On the Death of Siegfried Lenz ? ?You have to justify your life?

Siegfried Lenz, one of the great writers of German post-war literature is dead. He died on 7 October 2014, surrounded by his family. He was 88 years old.... more more

GoetheInstitute

07/07/2008

The German veto on Ukraine

Western European understanding of Galicia's cultural affairs leaves much room for improvement. And now is surely not the time to punish a country for its role in ending the Hapsburg Monarchy. Martin Pollack thinks Richard Wagner should know better

Read Richard Wagner's polemic "Why Ukraine has no place in the EU" here.

Richard Wagner is a middle-aged German writer with a rich oeuvre of novels, stories, essays and poetry anthologies. I don't know if he is translated into Ukrainian, but some of his books would be worthy of recommendation. But I can't work out quite what prompted him to publish an article about Galicia in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung recently, in which he issues a rebuff to the Ukraine's European aspirations. How does an author who comes from the Romanian Banat region come to do such a thing, I ask myself. Recently, there have been murmurings from Poland anxious about Russo-German rapprochement. Until now I thought these fears were exaggerated. Wagner's contribution makes me reconsider.

Here is not the place to go into all the arguments; I will limit myself to the details about Galicia. Wagner accuses Yuri Andrukhovych and Jurko Prochasko of presenting Galicia as a bridge between Kiev and Central Europe which infers Ukraine's affiliation to Europe. Wagner invokes his veto on the grounds that historical Galicia, he thinks, is overwhelmingly shaped by Polish and Jewish influences whereas the Ukrainians only played a marginal - primarily cultural - role.

This assessment is not uncommon in Austria and Germany, even among intellectuals who should know better. If we were to follow this train of thought, aside from Karl Emil Franzos, Joseph Roth, Bruno Schulz, Manes Sperber, and perhaps Jozef Wittlin, there would be no other authors from Galicia worth mentioning. Ukrainian authors like Ivan Franko, Vasyl Stefanyk or Bohdan Ihor Antonych, to name a few, are mostly unknown. Naturally it is not written anywhere that a German intellectual must know of Ivan Franko, but when writing about Galicia it would be appropriate. Otherwise he will find it hard to fend off accusations of ignorance. We could object that these authors are almost entirely untranslated. But is this the fault of the Ukrainians? Hardly. It's more likely to be a shortcoming on the part of the Germans or Austrians who are so quick to point to their competence in the East, although in cultural matters, this doesn't extend very far back.

I can say that because I myself am an Austrian and don't want to exclude myself from this criticism concerning the promotion of Ukrainian literature. On the subject of Austria: as an amused Richard Wagner claims, Old Austria is today lauded all over Eastern Central Europe as an early model of the EU, even by those peoples who were instrumental in bringing down the Hapsburg Empire. Among them are also the Ukrainians, whose political and cultural elite, according to Wagner "blocked their own path to Europe with this act of destruction."

Even aside from the questionable argumentation that the destruction of the Hapsburg Empire should justify this belated retribution, we should ask why it is only being levelled against Ukrainians. What about the Czechs? The Hungarians? And the Italians? Were they not much more active in the fall of the Dual Monarchy, thus blocking their path to Europe? Surely nobody would claim such a thing. Not even Richard Wagner.


*

Martin Pollack was a long-term correspondent for der Spiegel in Warsaw. He has translated many of Ryszard Kapuscinski's books and has himself written several books on Eastern Europe.

Translation: Nick Treuherz

Get the signandsight newsletter for regular updates on feature articles.
signandsight.com - let's talk european.

 
More articles

This kiss for the whole world

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Who actually owns "intellectual property"?  The German media that defend the concept of intellectual property as "real" property are the first to appropriate such rights, and they are using this idea as a defensive weapon. With lawmakers extending copyright laws and new structures emerging on the internet, intellectual property poses a serious challenge to the public domain. A survey of the German media landscape by Thierry Chervel
read more

Suddenly we know we are many

Wednesday 4th January, 2012

Why the Russian youth have tolerated the political situation in their country for so long and why they are no longer tolerant. The poet Natalia Klyuchareva explains the background to the protests on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow on December 10th. Image: Leonid Faerberg
read more

The Republic of Europe

Tuesday 20 December, 2011

Thanks to Radoslaw Sikorski's speech in Berlin, Poland has at last joined the big European debate about restructuring the EU in connection with the euro crisis. The "European Reformation" advocated by Germany does not mean that the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation will be established in Europe, but instead – let us hope – the Republic of Europe. By Adam Krzeminski
read more

