Non-fiction – society, biography, and literary and cultural history

Michael Angele: Der letzte Zeitungsleser © Galiani Verlag, Berlin, 2016

Michael Angele
Der letzte Zeitungsleser

Angele (…) observes the world of newspapers from the point of view of his counterpart – an ardent newspaper reader for whom the daily perusal of one or more papers is more than just an information update that might equally well take place at a computer or Tablet PC. It is a cultural ritual to read a printed newspaper every day in the same café, at the same breakfast table or on the same train, to enjoy the feel of it, its smell, its rustling. (…) An anecdotal portrait of Thomas Bernhard is a thread running through this text.More ...
Christoph Bartmann: Die Rückkehr der Diener. Das neue Bürgertum und sein Personal © Carl Hanser Verlag, Munich, 2016

Christoph Bartmann
Die Rückkehr der Diener. Das neue Bürgertum und sein Personal

People born shortly after the war are often overstrained by the profusion of services on sale. After all, in the golden years of the Federal Republic of Germany, servants were regarded as social figures of the past. Their existence was difficult to square up with the desire for justice, upward social mobility, emancipation and equality. But an aversion to service can be overcome, and people can learn to be customers. Nevertheless, the services available in Manhattan’s better residential areas give rise to cultural irritation.More ...
Wolf Biermann: Warte nicht auf bessere Zeiten. Die Autobiographie © Propyläen Verlag, Berlin, 2016

Wolf Biermann
Warte nicht auf bessere Zeiten. Die Autobiographie

Throughout his life, Wolf Biermann, who is soon to turn eighty, always sought the limelight - and found it when it was being switched off. In innumerable statements, comments, essays and interviews, he willingly and comprehensively gave information about every aspect of his career. It is also self-evident that only half of him is still a human being and that the other half is already a myth. He is a poet whose songs and unrelenting attitude, while not bringing down the GDR, did considerably destabilise it.More ...
Heinz Bude: Das Gefühl der Welt. Über die Macht von Stimmungen © Carl Hanser Verlag, Munich, 2016

Heinz Bude
Das Gefühl der Welt. Über die Macht von Stimmungen

“People understand most things wrongly, but they feel most things rightly.” Kassel sociologist Heinz Bude would no doubt concur with this statement by Kurt Tucholsky. After all, he gives the screw another turn himself in his new book, which, with its 120 pages of text (not including footnotes), is quite manageable. (…) First of all, he makes a distinction. The author distinguishes between “anticapitalists” and “system fatalists”. The first category of people are part of the “society of mistrust”, unable to make up their minds whether to deny or affirm the world. They reject economisation, feel homeless and enjoy being universally outraged.More ...
Ernestine Amy Buller: Finsternis in Deutschland. Was die Deutschen dachten. Interviews einer Engländerin 1934-1938 © Elisabeth Sandmann Verlag, Munich, 2016

Ernestine Amy Buller
Finsternis in Deutschland. Was die Deutschen dachten.
Interviews einer Engländerin 1934-1938

In the years before the outbreak of war in 1939, Amy Buller organised Anglo-German study conventions, working towards a deeper understanding between the two countries in the hope that the war could still be avoided. She wrote her book with a view to a future where the darkness would have been dispelled. (…)
From today’s point of view, the value of the book lies neither in the author’s Christian-influenced hopes for the future nor in her evaluation of Hitler and his movement, but in the authentic voices Amy Buller cites. (…)More ...
Birgit Dankert: Michael Ende. Gefangen in Phantasien © Lambert Schneider Verlag, Darmstadt, 2016

Birgit Dankert
Michael Ende. Gefangen in Phantasien

Who was Michael Ende? (...) Previously there was only one biography on Ende’s life, written by a school friend, Peter Boccarius, and, what is more, it stops in 1960, the year that Ende’s success began. (Birgit) Dankert bases her book on in-depth research she carried out, for example on manuscripts and letters in the German Literature Archive in Marbach, on Ende’s estate in the International Youth Library in Munich, in the Bayerischer Rundfunk archives, and, not least, on many of Ende’s companions... (...) Very few writers resemble the characters they have invented.More ...
Carolin Emcke: Gegen den Hass © S. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, 2016

