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Hans Fallada










Hans Fallada,
A Stranger in My Own Country, translated by Allan Blunden (Polity, 2014)















                  What's New
Forty films made during the Nazi era remain banned in Germany today. Felix Moeller has put (parts of) them together in one new documentary.  (j.b. spins, 1/18/15; The New Yorker, 1/22/15) "US museum professionals have largely accepted the mantra that 'less is more.' Designers often prevail on curators to shorten exhibit labels, refine story lines and let artifacts breathe. In Germany, by contrast, thoroughness remains the summum bonum."  (The Nation, 1/13/15) During his confinement in a state psychiatric prison in the fall of 1944, Hans Fallada secretly recorded his reflections on life under National Socialism. Now A Stranger in My Own Country: The 1944 Prison Diary has been published in English.  (The Brooklyn Rail, 10/3/14; The Economist, 1/3/15)


                  Pegida, Nogida, and Charlie Hebdo
"Germany has come a long way since even the early ’90s. And rather than causing violence, Pegida has set off a public debate on Germany’s national identity. This is long overdue."  (The New York Times, 1/22/15) "Germany's anti-Islamic movement Pegida is a vampire we must slay," writes Timothy Garton Ash.  (The Guardian, 1/18/15) And the Unwort des Jahres 2014 is....Lügenpresse. (The Atlantic, 1/14/15)


                   Music
Forty-five years since they started out, Kraftwerk’s influence is everywhere, in every pop genre you can think of – and quite a few you can’t...Kraftwerk’s mechanical cadences have become the soundtrack of our lives."  (The Spectator, 1/19/15) Go back to the musical future in Röbel, Germany, home of the largest vinyl pressing factory in Europe.  (The Guardian, 1/7/15) "Beethoven is a singularity in the history of art—a phenomenon of dazzling and disconcerting force."  (The New Yorker, 10/20/14; New Statesman, 1/15/15)


                  Art & Design
"US museum professionals have largely accepted the mantra that 'less is more.' Designers often prevail on curators to shorten exhibit labels, refine story lines and let artifacts breathe. In Germany, by contrast, thoroughness remains the summum bonum."  (The Nation, 1/13/15) Designer Wilhelm Deffke was a master in the "precisionist art of graphic reductionism, influencing subsequent generations to transform literal objects and characters into stark, symbolic, sometimes comical logos."  (The Atlantic, 1/15/15) "In the hierarchy-averse scene that Berlin still purports to maintain, authenticity is code for information; the authentic artist...is defined by her ability to navigate the scene that money can’t buy. Ironically, this proves to be highly marketable."  (The Paris Review, 1/5/15)


                  Books & Ideas
"After their return to the homeland that had expelled them, Jewish emigrants became irreplaceable teachers for a younger generation." Jürgen Habermas recalls the exiled Jewish scholars who returned to the Federal Republic of Germany.  (Tablet, 11/12/14) "Since the fall of the Berlin wall, a rich literary culture has emerged that grapples not only with Germany's past but also the multilayered experiences of the present and struggles over German identity."  (World Literature Today, 11/2014) Catholic philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand "was keenly aware of the grievous failures of Christians under Nazism. Yet he never wavered in his conviction that Christianity was the only spiritual force powerful enough to contend with humanity’s capacity for evil."  (The Daily Beast, 12/26/14)


                  Film
Forty films made during the Nazi era remain banned in Germany today. Felix Moeller has put (parts of) them together in one new documentary.  (j.b. spins, 1/18/15; The New Yorker, 1/22/15) "There is not, as yet, any prize given for 'best supporting location' at the Academy Awards. But Görlitz, 60 miles east of Dresden on the German-Polish border, has a history of doing well at the Oscars."  (The Guardian, 1/19/15) "An amateur is a force of nature, which is why a satisfying performance by an amateur is overwhelming and awe-inspiring, as seen in the 1930 silent film 'People on Sunday'" (Menschen am Sonntag).  (The New Yorker, 1/14/15)


                  Theater
Decades before Lennon and McCartney, Brecht and Weill had an opposites-attract partnership that transformed musical theater.  (Los Angeles Times, 1/2/15; The New York Times, 1/5/15) "Anti-Brechtians charge Mother Courage and its creator with being irritatingly didactic, insufferably self-important, and full of maddening contradictions. It’s all true, of course. And it’s this very spirit -- irascible, indomitable -- that makes the play (and Mother C.) so irresistible."  (The Daily Beast, 9/10/14) The latest productions at Berlin's Maxim Gorki Theater "stick out a playfully defiant tongue at German assimilationism's wagging white finger." (n+1, 8/29/14)


                  History
In Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer, Bettina Stangneth sheds new light on the "banality of evil" and Eichmann's undeterred ideological convictions.  (Jewish Review of Books, Fall 2014; The New York Times, 9/4/14; The New York Times, 9/21/14; The Atlantic, 10/8/14; The Guardian, 10/17/14) In Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity, Robert Beachy shows "how nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century German thought and culture helped to shape the way we think about homosexuality and sexual identity."  (The New York Times, 10/31/14; The Barnes and Noble Review, 11/17/14; NPR, 12/17/14; The New Yorker, 1/26/15) Do you long for the days when RIAS ruled the airwaves, and West Berlin was the place to be for avoiding military service? It could be a case of Westalgie.  (Deutsche Welle, 1/7/15) 


                  Et Cetera
"To be sure, Germany's liberal political culture, a result of its Western integration is here to stay. But it remains to be seen whether Germany will continue to align itself with its Western partners and stand up for Western norms as it becomes more dependent on non-Western countries for its economic growth."  (Foreign Affairs, Jan/Feb 2015) "Has Britain revised the postwar image of Germany, its favorite enemy, as that nation’s dozen years of Nazi rule recede in the collective memory?"  (The New York Times, 12/23/14) "For almost 70 years, people in Herzogenaurach, Germany, have been fighting a civil war over Adidas and Puma shoes. But peace may be at hand."  (The Wall Street Journal, 12/30/14)