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Is this right?

J.P. Stern, 19 April 1990

... How poignant newspaper headlines can be! Like this one: ‘Rabbi Julia Neuberger shares a feeling of permanent exile with the refugee poet’ (Observer, 11 March). And yet I find this a strange bit of information, because last time I saw the Rabbi on the box, laying down the law on some matter of profound moral concern – well, frankly, it wasn’t a permanent feeling of exile she conveyed to me, but a permanent feeling of having a jolly good time, and of being so much at home in the TV studio, you could hardly tell where the Rabbi ended and the studio began ...

Magic Thrift

J.P. Stern, 16 September 1982

Thomas Mann: The Making of an Artist 1875-1911 
by Richard Winston.
Constable, 325 pp., £12.50, April 1982, 0 09 460060 0
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... Richard and Clare Winston are well-known as the authors of elegant and accurate translations of some of Thomas Mann’s essays and correspondence, including The Letters of Thomas Mann, 1889-1955. While annotating that selection, Richard Winston began assembling material for what he intended to be an extensive biography of the writer. It was to be the culmination of a lifetime’s respectful devotion, an act of homage to the work of the man who, more than any other, had represented the German cultural heritage in the age of Hitler ...

Inside Hitler

J.P. Stern, 16 February 1984

Adolf Hitler: The Medical Diaries. The Private Diaries of Dr Theo Morell 
edited by David Irving.
Sidgwick, 309 pp., £10.95, May 1983, 0 283 98981 5
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... Adolf Hitler: The Medical Diaries consists of a translation of the medical records kept by Hitler’s physician, Dr Theodor Morell, and of Mr Irving’s extensive commentaries on those records. Morell, a fashionable Berlin GP specialising in venereal diseases, became the Führer’s personal doctor at Christmas 1936. The elevation, which took place during a visit to Hitler’s retreat on the Obersalzberg, was greeted by Morell’s wife with the oracular words: ‘What do we need with that!’ – a rendering, presumably, of ‘Wozu brauchen wir das?’ The diaries begin in July 1941, a few weeks after the start of the Russian campaign ...

Diary

J.P. Stern: This great wall has fallen down, 7 December 1989

... You are going much too fast,’ Mrs Thatcher said on the News at One on Friday, 10 November, ‘first Poland, then Hungary, then – er, Czechoslovakia, now Eastern Germany ... ’. Heigh-ho, this was Neville Chamberlain’s ‘Czechoslovakia’ all over again, the far-away country of which we know little. The second half of the sentence was omitted from the television interview shown later that day ...

Deutschtum

J.P. Stern, 3 April 1986

Reflections of a Non-Political Man 
by Thomas Mann, translated by Walter Morris.
Lorrimar, 435 pp., £19.50, February 1986, 9780804425858
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... Long before the English began worrying about their national identity, the Germans fought a war to assert theirs – or so many German intellectuals felt in August 1914. Thomas Mann’s contribution to this eruption of nationalist self-consciousness was delivered in a series of essays written over the following four years, and it is among the strangest things he ever wrote ...

Bad Faith

J.P. Stern, 21 July 1983

Franz Kafka’s Loneliness 
by Marthe Robert, translated by Ralph Manheim.
Faber, 251 pp., £12.50, October 1982, 9780571119455
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Kafka’s Narrators 
by Roy Pascal.
Cambridge, 251 pp., £22.50, March 1982, 0 521 24365 3
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The Trial 
by Franz Kafka, translated by Willa Muir and Edwin Muir.
Penguin, 255 pp., £1.75, October 1983, 0 14 000907 8
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Letters to Milena 
by Franz Kafka and Willy Haas, translated by Tania Stern and James Stern.
Penguin, 188 pp., £2.50, June 1983, 0 14 006380 3
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The Penguin Complete Novels of Franz Kafka: ‘The Trial’, ‘The Castle’, ‘America’ 
translated by Willa Muir, illustrated by Edwin Muir.
Penguin, 638 pp., £4.95, June 1983, 0 14 009009 6
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The Penguin Complete Short Stories of Franz Kafka 
edited by Nahum Glatzer.
Penguin, 486 pp., £3.95, June 1983, 0 14 009008 8
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... Marthe Robert is a well-known freelance among French Germanisten. She has written extensively on Freudian theory, on myth and Romanticism, and she collaborated with André Breton on a splendid volume of Lichtenberg’s aphorisms. She is deeply familiar with Kafka’s writings, having translated most of them into French: her knowledge of books on Kafka and the world he lived in is less impressive ...

Impatience

J.P. Stern, 30 August 1990

Unmodern Observations 
by Friedrich Nietzsche, translated by Herbert Golder, Gary Brown and William Arrowsmith.
Yale, 402 pp., £30, February 1990, 0 300 04311 2
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The Importance of Nietzsche 
by Erich Heller.
Chicago, 200 pp., £23.95, February 1989, 0 226 32637 3
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... The four essays the young Nietzsche wrote between August 1873 and July 1876 (as part of a larger project that was never completed) are linked by his concern over the state of German culture after the victorious conclusion of the Franco-Prussian War and the proclamation of the Reich at Versailles in January 1871. These Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen, written while Nietzsche was Professor of Classical Philology at Basle, are here translated as Unmodern Observations by different hands, under the editorship of Professor William Arrowsmith of Boston University ...

Sweet Sin

J.P. Stern, 5 August 1982

Marbot 
by Wolfgang Hildesheimer.
Suhrkamp, 326 pp., May 1981, 3 518 03205 4
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... Wolfgang Hildesheimer has certainly been around a lot. Born in Hamburg in 1916, he belongs to that generation of Germans whom fortune first inexorably divided into victims and perpetrators and then united as bewildered survivors. In 1934 he emigrated with his parents to England and thence to Palestine, where he was apprenticed to a master carpenter ...