Carolin Emcke
Gegen den Hass

Emcke examines “institutional racism” in the United States and the ideology and strategy of the terrorist organisation that goes by the name of “Islamic State”, but she focuses in particular and repeatedly on the situation in Germany. Her starting point is the Germany that has tangibly changed in the wake of the so-called refugee crisis. To an extent unimaginable only recently, there is “open and uninhibited hatred” and there is “shouting, insult and injury” – outside refugees’ accommodation, in Internet forums, in public places and elsewhere. (…)More ...
Karl Hepfer: Verschwörungstheorien. Eine philosophische Kritik der Unvernunft © Transcript Verlag, Bielefeld

Karl Hepfer
Eine philosophische Kritik der Unvernunft

Despite the fact that they make unreasonable cognitive demands, conspiracy theories have enjoyed growing popularity for some years. Without the triumph of the Internet, this upswing would have been impossible. While individual conspiracy theorists used to have to pay the price of broad social isolation, now, a considerable number of like-minded people for even the most abstruse beliefs are just a few clicks away. Hepfer is not satisfied with this explanation, however.More ...
Oliver Hilmes: Berlin 1936. Sechzehn Tage im August © Siedler Verlag, Munich, 2016

Oliver Hilmes
Berlin 1936. Sechzehn Tage im August

The kiss attack takes place at the swimming competition on the penultimate day of the Olympic Games. Hitler is in the seat of honour when American tourist Carla de Vries fights her way up to his row. (…) Historian and writer Oliver Hilmes has dug out this kiss attack, documented in a historical film clip, and together with many other pieces of the jigsaw, has put together an impressive panorama of these sixteen days in August 1936, during which Germany endeavoured to present itself to the nations of the world as a wonderful host. A dense flow of the most diverse people passes by the reader, channelled by a strict literary order. (…)More ...
Yvonne Hofstetter: Das Ende der Demokratie. Wie die künstliche Intelligenz die Politik übernimmt und uns entmündigt © C. Bertelsmann Verlag, Munich, 2016

Yvonne Hofstetter
Das Ende der Demokratie. Wie die künstliche Intelligenz die Politik übernimmt und uns entmündigt

If one told the pioneers of Silicon Valley that their technology was inhuman, they would probably even agree. They would not regard that as a value judgement, however. In Silicon Valley, writes Yvonne Hofstetter in her book Das Ende der Demokratie (The End of Democracy) people are regarded as the ultimate machine, but in the medium term as a phase-out model: one thing among many others in an Internet of Everything.
While Silicon Valley here is used as a cipher to refer to a world-wide process, the metaphor has not been chosen at random.More ...
Nina Horaczek / Sebastian Wiese: Gegen Vorurteile. Wie du dich mit guten Argumenten gegen dumme Behauptungen wehrst © Czernin Verlag, Vienna, 2015

Nina Horaczek / Sebastian Wiese
Gegen Vorurteile. Wie du dich mit guten Argumenten
gegen dumme Behauptungen wehrst

The world is seeing a period of upheaval and radical change. What is often difficult to understand for adults and experienced political observers must often be unbearably confusing for youngsters. It is a generally known fact that those who know and understand little are full of glib prejudices. Prejudices make life easier to understand and worrying developments easier to classify. And herein lies the danger. That is why journalist Nina Horaczek, who writes for Falter magazine, and lawyer Sebastian Wiese have written a quite outstanding book on prejudice, mainly, but not exclusively, about Islam, migrants and refugees, headscarves and mosques.More ...
Navid Kermani: Einbruch der Wirklichkeit. Auf dem Flüchtlingstreck durch Europa © C. H. Beck Verlag, Munich, 2016

Navid Kermani
Einbruch der Wirklichkeit.
Auf dem Flüchtlingstreck durch Europa

No, Navid Kermani is not trying to be a smart aleck, not someone who said nothing about the refugee issue for 15 years and now comes along with “some old know-it-all stuff”. (...) The subjects of migration and flight with their unfettered ferocity have given Kermani, aged 48, no peace for the last ten years. So he explored the fences around the Spanish exclaves Ceuta and Melilla in Morocco, which are protected by barbed wire. (...) Kermani set off again in late September 2015. His speech for the occasion of the Peace Prize award ceremony on 18 October was ready, he says.More ...
Niklas Luhmann: Der neue Chef © Suhrkamp Verlag, Berlin, 2016