Brown is not red

Tuesday 13 December, 2011

TeaserPicFilmmaker and theatre director Andres Veiel disagrees with the parallels currently being drawn between left-wing and right-wing violence in Germany. The RAF is the wrong model for the Zwickau neo-Nazi group, the so-called "Brown Army Faction" responsible for a series of murders of Turkish small business owners. Unlike the RAF, this group never publicly claimed responsibility for their crimes. Veiel is emphatic - you have to look at the biographies of the perpetrators. An interview with Heike Karen Runge.
read more

Legacy of denial

Tuesday 29 November, 2011

TeaserPicGermany has been rocked by the disclosures surrounding the series of neo-Nazi murders of Turkish citizens. In the wake of these events, Former GDR dissident Freya Klier calls for an honest look at the xenophobia cultivated by the policies of the former East Germany, where the core of the so-called "Brown Army Faction" was based. And demands that East Germans finally confront a long-denied past. (Photo: © Nadja Klier)
read more

Nausea in Paris

Monday 14 November, 2011

TeaserPicIn response to the arson attack on the offices of the Parisian satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on November 2, Danish critic and semiotician Frederik Stjernfelt is nauseated by the opinions voiced against the publication, especially in the British and American media. Why don't they see that Islamism is right-wing extremism?
read more

Just one pyramid

Monday 10 October, 2011

Activist and author, Andri Snaer Magnason is among the Icelandic guests of honor at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair. His book and film "Dreamland" is both an ecological call to action and a polemic. "The politicians took one of the most beautiful parts of Iceland and offered it to unscrupulous companies," says the author in a critique of his native country. By Daniela Zinser
read more

Dark side of the light

Monday 3 October 2011

In their book "Lügendes Licht" (lying light) Thomas Worm and Claudia Karstedt explore the darker side of the EU ban on incandescent bulbs. From disposal issues to energy efficiency, the low-energy bulb is not necessarily a beacon of a greener future. By Brigitte Werneburg
read more

Lubricious puritanism

Tuesday 30 August, 2011

The malice of the American media in the case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a symptom of sexual uptightness that borders on the sinister, and the feminists have joined forces with the religious Right to see it through. We can learn much from America, but not when it comes to the art of love. By Pascal Bruckner
read more

Much ado about Sarrazin

Monday 22 August 2011

Published a year ago, the controversial book "Deutschland schafft sich ab" (Germany is doing away with itself) by former banker and Berlin Finance Senator Thilo Sarrazin sparked intense discussion. Hamed Abdel-Samad asks: what has the Sarrazin debate achieved beyond polarisation and insult? And how can Germany avoid cultivating its own classes of "future foreigners"?
read more

Economic giant, political dwarf

Wednesday 3 August, 2011

Germany's growing imbalance between economic and political competence is worsening the European crisis and indeed the crisis of Nato. The country has ceased to make any political signals at all and demonstrates a conspicuous lack of responsibility for what takes place beyond its own borders. This smug isolationism is linked to strains of old anti-Western and anti-political, anti-parliamentarian sentiment that is pure provincialism. By Karl Heinz Bohrer
read more

Sound and fury

Monday 11 April 2011

Budapest is shimmering with culture but Hungary's nationalist government is throwing its weight about in cultural life, effecting censorship through budget cuts and putting its own people in the top-level cultural positions. Government tolerance of hate campaigns against Jews and gays has provoked the likes of Andras Schiff, Agnes Heller, Bela Tarr and Andre Fischer to raise their voices in defence of basic human rights. But a lot of people are simply scared. By Volker Hagedorn
read more

The self-determination delusion

Monday 28 March, 2011

TeaserPicA Dutch action group for free will wants to give all people the right to assisted suicide. But can this be achieved without us ending up somewhere we never wanted to go? Gerbert van Loenen has grave doubts.
read more

Revolution without guarantee

Monday 21 February, 2011

Saying revolution and freedom is not the same as saying democracy, respect for minorities, equal rights and good relations with neighbouring nations. All this has yet to be achieved. We welcome the Arab revolution and will continue to watch with our eyes open to the potential dangers. By Andre Glucksmann
read more

Pascal Bruckner and the reality disconnect

Friday 14 January, 2011

The French writer Pascal Bruckner wants to forbid a word. Which sounds more like a typically German obsession. But for Bruckner, "Islamophobia" is one of "those expressions which we dearly need to banish from our vocabulary". One asks oneself with some trepidation which other words we "dearly need" to get rid of: Right-wing populism? Racism? Relativism? By Alan Posener
read more