Friday, December 16, 2005

Appelfeld in Germany

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz has a feature on the novelist Aharon Appelfeld's visit to Germany to pick up the Nelly Sachs Prize.
Appelfeld's acceptance speech was as precise and measured as his books. He has a genius for creating emotional drama that is devoid of pathos. By relating a story involving a single scene, by evoking a simple metaphor, with just a few words he arouses a tumult of emotions in his audience.
Born in the same town as Paul Celan, Appelfeld notices a change in the Germans, the people who murdered his mother: 'they have a deep aversion to nationalism and fanaticism'.
This is my third visit and the feeling is that something has happened. One sees that there is a crisis in German culture. They are undergoing a process of Europization and drawing close, let's say, to the French. The young people have a great deal of historical and general knowledge; they do not have the German obsessiveness or the obedience and discipline. They represent a new democratic and responsible tradition.
Hence, one might add, their ability to influence their government to oppose the invasion of Iraq. Hence, no doubt, the contempt for modern Germany expressed by British neocons like Daniel Johnson of the Daily Telegraph. He wrote a disgraceful review of Sebald's Airwar book - not online - about which I'm still bitter. Here's my response at the time (and no, it wasn't printed).

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