In Rudolf Borchardt’s favorite foe, Stefan George, Adorno encounters another early twentieth-century poet whose politics were defined by a proudly antithetical, reactionary and elitist stance. While George has become something of a curiosity today-it has certainly been a long time since he was considered “the most powerful man in the world,”2 and both the man and his work are as likely to elicit amusement as admiration-his name still evokes the image of the quintessentially aestheticist and exclusive poet and prophet,3 “a modern Socrates who held his disciples with a fascination at once erotic and spiritual,”4 and whose exclusive circle manifested an absolute refusal to deal with the banalities of the outside world. Adorno’s fascination with George, however, reaches far beyond an interest in the nimbus associated with the poet-which, on all accounts, is something one should refrain from trying to revive.5 Throughout his career, Adorno repeatedly turned his critical attention to George, first in the form of a now lost essay on George’s neglected prose writings, followed in 1940 by a review essay on the correspondence between George and Hugo von Hofmannsthal that played an important part in his intellectual friendship with Walter Benjamin, who credited Adorno with “having accomplished this unseasonable and thankless task, that of ‘saving’ George” (CC 339; BW 429).6 Like Schönberg and Webern, whom he admired, Adorno even ventured to set four of George’s poems to music. After Benjamin’s death, Adorno based the bulk of the argument in his 1957 “Speech On Lyric Poetry and Society” [“Rede über Lyrik und Gesellschaft”] on George’s poetry, placing him in a genealogical line with Goethe and Mörike. His last work on the poet bears the simple

title “George.” First delivering the text as a radio address in 1967, Adorno did not find the time to turn it into a written essay. After Adorno’s death in 1969, the editors included a transcript of the radio essay in the posthumous fourth volume of the Notes to Literature, where it immediately precedes the essay on Borchardt. While the text on Borchardt serves as an introduction to an edition of the latter’s poetry, the piece on George is conceived of as a “virtual” introduction to a collection of poetry that Adorno never edited.7 If offered to him, he probably would have welcomed the opportunity.