‘Language and End Time’ is a translation of Sections I, IV and V of ‘Sprache und Endzeit’, a substantial essay by Günther Anders that was published in eight instalments in the Austrian journal FORVM from 1989 to 1991 (the full essay consists of 38 sections). The original essay was planned for inclusion in the third (unrealised) volume of The Obsolescence of Human Beings. ‘Language and End Time’ builds on the diagnosis of ‘our blindness toward the apocalypse’ that was advanced in the first volume of The Obsolescence in 1956. The essay asks if there is a language that is capable of making us fully comprehend the looming ‘man-made apocalypse’. In response to this, it offers a critique of philosophical jargon and of the putatively ‘objective’ language of (nuclear) science, which are both dismissed as unsuitable. Sections I, IV and V introduce this core problematic. The selection of this text for inclusion in this special journal issue responds to present-day realities that inscribe Anders’s reflections on nuclear science and the nuclear situation into new contexts. The critique that ‘Language and End Time’ advances resonates with the way in which the (undemocratic) decisions of a few companies and individuals are shaping the future of life on earth. At the same time, the wider stakes of Anders’s turn against the language employed by (weapons) scientists are newly laid bare by the realities and politics of climate change and fake news. In this new context, the language of science is all too readily dismissed as if it were a mere idiom that can be ignored without consequence. It is against the backdrop of a future that is, if anything, more uncertain than at the time of Anders’s writing, that the essay’s reflections on popularisation, the limits of language and the nature of truth gain added significance.
- the postliterary