Struck by Apollo

Hölderlin's Journeys to Bordeaux and Back and Beyond

By David Farrell Krell

Subjects: Philosophy, Literary Criticism, Psychology, German Studies, Poetry, Romanticism
Series: SUNY series, Insinuations: Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, Literature
Hardcover : 9781438495026, 250 pages, October 2023
Paperback : 9781438495033, 250 pages, April 2024

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

Prologue: Who Is This Hölderlin?

1. The Achievement

2. The Journey to Bordeaux

3. “Its Floor Is the Sea”

4. The Journey Back

5. Heroic Tenderness in the Louvre

6. Beyond Bordeaux and Back

Epilogue: Viva la joia!
List of Illustrations

Retraces Hölderlin's journeys to Bordeaux and back in 1801–02, explaining why they are turning points in the great poet's life.


In the winter of 1801–02, Friedrich Hölderlin traveled more than one thousand kilometers from his home near Stuttgart to Bordeaux, partly on foot, partly by post coach. It took him two months. Then, after four months serving as a tutor, he inexplicably decided to return home. Not long after he set out, his coach was held up by highwaymen, and, with no money, he had to walk the rest of the way. By the time he arrived, he was so disheveled and disoriented his friends did not recognize him. Though Hölderlin was just thirty-two years old, the trip marked the beginning of the end of his active life as one of Germany's greatest poets and thinkers.

With more than sixty black-and-white photographs by the author and eighteen historical route maps, Struck by Apollo follows Hölderlin to Bordeaux and back and beyond. David Farrell Krell retraces the journeys in striking detail, reflecting on their significance for Hölderlin's life and work in ways that will interest a wide swath of fellow thinkers and travelers.

David Farrell Krell is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, DePaul University; Brauer Visiting Professor of German Studies, Brown University; and Visiting Professor of Philosophy, University of Freiburg, Germany. He is the author of A Black Forest Walden: Conversations with Henry David Thoreau and Marlonbrando and The Cudgel and the Caress: Reflections on Cruelty and Tenderness, both also published by SUNY Press.


"Traveling with a German neighbor affectionally called 'Joe,' Krell reconstructs and repeats Hölderlin's legendary trip from Nürtingen to Bordeaux and back again. Struck by Apollo is what I would call a philosophical picaresque—a journey that prompts biographical, philosophical, and literary musings, as well as educated speculations and profound reflections. For lovers of Hölderlin, it is a sheer delight." — Jason M. Wirth, author of Schelling's Practice of the Wild: Time, Art, Imagination