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Re-forming the Nation in Literature and Film - Entwürfe zur Nation in Literatur und Film

The Patriotic Idea in Contemporary German-Language Culture- Die patriotische Idee in der deutschsprachigen Kultur der Gegenwart


Julian Ernest Preece

In the year that Europe commemorates the centenary of the outbreak of World War I and the European Union faces a crisis of legitimacy, the national question is once again being posed across the Continent. This volume assesses how contemporary German-language writers and filmmakers have approached this troubled question over the last decade. It addresses whether the collective entity known as Germany should more properly be conflated with the Federal Republic, with its successful sixty-five-year history (‘the best Germany we have ever had’), rather than the ‘nation’ with all its tainted connotations and corrupted concepts such as ‘Vaterland’. Contemporary Germany is a product not only of its history up to 1945 but also of the process of understanding that history and acting upon that understanding since the defeat of National Socialism. Each of the sixteen essays collected here illuminates a different segment of a bigger picture, whose shape and shades are themselves evolving. Presented as a whole their purpose is to provoke further discussion among observers of the contemporary German-speaking scene.
In dem Jahr, in dem Europa den 100. Jahrestag des Ausbruchs des Ersten Weltkriegs begeht, und die Europäische Union eine Legitimitätskrise durchmacht, stellt sich in ganz Europa wieder einmal die ‘nationale Frage’. Dieser Band zeigt Antworten von deutschsprachigen Autoren und Filmemachern aus den letzten zehn Jahren. Es wird gefragt, ob es nicht passender wäre, das unter dem Namen ‘Deutschland’ firmierende Kollektiv als ‘Bundesrepublik’ zu erfassen, und somit die Idee der ‘Nation’ mit all seinen Brüchen – bis hin zum verpönten ‘Vaterland’ – zu verabschieden. ‘Das beste Deutschland, das es je gegeben hat’ zeichnet immerhin eine Erfolgsgeschichte seit 65 Jahren. Das heutige Deutschland ist ohne Zweifel ein Produkt seiner Geschichte bis 1945, aber auch von Prozessen des Verstehens und der Verständigung über diese Geschichte seit dem Ende des Nationalsozialismus. Jeder der sechzehn Beiträge in diesem Band beleuchtet ein Fragment eines größeren Bilds, das selbst ständig im Umbruch ist. Als Ganzes sollen diese Beiträge die Debatte unter Beobachtern der heutigen deutschsprachigen Welt anregen.


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JULIAN PREECE Introduction: Uncertain Nations at the Heart of Europe


According to a self-proclaimed left-wing book about German patriotism by the Green Party politician Robert Habeck there have been two moments of national euphoria in Germany in the recent past. The first was prompted by reunification in 1989–90 and the second by hosting the World Cup in 2006. The problem for Habeck is that both moments were inconclusive. Reunification was sudden, unexpected and unplanned and entailed a mere joining up of territories: ‘vereinigt wurden Länder, nicht Ideen […] Eine Nation im Aufbruch konnte so nicht entstehen’. At the World Cup six- teen years later two generations of Germans who had been brought up to mistrust national symbols at best discovered that they enjoyed waving the Federal Republic’s black, red and gold f lag when cheering on their football team (which they had always done). For Habeck, however, this was no more than ‘spielerischer Patriotismus’ because ‘Ihm fehlte jeder ernste Anspruch’.1 In other words, there is some work still to be done when it comes to thinking through what it means to be a citizen of Germany in the second decade of the twenty-first century. Habeck’s book is one of a number of publications on the subject which have appeared in the past five years. His own not entirely original recommendation is that German national allegiance and sovereign functions be transferred to the supranational European Union, albeit only once the EU has been reformed and gained greater democratic legitimacy. There have been interventions in other media, such as the col-...

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