Non-fiction books – religion, society, history and cultural history

György Dalos: Geschichte der Russlanddeutschen. Von Katharina der Großen bis zur Gegenwart © C. H. Beck Verlag, Munich, 2014

György Dalos
Geschichte der Russlanddeutschen.
Von Katharina der Großen bis zur Gegenwart

German-born Russian Empress Catherine the Great encouraged thousands of her compatriots who were willing to emigrate on account of poverty or for religious reasons to the under-populated Russian Empire in the mid-seventeenth century. Despite, or even because of two world wars, this colonisation project appears in the historical memory to be the signum of a golden age. Both sides benefitted. Russia gained new subjects who were willing to work, disciplined and literate. The Germans gained land, loans, religious freedom and self-administration; they were exempt from paying taxes for years and in principal they were also exempt from military service (…); thus they had a clear advantage over ordinary Russians.More ...
Heike Geißler: Saisonarbeit © SpectorBooks, Leipzig, 2014

Heike Geißler

“From now on, you will go out and be me. Please note that that means you are female, because it is sometimes important. You are a writer and translator, and right now you have two sons and a partner who suits you, which is something you know most of the time. Before you left, your partner wished you lots of luck and repeated that you didn’t have to do it. But that is not true, you do have to do it, you have to do whatever you can to bring in some money.”More ...
Thomas Gnielka: Als Kindersoldat in Auschwitz. Die Geschichte einer Klasse © Europäische Verlagsanstalt, Hamburg, 2014

Thomas Gnielka
Als Kindersoldat in Auschwitz. Die Geschichte einer Klasse

The children forgot Auschwitz afterwards. They blotted out of their memory the whole inconceivable eternity when, as 15-year-old Berlin grammar school pupils with a humanist schooling, they were signed up as anti-aircraft artillery helpers on the Eastern Front from January 1944 onwards. That was how they ended up in Auschwitz, on duty as it were, until the liberation of the extermination camp on 27 January 1945.More ...
Karl-Heinz Göttert: Mythos Redemacht. Eine andere Geschichte der Rhetorik © S. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, 2015

Karl-Heinz Göttert
Mythos Redemacht. Eine andere Geschichte der Rhetorik

The retired Cologne German scholar Karl-Heinz Göttert, who wrote a history of the voice a few years ago, sees classical rhetoric as being under threat from the current short-windedness of politics and the media, but he takes an optimistic starting point. It is a worthwhile enterprise for anyone observing or participating in current debates to occupy themselves with the history of eloquence. Göttert’s “alternative history of rhetoric” takes as its starting point the fact that he, like so many other people, was fascinated by Barack Obama’s speeches in the American preliminaries and election campaign: “So it did still exist, the great speech.”More ...
Norbert Grob: Fritz Lang – „Ich bin ein Augenmensch“. Biographie © Propyläen Verlag, Munich, 2014

Norbert Grob
Fritz Lang – „Ich bin ein Augenmensch“. Biographie

In the first extensive biography to be published about the film director, Ich bin ein Augenmensch (I am a Man of Sight), Mainz film scholar Norbert Grob shows that Fritz Lang’s work can be understood much more profoundly through his personality, his contradictions, his fears, his love affairs and his foibles. This book, which is enamoured with detail in the best sense of the word, portrays Lang as a medium of his time, hungry for culture, and surprisingly cheerful.More ...
Jürgen Kaube: Im Reformhaus. Zur Krise des Bildungssystems © Zu Klampen Verlag, Springe, 2015

Jürgen Kaube
Im Reformhaus. Zur Krise des Bildungssystems

The public discussion of education crises has long been a literary genre in its own right, and there are always people who join in with passion. Jürgen Kaube, the new editor-in-chief at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, has observed these phenomena very closely in recent years. With his rare gift of being able not only to see but to stand this misery, he has now published a smugly bitter guide in which he takes a stroll to observe the wretched state of education in Germany. But the terms wretched state of education and educational crisis can lead to misunderstanding. It is not education itself that is the problem, but the constant fervour with which it is mistreated with reform efforts.More ...
Navid Kermani: Ungläubiges Staunen. Über das Christentum © C. H. Beck Verlag, Munich, 2015

Navid Kermani
Ungläubiges Staunen. Über das Christentum

In the beginning was wonder. That is the pre-Socratic answer to the question of the primal impulse of philosophical thinking. Yet wonder also stands at the beginning of religion. It is in the divine that the believer finds the object of his wonder. Thus, the title of Navid Kermani’s new book itself plays associatively with fundamental questions of human existence – and stereotypical attributes. If a committed Muslim takes it upon himself to argue about Christianity, the traditional interpretation is that this can only be mere presumption, the presumption of an “unbeliever”. Both elements of this interpretation are wrong.More ...
Victor Klemperer: Man möchte immer weinen und lachen in einem. Revolutionstagebuch 1919 © Aufbau Verlag Berlin, 2015

Victor Klemperer
Man möchte immer weinen und lachen in einem. Revolutionstagebuch 1919

