Highlights: German Leitkultur

In light of recently figuring out where I’m going to live for the next year of my life (Berlin, Germany, and I’m 3:2 excited:terrified), I hit up Foreign Affairs’ list of “essential reading on German politics.” Not everything is about Hitler (though a lot is), and for those among us who actually care about Germany’s historical role in Europe, I highly recommend Timothy Garton-Ash’s In Europe’s Name: Germany and the Divided Continent, which I’m about a third of the way through. It’s also probably a good idea for me to amp up my cultural repertoire by finally reading The Tin Drum or The Magic Mountain or any other piece of renowned twentieth-century German fiction (incidentally, The Magic Mountain figured prominently in an otherwise-forgettable book I read a few years back called Beginner’s Greek by James Collins, in which the protagonist meets the girl of his dreams on a plane. She’s identified as such by the dog-eared Mann novel in her lap, so if nothing else, reading this particular book should augment my chances of meeting pretentious strangers on cross-country flights.)

But right now, the book getting all the attention is former Bundesbank director Thilo Sarrazin’s Deutschland Schafft Sich Ab: Wie wir unser Land aufs Spiel setzen, or Germany Abolishes Itself: How We Are Putting Our Country at Risk, which seems to be one long, extended rant about low German birthrates and Muslim infiltration. Granted, my definition of “attention” is based on the American news media’s coverage of a possible “resurgence” of German nationalism, as well as the book’s prominent display in shops in the Düsseldorf airport, but nevertheless, Timothy Garton-Ash’s review in The New York Review of Books is a really good, fair exposition on Germany’s shifting national identity. It’s worth mentioning that Sarrazin was forced to resign his position after publication of his book, and that any of the shit people say in the US about immigrants—or their own President—is more than rhetorically comparable, but I guess those are the breaks of talking about how great it is to be German in a “post-Holocaust world.” :-/

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