Ms. Sommerfeld, meanwhile, felt “anxious” and “repelled.”
Today, she hopes her own fringe movement is tapping into a shifting zeitgeist that will reverberate in Germany and beyond, just as his did in its day.
“We are the megaphone of a silent majority,” she claims.
Mr. Lethen dismisses the analogy.
“We were moved by a yearning for the world, we looked to the future,” he said. “They are moved by the yearning to go back to the womb of Teutonic tradition. It is a nostalgia for a past that never was.”
So far-reaching are their ideological differences that they seem impossible to reconcile with a relationship borne from romance that began when she was a university student and wrote a dissertation titled “How to be moral.” She caught Mr. Lethen’s eye in his seminar, and they became beguiled by each other’s intellect.
After sharing a bed for two decades and interests in Kant and gardening and bringing up their three sons, they are still talking.
“Familiarity with the other side is good,” she said.
“Talking is better than not talking,” he said.
This much they can agree on.
Goethe and Goebbels share a crammed bookshelf in the living room of their 19th century Viennese apartment. In the kitchen a wedding photo is framed with the words: Love will never end.