A Black Forest Walden

Conversations with Henry David Thoreau and Marlonbrando

By David Farrell Krell

Subjects: American Literature, Literary Criticism, Continental Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, Environmental Studies
Series: SUNY series, Insinuations: Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, Literature
Hardcover : 9781438488493, 294 pages, May 2022
Paperback : 9781438488486, 294 pages, November 2022

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Table of contents


1. Silent snowfall

2. The colors of snow; or, where beauty is

3. In the still of the night

4. The snowplow

5. Ice wings

6. The Storm Beech

7. The Moon and Venus

8. The cabin; or, plucking the raisins

9. The past has not passed

10. Neighbors

11. But where's the pond?

12. River of fog

13. My "office"

14. Conversations with Marlon Brando?

15. Ice wings, Part Two

16. Douglas the Fir

17. Aurora

18. Freaks of nature; or, lighting fires and mourning the woods

19. H.D. in bed

20. Maudlin and bathetic

21. Add your dreams, and not just the sexy ones!

22. Tell Marlonbrando your dreams, honey, and everything will be all right

23. Neighbors, Part Two: Herr S.W.

24. The darkness of the woods

25. Monarchs in December

26. The limits of description

27. The limits of knowledge

28. Black and white

29. Fool's spring

30. A reflection on consumer society; or, a Romantic has his uses

31. The deserving poor

32. A succession of beautiful days

33. Neighbors, Part Three: Wolfgang

34. La pensée du jour

35. The smartphone in high mountains

36. The new adventures of Pinocchio

37. News of the world

38. On the difference between European and American "values"

39. Tell Marlonbrando your dreams, honey, and everything will be all right, Part Two

40. On the degeneration of poetry to chemistry

41. Platonism and Puritanism keep us on our spiritual toes

42. Neighbors, Part Four: Frau S.M.

43. Let's (not!) do lunch

44. The perfect universe

45. Autarchy; or, fatties beware!

46. Woodchuck Heaven

47. Mudslide Man

48. Knowing beans

49. Tell Marlonbrando your dreams, honey, and everything will be all right, Part Three

50. Moving mountains

51. Obscene spring

52. On jealousy and brutalization

53. The bowlegged larch

54. Speculative gardening

55. Former inhabitants

56. The two corners of Melville's smile

57. Thaw and Thor

58. Former inhabitants, Part Two

59. Taking the arm of an elm tree

60. Thoreau's serviceable body

61. On loneliness; or, snap out of it!

62. The work of mourning

63. A cautionary note

64. Hurry up, please, it's time

65. Return to sender

66. Former inhabitants, Part Three

67. A snippet on schnapps

68. Tell Marlonbrando your dreams, honey, and everything will be all right, Part Four

69. Doubling up

70. My little chickadee!

71. Home Entertainment Center

72. Neighbors, Part Five: Rüdiger

73. The forlorn pair of shoes

74. The forlorn BMW

75. Kids

76. Henry's mom and dad

77. More work of mourning

78. Tell Marlonbrando your dreams, honey, and everything will be all right, Part Five

79. Old people

80. About that blackbird

81. Former inhabitants, Part Four: The lover suspended in the rafters

82. On doing good

83. Organized religion

84. Tell Marlonbrando your dreams, honey, and everything will be all right, Part Six

85. Living in the present

86. Out of doors

87. Bronchitis? Pneumonia?

88. Day, season, and year

89. The bloody truth about trees

90. The head monkey at Paris

91. On the gift-giving vice

92. Losing the whole world

93. Knowing when to break up

94. Accentuate the negative

95. Prejudice

96. How to become just friends

97. Faithless fidelity

98. Advice to the lovelorn

99. Books

100. Former inhabitants . . . of color . . . at Walden Pond

101. Crooked genius, crooked rules

102. Art is not yet weaned

103. Life is not yet weaned

104. Problematic praxis

105. The Copernican Revolution?

106. New beech leaves

107. God bless the American Igel; or, true patriotism

108. One more angel story, the last one, I promise

109. Creationism

110. Capital punishment

111. May fog

112. Thoreau's model farm

113. The water works

114. There is nothing inorganic

115. The ashes of once living things

116. The katzenjammer of birds

117. The wolf spider

118. A morning hike

119. Music of the rain

120. Tell Marlonbrando your dreams, honey, and everything will be all right, Part Seven

121. Save your hay

122. A day's journey

123. Dream and catastrophe; or, the politics of archaeology

124. And then the sky fell

125. Still more work

126. Life stammers on

127. Pinions

128. The logic of error; or, a modest disquisition on the synthesis of being, time, and truth

129. Tell Marlonbrando your dreams, honey, and everything will be all right, Part Eight and Last

130. Cabin smells

131. Desperately sad

132. Self-confidence

133. Polonius

134. Sea of fog

135. Sunworshiper fog

136. Weather can be extraordinarily precise

137. The man in the moon

138. Breaking News: Marlonbrando confesses all!

139. Extra-vagance

140. September mood

141. Periwinkle and ivy

142. To see and say it all

143. Marlonbrando sees the light

144. The power of the past tense

145. From the mountains of Saint Ulrich to the prairies of Chicagoland?

146. Life is at bottom indestructibly powerful and pleasurable

List of Illustrations

Compares life today in the German Black Forest with Thoreau's experiences at Walden Pond.


Finalist for the 2022 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award in the Essay Category

A Black Forest Walden is a work of philosophical reflection, nature description, and sly humor. In brief chapters, or aphorisms, the American philosopher David Farrell Krell recounts his experiences in a cabin located in the mountains of southern Germany's Black Forest, where he has lived for several decades. Insofar as Krell compares his experiences with those of Henry David Thoreau, who serves as both inspiration and irritation, the book could be described as a critical commentary on Thoreau's Walden. Yet it equally reads as a rigorous yet playful and profoundly literary manifestation of where and how the mind wanders. Hence, the "Marlonbrando" of the subtitle is not the late actor but a feral cat who frequents the cabin and comes to be an important interlocutor, as if playing the role of analyst to the author. The subjects Krell treats are wide-ranging: the changing seasons, environmental issues, romantic love, parent-child relations, European versus American "values," higher education, artistic creativity, solitude, and the contrast between lifestyles in a quiet Black Forest village and in a noisy contemporary United States. Forty-one black-and-white photographs taken by the author accompany and enliven the text.

David Farrell Krell is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at DePaul University and Brauer Distinguished Visiting Professor at Brown University. His many books include The Cudgel and the Caress: Reflections on Cruelty and Tenderness, also published by SUNY Press.


"The work is a literary masterpiece of sorts. Perhaps the greatest strength lies in the powerful descriptions of what Krell experiences and encounters during his life of solitude, a solitude that seems to intensify rather than dilute the attunement to life. I found it to be a compelling, at times spellbinding, read." — Walter A. Brogan, author of Heidegger and Aristotle: The Twofoldness of Being