Hyperion is a novel of stirring lyricism, philosophical sublimity, and historic importance. Originally published in two volumes in 1797 and 1799, it is the only novel by the great German lyric poet Friedrich Hölderlin, and stands among his most extraordinary achievements. The novel is composed of a series of letters written by a Greek hermit to a German friend. The protagonist recounts the pivotal phases of his life, from his discovery of the vanished glory of antiquity, through his encounter with his beloved Diotima, who embodies his goal of merging with “the All of nature,” to his participation in a Greek uprising against Ottoman Turkish rule. Hyperion explores the striving for harmonious unity, the struggle for freedom and a better world, and the divinity of nature and love.
In the euphonious movement of its prose, in the sublimity and beauty of the figures that appear in it, it makes an impression upon me similar to the beat of the waves of the troubled sea. Indeed, this prose is music, soft melting sounds interrupted by painful dissonances, finally expiring in dark, uncanny dirges.
— Friedrich Nietzsche
But if there were words in which to grasp the relation between myth and the inner life from which the later poem sprang it would be those of Hölderlin. 'Myths, which take leave of the earth, / ... They return to mankind.'
— Walter Benjamin
The German poet Friedrich Hölderlin unquestionably belongs in the intense company of Shelley, Kleist, Novalis, Lenz, and Büchner…. [Hölderlin] is one of the great writers’ lives, full of intensity and movement, work and projects, abrupt departures and friendships ….it was reading Hölderlin that gave Rilke the impetus for his Duino Elegies.
— Michael Hofmann