For Klemperer, writing was not just part of his vocation as a literary scholar; it was a constant part of his everyday life. His diaries from the Nazi period are gripping, unique documents about how Jews were stripped of their rights and persecuted in Germany, about the war’s effects on the population and the Hitler regime’s anti-intellectual policies. When the Aufbau Verlag achieved this publishing feat in 1995, it had a forceful effect; the double volume weighing two kilograms became an international bestseller. (...)More ...
Ralf Konersmann: Die Unruhe der Welt © S. Fischer Verlag Frankfurt am Main, 2015

Ralf Konersmann
Die Unruhe der Welt

The curse "You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth" was the second expulsion that irrevocably brought unrest into the world as the pervading force that shapes culture and civilisation. In his genealogical exploration of this state of being, Ralf Konersmann tells the biblical story not in relation to crime and punishment, but to a sense of being that now seems self-evident. So self-evident that the question no longer arises as to why people give up peace and quiet to seek their happiness in an active life, work and constant change, and to value the possible world more than the existing one. (..)More ...
Tilmann Lahme: Die Manns. Geschichte einer Familie © S. Fischer Verlag Frankfurt am Main, 2015

Tilmann Lahme
Die Manns. Geschichte einer Familie

“Later, people will write books about us – not only about us individually". That was a diary entry made by the eldest son, Klaus Mann, in the summer of 1936. Later, that’s now. (…)
For what we now have in front of us is a family saga consisting of fame and ambition, luxury, envy, hypocrisy, excess, contempt, love and bitterness. An author who does not lose his patience or his neutrality in view of the self-reflections of those concerned and their constant willingness to deceive others and themselves needs to be sympathetic to them, but also unwilling to be taken in by them himself.More ...
Niklas Maak: Wohnkomplex. Warum wir andere Häuser brauchen © Carl Hanser Verlag, Munich, 2014

Niklas Maak
Wohnkomplex. Warum wir andere Häuser brauchen

Moving to the country is a model that worked for a very long time, Maak believes. But now, detached suburban houses, for which you take out a mortgage and in which you hardly have time to live because you spend your time commuting and earning money, leading to marital breakdown and bankruptcy, have had their day. Rural migration is the global trend. This and population growth make the question of living space one of the most pressing social issues of the next few years. Putting concrete shelves into landscapes will not be enough.More ...
Neil MacGregor: Deutschland. Erinnerungen einer Nation © C.H. Beck Verlag Munich, 2015

Neil MacGregor
Deutschland. Erinnerungen einer Nation

Why is the “Iron Cross” a symbol of the German soul? And what does Kant have to do with drinking beer? In providing answers to such questions, the Director of the British Museum tells the story of Germany in an entirely new way. (...) In a conversational tone, MacGregor leads his readers from Charlemagne to contemporary Berlin, not in chronological order, but through associative digressions, catching hold of artefacts which in their turn represent leitmotifs and qualities of what it means to be German. Not “of Germany”, because that was a fragmented entity of small states for more than 1000 years. (…)More ...
Karl-Heinz Meier-Braun: Einwanderung und Asyl: Die 101 wichtigsten Fragen © C. H. Beck Verlag, Munich, 2015

Karl-Heinz Meier-Braun
Einwanderung und Asyl: Die 101 wichtigsten Fragen

Upon being awarded the Sakharov Prize by the European Parliament in 2004, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan drew attention to a serious omission on the part of European politics. Annan urged the elected representatives to finally take action for a new migration management. He impressively recalled the lack of perspectives of many migrants, the atrocities of human smuggling and the risk posed to the Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees by overly restrictive practices. “This silent human rights crisis”, said Annan, “shames our world” and the situation is all the more tragic given that Europe urgently needs immigrants.More ...
Ulrich Menzel: Die Ordnung der Welt. Imperium oder Hegemonie in der Hierarchie der Staatenwelt © Suhrkamp Verlag Berlin, 2015

Ulrich Menzel
Die Ordnung der Welt
Imperium oder Hegemonie in der Hierarchie der Staatenwelt

Braunschweig political scientist Ulrich Menzel has succeeded in doing two things - outlining a hierarchy of the world of states, and illustrating and verifying this theory by reference to a range of examples, from the Song Dynasty in China and the Ottoman Empire at the hub of three continents to the present-day United States. Such an enterprise has its price and that price is that the book is well over a thousand pages in length, which may deter some curious individuals from reading it. Anyone who works through the abundance of material, including statistics and graphs, will benefit greatly from so doing, however.More ...
Hermann Parzinger: Die Kinder des Prometheus. Eine Geschichte der Menschheit vor der Erfindung der Schrift © C. H. Beck Verlag, Munich, 2014

Hermann Parzinger
Die Kinder des Prometheus.
Eine Geschichte der Menschheit vor der Erfindung der Schrift

