No. 5 — August 2007

George Dibbern: His Life and Quest

Adventurer ~ Sailor-Philosoper ~ Free Thinker ~ Self-declared Citizen of the World

Summer got off to a challenging start in that I required emergency surgery to remove a perforated appendix. Fortunately I had completed my writing assignments and had not taken on any new ones, in preparation for my participation as helper/gofer in a building project—the addition to our house of a “room of my own”… I was “out of service” for six weeks and am only now getting back to some semblance of normal. The Dibbern story’s grip on me, however, did not let up!

Bruny Island: Kathy Duncombe, Anna and Alois Stranan In May, Cortes Island friends Anna and Alois Stranan, who were the first to contribute information about George Dibbern from Tasmania (where Anna was an exchange teacher in 1993), travelled back to Tassie to celebrate Alois’ 80th birthday. They took with them, on my behalf, a complimentary copy of Dark Sun and presented it to researcher and writer Kathy Duncombe of the Bruny Island History Room, in Alonnah, Bruny Island—where good old George is remembered as one of the local “characters.”

Kenneth Smith of Christchurch, NZ chanced upon a copy of the UK edition of Quest (London: John Lane The Bodley Head, 1941) in a used book store. Amazingly the dust jacket was still whole and he kindly sent me a full scan, as all I had was a fragment.

Eitel Wolf Dobert
cover blurb

Prussia, Potsdam and the Imperial German Army were the heritage of Eitel Dobert. Too young to fight in the first world war, he was not too young to see the end of Bismarck’s Reich and of the Hohenzollern dynasty, nor to eat for years the bitter bread of German humiliation and inflation. Until, into the midst of this Gethsemane of a people, there stalked the emissaries of the Brown Prophet of Munich. With his generation Dobert marched, obeying the mystic compulsion of the new faith—the promise of a new and restored Fatherland. He became the perfect Storm Trooper, fanatical in devotion to the Leader. Suddenly he decided to visit the strongholds of Democracy, the better to learn how to destroy them. He went to Switzerland and France, but saw only the simple faith of humble people in the dignity of common man. Finding no rancour and no bitterness there, he began to doubt: the impassioned hatreds of the Nazis began to lose validity. He referred his doubts to Hitler, but the Brown Prophet had no answer. Later, he became a convert to Freedom. On the very eve of Hitler’s advent to power he published a last appeal to his countrymen; every remaining liberal element hailed the book—but the sands were already running out. He was forced to flee for his life.This book is Dobert’s story, mirroring the spiritual agony of post-war Germany, and making finally clear the real reason for the rise of Hitlerism in terms of the lives of those who made it possible. To-day Dobert is free—the sworn enemy of intolerance, of Nazi Germany.
10s. 6.d
The Bodley Head
• • • • • • • • •
The blurb on the back of the dust jacket of Quest, promoting a book titled Convert to Freedom by Eitel Wolf Dobert intrigued me: if a Convert to Freedom blurb appeared on Quest, did a Quest blurb appear on the dust jacket of Convert to Freedom? Presumably both books would appeal to the same readers.

I was able to track down E.W. Dobert’s son Peter in Oregon. Peter suggested I contact his brother Stefan in Maryland, who has a copy of their father’s book. Fortunately Stefan’s book still had the full dust jacket, and yes indeed, there is a blurb about Dibbern’s Quest.

Back cover blurb

I, George Dibbern, through long years in different countries and sincere friendship with many people in many lands, feel my place to be outside of nationality, a citizen of the world and a friend of all peoples. I recognize the divine origin of all nations and therefore their value in being as they are, respect their laws, and feel my existence solely as a bridge of good fellowship between them. This is why, on my own ship, I fly my own flag, why I have my own passport, and so place myself without other protection under the good will of the world.

QUEST is Dibbern’s story—an amazing record of a vagabond’s ten-year wanderings at sea in a small boat. One of the human by-products of the disintegration of German democracy, he could not understand what exactly had happened; he was no longer permitted to be an individual, and he had to be an individual, or die. In 1930, breaking all ties both with family and country, he set out to find himself again. In his ketch, Te Rapunga, he ventures far—from Kiel, via Cornwall, to the isles of the Mediterranean, across the Atlantic to Panama, on to Hawaii and the New Zealand of his dreams—now caught up by all manner of friendships and encounters in strange ports, now off again on his voyage without an end. There is much humour and action throughout these sea-swept pages. How his life unfolds as he sails on, and how he finds his own sources of truth and falsehood within himself, is told with a simple sincerity and power, making a strange book that defies conventional analysis.

16s. 6d.

The Bodley Head

I’ve not succeeded in locating a copy of Convert to Freedom at an affordable price, but have settled for what I understand to be the original German version Ein Nazi entdeckt Frankreich. Aus Tagebuchblättern (Bern& Leipzig: Gotthelf, 1932). I’m hoping it will arrive before too much longer.


A new edition of George Dibbern’s book Quest is in the works! It will include an introduction by me; Henry Miller’s original 6 page review/essay which originally appeared in Circle 7-8, 1946; the first letter that Miller wrote to Dibbern after reading Quest, in April 1945; the English original of the foreword Miller wrote for the German edition of Quest (Unter eigener Flagge, 1965). Full details will be announced when the new edition is closer to release–anticipated before the end of 2007.