Niklas Luhmann
Der neue Chef

Now and then you will still find one of these people, a boss who puts his subordinates, usually called co-workers, in their place or shouts at them from time to time to show his authority and to cover up his insecurity. Usually, however, the boss (who may also be a woman) knows that such methods, the subject of countless jokes, caricatures and after-work conversations, are not really all that clever. But that is no new insight of the latest management theories about flat hierarchies, creativity and teamwork. Rather, Niklas Luhmann (1927-1998), the administrative scientist who became a leading sociologist of the twentieth century, took note of it quite dispassionately years ago.More ...
Jörg Magenau: Princeton 66. Die abenteuerliche Reise der Gruppe 47 © Klett-Cotta Verlag, Stuttgart, 2016

Jörg Magenau
Princeton 66. Die abenteuerliche Reise der Gruppe 47

The idea of seeing Princeton, that “craziest moment in German literary history since 1945” (F. C. Delius), as a crucial match for Gruppe 47, is not new. Whole German literary studies libraries have been written about it. And yet the publication of this book by Jörg Magenau gives the meeting in Princeton its own, fitting stadium magazine for the first time.

(…) Not unwisely, Magenau makes it clear that his documentation represents a “reliving” of the three-day event in Princeton, for example, when he skewers Richter’s dictum on Handke (forgotten two years later).More ...
Martin Mittelmeier: DADA. Eine Jahrhundertgeschichte © Siedler Verlag, Munich, 2016

Martin Mittelmeier
DADA. Eine Jahrhundertgeschichte

In 1918, Richard Huelsenbeck presented the “Dada Manifesto“ in Berlin. It was signed by the Romanian Tristan Tzara, George Grosz, Franz Jung, Raoul Hausmann, Hans Arp and his wife, Sophie Taeuber. But even before that, Hugo Ball had read an “opening manifesto” on the “first public by Dada soiree” in Zürich: “How does one achieve eternal bliss? By saying dada. How does one become famous? By saying dada. With a noble gesture and delicate propriety. Till one goes crazy. Till one loses consciousness. How can one get rid of everything that smacks of journalism, worms, everything nice and right, blinkered, moralistic, europeanised, enervated?More ...
Jan-Werner Müller: Was ist Populismus? © Suhrkamp Verlag, Berlin, 2016

Jan-Werner Müller
Was ist Populismus?

Populists and populist parties are gaining ground, not only in most European countries, but all around the world. In some countries of South America and Eastern Europe, populists are in government; in the United States, Donald Trump is fighting for the presidency, and the right-wing extremist Alternative for Germany Party (AfD) is agitating here. These developments raise questions. When are politicians populists? What effect do their actions have on democratic societies? How should one deal with populists “in a democratic way”? Jan-Werner Müller endeavours to give answers to these three questions in a pointed and fluently written essay. (…)More ...
Herfried Münkler, Marina Münkler: Die neuen Deutschen. Ein Land vor seiner Zukunft © Rowohlt Berlin Verlag, Berlin, 2016

Herfried Münkler, Marina Münkler
Die neuen Deutschen. Ein Land vor seiner Zukunft

Die neuen Deutschen (The New Germans) is not the book of the disaster film about the crisis. Rather, it starts where the flow of refugees ends and the real challenge begins – after arriving and being accepted, that is to say in the process of integration. The title is aptly chosen, as it points to the fact that successful integration not only changes the new arrivals but also those who are long established, and thus the identity of an entire society. The willingness of members of the one group to integrate requires the acceptance of the other. As well as the government and economic levels, the civil society level is of key importance if integration is to be a success.More ...
Claus Offe: Europa in der Falle © Suhrkamp Verlag, Berlin, 2016

Claus Offe
Europa in der Falle

Europa in der Falle (Europe is Trapped) is the title of the new book by Claus Offe, a political scientist, and the title hits the nail on the head. By introducing the euro, the European Union manoeuvred itself into an awkward position; there is no way forward and no way back. Now, the euro zone has split into winners and losers. The north, especially Germany, is basking on the sun deck and is profiting from the euro, while the southern European countries, deprived of monetary power, see no land ahead and have become rebellious. (…) The result is ubiquitously visible. In the wake of permanent crisis, right-wing parties “are invoking and restoring the protective functions of territorial borders in economic, political and cultural terms”.More ...
Bruno Preisendörfer: Als unser Deutsch erfunden wurde. Reise in die Lutherzeit © Galiani Verlag, Berlin, 2016