Heil Heidegger

J.P. Stern, 20 April 1989

Martin Heidegger: Unterwegs zu seiner Biographie 
by Hugo Ott.
Campus Verlag, 355 pp., DM 48, December 1988, 3 593 34035 6
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... Of the numerous biographical publications on the most problematic of 20th-century philosophers, Hugo Ott’s Martin Heidegger: Toward his Biography stands out as the most detailed and scrupulously accurate. But caveat lector: there is a great deal here that we would not think of as conduct becoming a philosopher or the academic profession in general ...

Germans and the German Past

J.P. Stern, 21 December 1989

The Unmasterable Past: History, Holocaust and German National Identity 
by Charles Maier.
Harvard, 227 pp., £17.95, November 1988, 0 674 92975 6
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Historikerstreit 
Piper, 397 pp., DM 17.80, July 1987, 3 492 10816 4Show More
In Hitler’s Shadow: West German Historians and the Attempt to Escape from the Nazi Past 
by Richard Evans.
Tauris, 196 pp., £12.95, October 1989, 1 85043 146 9
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Why did the heavens not darken? 
by Arno Mayer.
Verso, 510 pp., £19.95, October 1989, 0 86091 267 1
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A German Identity, 1770-1990 
by Harold James.
Weidenfeld, 240 pp., £16.95, March 1989, 9780297795049
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Die Republikaner: Phantombild der neuen Rechten 
by Claus Leggewie.
Rotbuch, 155 pp., May 1989, 3 88022 011 5
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Ich war dabei 
by Franz Schönhuber.
Langen Müller, 356 pp., April 1989, 3 7844 2249 7
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... The ‘white years’ of German history – the period between the end of the war and Adenauer’s first government of 1949 – were notable for two blank spaces in the national consciousness. The first was the space left by community spirit: in the material circumstances that followed on the bombing of Germany’s cities and the unconditional surrender of the German Armed Forces, Volksgemeinschaft, the centrepiece of National Socialist ideology and propaganda, gave way to individual interest, to the spirit of ‘everyone for himself ...

All about Freud

J.P. Stern, 4 August 1988

Freud: A Life for Our Time: A Life in Our Time 
by Peter Gay.
Dent, 810 pp., £16.95, May 1988, 0 460 04761 2
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... Professor Peter Gay is an eminent American cultural historian of German origin, an enthusiastic convert to Freudian doctrine, and an honorary member of the American Psychoanalytical Association – you can’t, as a warmly sympathetic biographer of Freud, do-better than that. The sheer amount of biographical, historical and psychoanalytical detail that has gone into the making of this Life is, as far as I can see, unparalleled in the literature of its subject; and so are the care and informed intelligence with which this stupendous mass of facts, conjectures and speculations has been sifted, as well as the attractive, good-humoured and unstrenuous way most of it has been presented ...

The Matljary Diary

J.P. Stern, 7 August 1980

... In the High Tatra Mountains above M., 28.x.1944. Anniversary of the Founding of the Republic. The fifth under German occupation, and we pray it may be the last. We’d been promised reinforcements today, waited all day, at last they came. What a crew – worse than useless. As far as I can tell they are Prague coffee-house Jews, the lot of them. They all speak Czech – of sorts (! ...

Ardour

J.P. Stern, 3 November 1983

The Sacred Threshold: A Life of Rainer Maria Rilke 
by J.F. Hendry.
Carcanet, 184 pp., £9.95, July 1983, 0 85635 369 8
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Rilke: sein Leben, seine Welt, sein Werk 
by Wolfgang Leppmann.
Scherz Verlag, 483 pp., £11, May 1981, 3 502 18407 0
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Rainer Maria Rilke: Leben und Werk im Bild 
edited by Ingeborg Schnack.
Insel Verlag, 270 pp., £2.55, May 1977, 3 458 01735 6
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... There can be few poets in the whole of European literature whose lives were so single-mindedly dedicated to the pursuit of poetry as was the life of Rainer Maria Rilke. Poetry was the centre and margin, ‘the field and hedgerows’, of his existence. The men whose friendships he cherished, the host of women admirers and aristocratic protectors he met and corresponded with, the women who were or may have been his mistresses, even the children he enchanted with his stories – all these form a network of intimate relationships stretching across almost the entire Continent and centred on the old Austro-Hungarian monarchy, whose decay, collapse and aftermath he witnessed ...

Communism’s Man of Letters

J.P. Stern, 26 September 1991

Georg Lukács: Life, Thought and Politics 
by Arpad Kadarkay.
Blackwell, 538 pp., £45, June 1991, 1 55786 114 5
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... He was born György Bernát Löwinger on 13 April 1885 into one of the richest Budapest families. His father, the son of a quilt-maker from southern Hungary, left school at 13, was made branch manager of the Anglo-Austrian Bank at 24, and changed the family name to Lukács when the boy was five; in 1901 he bought the title of minor nobility, and in 1906 was appointed director of one of the largest credit institutions in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy ...

Canetti’s Later Work

J.P. Stern, 3 July 1986

The Conscience of Words 
by Elias Canetti, translated by Joachim Neugroschel.
Deutsch, 166 pp., £8.95, April 1986, 9780233979007
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The Human Province 
by Elias Canetti, translated by Joachim Neugroschel.
Deutsch, 281 pp., £9.85, October 1985, 0 233 97837 2
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... In The Conscience of Words Elias Canetti has collected 15 mainly literary essays and addresses written between 1964 and 1975 (the German edition, first published in 1975, contained a slightly different selection). The Human Province (first published in 1973) consists of aphorisms and reflections from Canetti’s notebooks, most of them written while he was working on Crowds and Power (1960), which he regards as his most important contribution to 20th-century thought ...

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