. Evidently Diogene was searching for the man with the lantern and he …. with the oil lamp. He had already writtenThe Spirit of Utopia” which is one of his most important works and which the twenty-two years old Karola struggled to read and understand. Bloch was working on “The Inheritance of This Time” in which examined the phenomenon of nazism. On occasion, in a pause from his work, he would bring his young companion to a trattoria in Corte for dinner. Sometimes they would take a walk up to the top of Portofino mountain.

After the war he returned to Europe. Naturally he was welcomed, good Marxist that he was ,in East Germany. But when he becameaware of the excesses of communism on the occasion of the events in Hungary in 1956 he decided to go to Tuebingen, the university city in the federal German Republic and there he would die in 1977. The young blond Karola who was always active in the changing political times, survived him and in 1981 she remembered in his biography “Aus meinem Leben” (My life) the period spent in Portofino and Santa Margherita Ligure.

Ernst Bloch
1885 – 1977

Portofino, a World apart.