Bruno Preisendörfer
Als unser Deutsch erfunden wurde. Reise in die Lutherzeit

The Germans: unruly eaters and drinkers, spoilt and with a tendency to be wasteful. “Our German people are an uncouth, ferocious people; indeed they are just about half devil, half human.” That was the impression of Luther, who himself could be uncouth, even ferocious, and thus knew what he was talking about. But of course, he was also a preacher who had to warm up his audience; it is not quite clear how Germans behaved more than 500 years ago. This is one of the many questions Bruno Preisendörfer addresses in his book Als unser Deutsch erfunden wurde. Reise in die Lutherzeit (The Invention of the German Language.More ...
Lyndal Roper: Der Mensch Martin Luther. Die Biografie © S. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, 2016

Lyndal Roper
Der Mensch Martin Luther. Die Biografie

“Luther’s extraordinary candour, his sincere willingness to risk all and his ability to accept God’s grace as a gift that he did not earn are the most attractive features of his personality”, writes Lyndal Roper at the end of her magnificent Luther biography. The Australian historian, who teaches Early Modern History at Oxford, published a short but very remarkable view of Luther back in 2012. (…)
Much has been written about this man’s character and charisma since the sixteenth century.More ...
Wolfram Siemann: Metternich. Stratege und Visionär © C. H. Beck Verlag, Munich, 2016

Wolfram Siemann
Metternich. Stratege und Visionär

Outmoded and misunderstood. That was a feeling known only too well by the most hated politician of his day. Even today, Metternich’s name is associated with censorship and surveillance, the secret police, European-wide suppression of freedom and national self-determination, and with the Austrian reactionary who saved the rotten building of the Habsburg Empire from its well-deserved downfall at any price. Metternich is still the bad guy of German historiography, presented as a sinister character in every textbook. (...) Yet Metternich was quite different to what we have so far assumed. That is now the convincing claim of retired Munich historian Wolfram Siemann in his ground-breaking biography, the first major Metternich biography to be published in the last ninety years.More ...
Margarete Stokowski: Untenrum frei © Rowohlt Verlag, Reinbek bei Hamburg, 2016

Margarete Stokowski
Untenrum frei

How a girl learns almost incidentally that her body is inadequate per se and needs to be worked on and improved is described unemotionally and succinctly by the author, who made a name for herself as a columnist for the tageszeitung and Spiegel Online. Her aim is not to damn make-up, high heels or shaved armpits, of course. What does interest her is where the boundary lies between one’s own notions of beauty and internalised social pressures. “Everything is more beautiful if it is voluntary and consciously chosen for oneself, and to make such a choice, you must at least be aware of the alternatives,” writes Stokowski.More ...
Eberhard Straub: Das Drama der Stadt. Die Krise der urbanen Lebensformen © Nicolai Verlag, Berlin, 2015

Eberhard Straub
Das Drama der Stadt. Die Krise der urbanen Lebensformen

Comments on the current situation are well-advised to limit themselves to the overarching concepts of history, state, nation or globalisation. The place of observations on the fate of cities is intellectually in the regional league, or at specialist sociological planning seminars. Now, in a polemic pamphlet entitled Das Drama der Stadt (The Drama of the City), historian and independent scholar Eberhard Straub has brought thinking about urban cohabitation back to the level of great narrative. (...) Urban virtues emerged not from the petty conflict of interests of a minority of xenophobic Athenian large landowners, but from the commingling of immigrants, with no obligation to integrate or assimilate.More ...
Nikolaus Wachsmann: KL. Die Geschichte der nationalsozialistischen Konzentrationslager © Siedler Verlag, Munich, 2016

Nikolaus Wachsmann
KL. Die Geschichte der nationalsozialistischen Konzentrationslager

(...) There has previously been no single-source comprehensive history of the SS concentration camps. Nikolaus Wachsmann, who was born in Munich in 1971, trained in Great Britain and now teaches at the University of London, noticed this gap and set to work. The result is a book that covers this oppressive and difficult subject in an unprecedented diversity of perspectives. Even in the face of the victims’ boundless suffering and misery, the perpetrators’ abysses of fanaticism, brutality and egotism, and elusive shadowy zones in between, the author unfailingly maintains his attitude of analytical precision and human empathy.More ...