The Politics of Memory: Looking for Germany in the New Germany

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9780679448723: The Politics of Memory: Looking for Germany in the New Germany
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In this illuminating, beautifully written collection of essays, the acclaimed New Yorker writer reports on the zeitgeist of reunified Germany. Jane Kramer surveys the fraught moral and political landscape of today's Germany, where the reunification of East and West has brought into conflict two vastly different memories of what it means to "be German."

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Germany has been the planet's most perplexing country this century. A prime instigator of World War I, it quickly rebounded from an annihilating defeat in that conflict to rise as a nationalist aggressor with designs on world domination. The latter half of the century has found Germany prospering as an economic power while serving as the dividing line--and then unifying locus--of East and West. Where the country's actual identity lies is the topic of consideration for this collection of essays. In this illuminating compilation, Jane Kramer, a frequent contributor to The New Yorker, addresses the role of Germany's lurking past in its attempts to embrace the future.

From Kirkus Reviews:

In her latest collection of her ``Letters from Europe'' for the New Yorker, Kramer (Whose Art Is It?, 1994, etc.) ponders the fate of post-Wall Germany. In six long essays from November 1988 to August 1995, Kramer offers snapshots of a nation struggling through a difficult transition, evolving from the divided Germany of the Cold War to the uneasily reunified Germany of today. The Germans, she writes in her introduction, ``discovered that it was hard to be ordinary folks . . . when you had a Holocaust in your history.'' But the presence of the Holocaust is only implied in all but the last two pieces, one on skinhead violence in the city of Ludwigshafen and the other on Berlin's debate over how to memorialize the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis. In the first four essays, the dilemma hangs like an unidentified cloud over Germans who strive to be ``ordinary.'' However, the most visible presence in all six pieces is the Wall and its ghosts. In her November 1991 piece ``Berlin,'' Kramer treats the German capital as a city in which East and West are still clearly demarcated. In ``Peter Schmidt'' and ``Stasi'' she reveals the problems that the former East Germans have brought to the unification party, particularly an odd, troubling passivity. Kramer is not a scintillating prose stylist, but she is an excellent reporter. Equally important, she has a sure grasp of the architecture of the long feature piece; the six essays in this volume are superbly structured. It would have been nice, however, to know what happened to the principal players here in the years since the articles were written. Thoughtful, insightful writing, a convincing portrait of contemporary Germany, and a forceful cautionary tale: After all, every time the Germans have had a ``German problem,'' it has become as a problem for everyone else, too. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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9780517284407: The Politics of Memory

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