Michael Hofmann at n+1:
THE WORD “GENIAL” IN ENGLISH conveys pleasantness as much as genius: it takes the chill off what otherwise can be a cold and lonely quality. That fits it for the German polymath Hans Magnus Enzensberger (1929–2022), who was both a genius and a charming, inquisitive, and endlessly productive man, who, further, like only the very greatest, was entirely lacking in self-regard. You wouldn’t want to keep pace with his entry in Who’s Who, but then you didn’t have to. Friends called him Magnus, and I wrote to him in the Latin vocative as Care Magne and visited him several times in Munich. Once, I missed the last train, and stayed over in his guest room. Of course. No problem. He would ask me about Florida, which he pronounced as Flo-ri-da—with the Cuban pronunciation, as I realized after years. He had a wonderful capacity for taking an interest—but only in interesting things, not to be mistaken for the perverse and arid professional quality that specializes in making something but only out of nothing. In fact, we didn’t meet as professionals. What brought us together wasn’t “shop,” or the biz, I didn’t “ask what he was writing,” we exchanged perspectives, we met as temperaments or as tastes (where I corresponded to maybe 5 or 10 percent of his sweep).