what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

getting to know the Germans

Last year I dared to recommend “getting to know the Bulgarians through their painters” (of the last 100 years) and to produce a small book about it. Now I've had the idea of trying to understand the Germans through their literature of the past 50 years. I’ve been gripped by a book I picked up a couple of days ago (for 1.5 euros) called Light Years – a short history of German literature from 1945 to the present, available, sadly, only in German. It’s very far from being your normal, dry listing of worthy books – but rather a series of short and very human vignettes by Volker Weidermann (of the FAZ) of German writers as they struggled to make a living in post-war Germany. I’m almost half way through – and already feel I have made a lot of new friends. 
As I’ve mentioned already in this series of postings I’ve been doing in the past 2 months from Koln (20 so far), anglo-saxons wanting to read about European countries are well served with countries such as France, Italy and Spain but starved when it comes to Germany. There is no contemporary John Ardagh writing – despite the best efforts of Simon Winder and Peter Watson. Of course there’s no apparent market for such books – apart, perhaps, from those taking short-trips to Berlin for stag parties! But Germany is so vast, diverse and culturally rich that it definitely deserves far more books devoted to it than the dreadful choice currently available eg Spring Time for Germany - a little better, admittedly, than the stuff which Roger Boyes has been inflicting on the British public. Watson's "German Genius" or Winder's "Germania" are not the easiest of reads.
I see that there is a "very short introduction" to German Literature available on the Amazon site - it will be interesting to read it - and compare with the Weidermann text.

In a small way, Weidermann's book reminds me of the magnum opus of Clive James – "Cultural Amnesia" - which gave us a few pages apiece on European writers of the last century (most neglected) and was indeed tempted to alert him to Weidermann’s book - not least because of this profile. 
I've been one of James' camp followers for some 40 years and cannot imagine a world without him (see his website!!). I find him one of the world's best wordsmiths and renaissance men! One of the very few people I would like to spend some hours with. I was, first, captivated by his songs with Pete Atkin (the 1970s?); amused with his TV commentaries (written and TV); seduced by his autobiographies; and then stunned with his massive "Cultural Amnesia"

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