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!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

German introspection

I’ve spent 7 weeks so far in Koln – Germany’s fourth largest urban district. The same time I spent in Berlin in 1964. It is my first real venture into the country since all of 50 years ago. The bubble in which I existed then and there was, of course, a very different one from the one in which I am presently enveloped.
I was 22 then, just finished University, living in a room in a small Berlin flat and encountering a new civilisation for the first time - as student pressures were building prior to the 1968 explosion. And it was a mere 3 years after I had seen with my own eyes (and from a train crossing East Germany parallel with Russian tanks) the first bricks of the Berlin wall being laid.
Now I’m in an affluent Koln suburb making a daily crossing of the Rhein to receive medical treatment and trying to understand the Germans through bookshops rather than friendships.
Helmut Schmidt remains big here – about 8 of his books spread on a table in the huge 3 storey bookshop on Neumarkt (plus 2 of his late wife's; and 2 of his daughter Susanne's. The latter is a financial journalist).
From a great remaindered bookshop nearby I had last week picked up for 5 euros Deutschland for Beginners which was published in English in 2007 by Ben Donald as Springtime for Germany. It’s a light-hearted romp through the country which seems to have annoyed most of its British readers none of whom seem to have spotted the basic logic of the book’s chapter structure – words which go to the core of German identity such as
  • weltschmerz;
  • angst
  • gemutlichkeit
  • gesundheit
  • kindergarten
  • schadenfreude
  • zeitgeist
  • lebensraum
  • wanderlust
  • weltmeister
I'm enjoying the book - which I'm able to read (slowly) in German making my usual pencilled annotations for later checking.
I spotted several “zeitgeist” titles about the country aimed more at a German audience on the Koln bookshelves – such as Stefan Gaertner’s Deutschlandmeise – forays into a crazy country (2012) which seems a rather hurriedly-written set of notes for a satire on German tourist resorts.
Mein Deutschland, dein Deutschland by Stamer and Buhrow (2011) records the first impressions of Germany of a journalist couple after being absent in France and the USA for more than a decade; and a highly controversial tour of Germany - Allein unter Deutschen by New York based Israeli Tuvia Tenenbom (2012) was initially refused publication for its scurrilous accusations about German racism;.
The most interesting, however, looked Die Rupelrepublik - The Bully Republic – why we are so unsociable by Jorg Schindler (2012).

No comments:

Post a Comment