Parzinger examines the traces of early human beings, shows how they settled, for example as semi-nomadic hunters and collectors in Australia before the arrival of the Europeans. Or he follows the settlement of Oceania as far as Easter Island. His comparison of the different movements always provides evidence of similar behavioural patterns and approaches. (...) Parzinger tirelessly points out, however, how little one knows, how much will always remain obscure, how very fragmented the state of research is, particularly in Africa, America or Asia and how little has been found to date of the people from whom we too ultimately descended.More ...
Bruno Preisendörfer: Als Deutschland noch nicht Deutschland war. Reise in die Goethezeit © Galiani Verlag Berlin, 2015

Bruno Preisendörfer
Als Deutschland noch nicht Deutschland war. Reise in die Goethezeit

It was with great pleasure that Bruno Preisendörfer searched for all kinds of materials and sources from the Goethe period, approximately 1770 to 1830, that have nothing to do with the “mind” but with everyday life. In the proliferous correspondence which at that time had to substitute almost all feelings and conversations, Preisendörfer’s focus is on the nondescript passages between oaths of allegiance and declarations of friendship and love that deal with clothing, food, bedcovers, obtaining candles and water.More ...
Andreas Rödder: 21.0. Eine kurze Geschichte der Gegenwart © C.H. Beck Verlag Munich, 2015

Andreas Rödder
21.0. Eine kurze Geschichte der Gegenwart

The project could not be more ambitious. Rödder has undertaken no less than to characterise our postmodern world at the beginning of the twenty-first century, its contradictory tendencies and breath-taking changes that often only raise questions without providing any reassuring certainties. The perspective is global, but naturally there is a strong focus on European-Atlantic culture. Germany, too, uncertain of itself as usual, and overwhelmed by the great currents of history, is presented in every chapter in a distanced, rather relaxed, cheerful, even laid-back and completely non-polemical way as an exemplary case of the fantastic upheaval in all dimensions.More ...
Karl Schlögel: Entscheidung in Kiew. Ukrainische Lektionen © Carl Hanser Verlag Munich, 2015

Karl Schlögel
Entscheidung in Kiew. Ukrainische Lektionen

This new book by Karl Schlögel on Ukraine is the outcome of a trauma that is shocking not only Russian and Ukrainian society, but also the German fraternity of experts. Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and installation of rebel people’s republics in eastern Ukraine have opened up a deep divide between Russia and the West, torn families apart, redefined Russians as Ukrainians and made German academics carrying out research into Russia despair about their research subject. (…)
Donetsk and other Ukrainian cities had already suffered greatly under Soviet power and German occupation – Schlögel recalls that the death toll in Ukraine was even higher than that in its Russian "brother nation".More ...
Christoph Türcke: Mehr! Philosophie des Geldes © C. H. Beck Verlag, Munich, 2015

Christoph Türcke
Mehr! Philosophie des Geldes

From the enormously long history of money, which he traces back to a time long before the first coins were minted, Türcke by no means concludes that there could be anything like a harmonious situation relating to a monetary economy. Nothing about it is permanent except the instability of the circumstances it brings about. Rather, it is in the postulate of the finite balance that the complementary mistakes lie that Türcke notices both in (neo)liberalism and Marxism. Liberalism deceives itself if it believes that the market will regulate everything – it never does; on the contrary, it depends entirely on an external government framework.More ...
Joseph Vogl: Der Souveränitätseffekt © Diaphanes Verlag, Zürich, 2015

Joseph Vogl
Der Souveränitätseffekt

Vogl’s aim is no less than to reveal the causes of the current financial malaise, which he sees as an expression of a (neo)liberal mania whose causes are linked with the constitution of the current economic order. This familiar concept assumes, not incorrectly, that the emergence and dominance of the contemporary economy’s set of institutions was crucially influenced by the economic semantics that developed in the eighteenth century.More ...
Heinrich August Winkler: Geschichte des Westens. Die Zeit der Gegenwart © C. H. Beck Verlag, Munich, 2015

Heinrich August Winkler
Geschichte des Westens. Die Zeit der Gegenwart

The fourth and final volume of Heinrich August Winkler’s History of the West, which deals with The Present from 1991 to 2014, could not have been published at an apter moment. It combines a fluently presented wealth of facts with in-depth historical analysis. In so doing, it provides a conceptual foundation for what was expressed instinctively by the millions of people protesting against the terrorist attack on the foundations of the Western value system: Western values are far more than an empty phrase in politicians’ speeches.More ...
Christa Wolf: Moskauer Tagebücher. Wer wir sind und wer wir waren © Suhrkamp Verlag, Berlin, 2014

Christa Wolf
Moskauer Tagebücher. Wer wir sind und wer wir waren

Christa Wolf made ten trips to Moscow and the Soviet Union between 1957 and 1989 and wrote about them in her diary, albeit in a rather restrained and cautious way. That the notes have now become a publication in their own right, the Moscow Diaries, was only possible because Gerhard Wolf as editor supplemented them with all kinds of material: correspondence with Soviet writer colleagues, diary excerpts by Brigitte Reimann and Max Frisch, essays and letters written by Christa Wolf’s friends Lev Kopelev and Efim Etkind. And Gerhard Wolf, who accompanied his wife on all the trips, supplies supplementary information about them from the daily programmes.More ...