Foucault’s time in Hamburg has been commemorated with a plaque on the building he worked in.
It’s reproduced and discussed in this newsletter, sent to me by Melissa Pawelski. Melissa has also provided this translation of the plaque and the comment, which I share here with her permission.
As Director of the Institut Français lived and worked in this building from October 1959 until September 1960 the French philosopher
He organised for the Institute a wide-ranging cultural programme with lectures, film, theatre and music nights, readings and official receptions. Foucault brought “L’école des veuves” by Jean Cocteau to the stage, received amongst others Roland Barthes and Alain Robbe-Grillet as his guests. His courses for the University of Hamburg took place in this building too. Foucault also started his explorations of the city and his wanderings through the (gay) district of St. Pauli. He finished the manuscript of his first great book “Histoire de la folie” during this year in Hamburg as well as his French translation of Kant’s “Anthropologie in pragmatischer Hinsicht” (1798). Foucault’s stay in Hamburg marks the end of his years of doctoral research and time spent abroad in the first instance; it was the year of his public breakthrough in France, which was followed by a world-wide career.
Comment by Marc Widmann:
Hardly anyone knows it: in Heimhuder Straße 55 in Rotherbaum district lived one of the greatest French thinkers. Michel Foucault lived there from October 1959 until September 1960, when he served as director of the Institute Francais in the same building. “He was markedly active”, said Rainer Nicolaysen from the University of Hamburg yesterday at the inauguration of the commemorative plaque. Foucault brought well-known writers to Hamburg, stage-managed the play “L’école des veuves” by Jean-Cocteau, translated Kant, gave courses for students – and at night wandered through the gay subculture of St.Pauli. He also took prominent guests with him to this neighbourhood (Kiez). These guests were astonished that Foucault was known everywhere and was addressed as “Herr Doktor”, although his doctoral work “Histoire de la folie” was not yet finished. Shortly afterwards it became his first great success. An article worth-reading on the history of Foucault [in Hamburg] can be found here.