It was also in Cuba that he began his epic narrative poem, “The Sinking of the Titanic,” which explores the lasting fascination with myths of catastrophe and considers the weaknesses of modern society. In it he wrote: “I saw the iceberg, looming high/ and cold, like a cold fata morgana,/ it drifted slowly, irrevocably,/ white, nearer to me.”

Mr. Enzensberger returned to Germany in 1979 and settled in Munich, where he started a publishing house, The Other Library, which helped develop young authors, including the German novelist W.G. Sebald and the Polish writer and journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski.

Many of his later essays and books focused on the state of Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism in the Soviet bloc. He remained fiercely political, outspoken in his support of the Persian Gulf War, and created a stir when he compared Saddam Hussein of Iraq to Hitler.

In his book “Civil Wars,” which explored evolving ideas of nationalism and community by comparing the bloodshed from the breakup of Yugoslavia to the urban riots in the United States in the 1990s, Mr. Enzensberger described a world defined by an “inability to distinguish between destruction and self-destruction.” In this world, he wrote, “there is no longer any need to legitimize your actions. Violence has freed itself from ideology.”

Yet even as he contemplated humanity at its worst, he infused his writings with a sly wit that rendered them almost comic. In an essay published in The Times in 1975, “A Brief Note On Doom,” he looked at what he called the “secularization” of the Apocalypse in the modern world, calling Doom “the Last Word in Entertainment, or “a commodity like any other.”

Regardless, he concluded that Doom was here to stay, writing, “Today everything will go on, a little worse maybe than last week, but not noticeably different.”



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