Germania a personal history of germans ancient and modern
Leo’s review of Germania: A Personal History of Germans Ancient and Modern
Ancient Germanic History - ROBERT SEPEHR
Independent culture newsletter
While the British generally contemplate their European neighbours with puzzlement, none arouses a greater sense of bafflement than the Germans. Moreover, until Napoleon set about tidying up the map in the early s, these were a sprawl of more than sovereign or quasi-sovereign territories, ranging in size from substantial provinces to pocket-sized fiefdoms with barely a single town, and extending at various times east-west from modern-day Poland to the Netherlands, and north-south from the Baltic to Tuscany. Do not expect the fastidious balance or the dusty prose of the lecture room. This is history as a vast and enthralling shaggy-dog story: but one in which the Rottweiler of ignorant stereotype is made to yield place to gentler and more sophisticated breeds. Where English dukes competed with each other over the quality of their hounds, their German equivalents vied with each other over the excellence of their opera houses. Discernment was never a coefficient of wealth.
About a third of the way through this book, Simon Winder recalls his 16th birthday, which happened to fall on the same weekend as that of a German school friend. The two boys swapped notes. Winder rashly went first: he had celebrated his birthday at home with his parents and sisters, eaten a Chinese take-away and listened to his present, Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits; the whole thing had been absolutely fantastic. The German friend countered by announcing that he had been given a motorbike and had slept with a friend of his mum's. Get The International Pack for free for your first 30 days for unlimited Smartphone and Tablet access.
Robert Colvile delights in Germania by Simon Winder, a quirky alternative history of the Deutsch countries.
you re a badass book review
Why a Booktrail?
Germany's museums are crammed full of groundbreaking maps and globes such as this one, which seems particularly ironic given that the country's own borders have, through the ages, been consistent only in their inconsistency. As confessed museophile Simon Winder notes in his cheerful tour through German history, historical maps of the country resemble nothing so much as "an explosion in a jigsaw factory". Germania is an apt title for Winder's project, not because the province of the Roman empire bears much of a resemblance to the place we know nowadays, but because Roman senator Tacitus's book of the same name has managed to fire up the German historical imagination like few others.
As Simon Winder explains: "Germany is shunned for a very good reason - the enormity of its actions in part of the last century. Nonetheless, it has historically been one of the most fertile and creative regions of Europe - and is today its richest nation - so there is something askew here which Winder, who calls it "the lost country", is trying to correct with his account of things and people Germanic. He takes it roughly in chronological order but wants to be popular, so the tone is jolly and whimsical from the start: "I have spent many years chewing over German history Tacitus, who called the region "Germania", praised these barbaric tribes for the very qualities - ruggedness, stupidity, honourableness, utter belligerence - which Prussia, then Hitler, attempted to revive 2, years later. Rightly he decides to end in , the book has already bitten off more than it can chew and the terminal accounts of Viennese modernism pre, the Great Depression and Isherwood's Weimar Berlin are skimpy as these are huge subjects in their own right. All this is better than nothing but Winder's approach, which he describes as "anecdotal facetiousness", has serious drawbacks.