429 episodes

Interviews with Scholars of Germany about their New Books
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New Books in German Studies Marshall Poe

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.7 • 25 Ratings

Interviews with Scholars of Germany about their New Books
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    Noah Isenberg ed., Shelley Frisch, trans., "Billy Wilder on Assignment: Dispatches from Weimar Berlin and Interwar Vienna" (Princeton UP, 2021)

    Noah Isenberg ed., Shelley Frisch, trans., "Billy Wilder on Assignment: Dispatches from Weimar Berlin and Interwar Vienna" (Princeton UP, 2021)

    Before Billy Wilder became the screenwriter and director of iconic films like Sunset Boulevard and Some Like It Hot, he worked as a freelance reporter, first in Vienna and then in Weimar Berlin. Billy Wilder on Assignment: Dispatches from Weimar Berlin and Interwar Vienna (Princeton UP, 2021) brings together more than fifty articles, translated into English for the first time, that Wilder (then known as Billie) published in magazines and newspapers between September 1925 and November 1930. From a humorous account of Wilder's stint as a hired dancing companion in a posh Berlin hotel and his dispatches from the international film scene, to his astute profiles of writers, performers, and political figures, the collection offers fresh insights into the creative mind of one of Hollywood's most revered writer-directors.
    Wilder's early writings--a heady mix of cultural essays, interviews, and reviews--contain the same sparkling wit and intelligence as his later Hollywood screenplays, while also casting light into the dark corners of Vienna and Berlin between the wars. Wilder covered everything: big-city sensations, jazz performances, film and theater openings, dance, photography, and all manner of mass entertainment. And he wrote about the most colorful figures of the day, including Charlie Chaplin, Cornelius Vanderbilt, the Prince of Wales, actor Adolphe Menjou, director Erich von Stroheim, and the Tiller Girls dance troupe. Film historian Noah Isenberg's introduction and commentary place Wilder's pieces--brilliantly translated by Shelley Frisch--in historical and biographical context, and rare photos capture Wilder and his circle during these formative years.
    Filled with rich reportage and personal musings, Billy Wilder on Assignment showcases the burgeoning voice of a young journalist who would go on to become a great auteur.
    Marshall Poe is the founder and editor of the New Books Network. He can be reached at marshallpoe@newbooksnetwork.com.
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    • 49 min
    Annegret Oehme, "The Knight Without Boundaries: Yiddish and German Arthurian Wigalois Adaptations" (Brill, 2021)

    Annegret Oehme, "The Knight Without Boundaries: Yiddish and German Arthurian Wigalois Adaptations" (Brill, 2021)

    This volume explores a core medieval myth, the tale of an Arthurian knight called Wigalois, and the ways it connects the Yiddish-speaking Jews and the German-speaking non-Jews of the Holy Roman Empire. The German Wigalois / Viduvilt adaptations grow from a multistage process: a German text adapted into Yiddish adapted into German, creating adaptations actively shaped by a minority culture within a majority culture. The Knight Without Boundaries: Yiddish and German Arthurian Wigalois Adaptations (Brill, 2021) examines five key moments in the Wigalois / Viduvilt tradition that highlight transitions between narratological and meta-narratological patterns and audiences of different religious-cultural or lingual background.
    Lea Greenberg is a scholar of German studies with a particular focus on German Jewish and Yiddish literature and culture; critical gender studies; multilingualism; and literature of the post-Yugoslav diaspora.
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    • 57 min
    Charles Gallagher, "Nazis of Copley Square: The Forgotten Story of the Christian Front" (Harvard UP, 2021)

    Charles Gallagher, "Nazis of Copley Square: The Forgotten Story of the Christian Front" (Harvard UP, 2021)

    Nazis of Copley Square: The Forgotten Story of the Christian Front (Harvard UP, 2021) by Charles R. Gallagher, S.J., traces the machinations of far-right Catholic thinkers and activists in the US during the outbreak of the Second World War. The work highlights New York City and Boston as flashpoints of paramilitary Putsch plans and foreign espionage that radiated out from the Christian Front organization. The book strongly intervenes in numerous historiographies, complicating progressivist narratives of Catholic integration, overturning standard assessments of Nazi intelligence operations, and foregrounding radical right-wing agents too often dismissed as marginal. The work shows that we cannot understand right-wing extremism without examining its violent history and the integral role of certain religious doctrines, which these ringleaders mobilized to justify violence, exclusion, anti-Semitism, and even collaboration with Nazi spies.
    Eric Grube is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at Boston College. He studies modern German and Austrian history, with a special interest in right-wing paramilitary organizations across interwar Bavaria and Austria. "Casualties of War? Refining the Civilian-Military Dichotomy in World War I", Madison Historical Review, 2019. "Racist Limitations on Violence: The Nazi Occupation of Denmark", Essays in History, 2017.
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    • 54 min
    Dana Mack, "All Things That Deserve to Perish: A Novel of Wilhelmine Germany" (2020)

    Dana Mack, "All Things That Deserve to Perish: A Novel of Wilhelmine Germany" (2020)

    Despite all the attention paid to the two world wars of the twentieth century, not a great deal of historical fiction focuses on the period that preceded them. Dana Mack’s debut novel, All Things That Deserve to Perish, is an exception. Through its depictions of Berlin high society, the Junkers from the agricultural estates of old Prussia, and interfaith marriages, the novel explores the fraught transition to a modern, commercial economy that simultaneously promoted and complicated relations between Germans at all levels of society and their Jewish fellow citizens.
    Mack focuses her story on Elisabeth von Schwabacher, the daughter of a successful Jewish financier who has just returned from Vienna to her parents’ home in Berlin when the book opens. Lisi, as she’s known, has been training as a classical pianist, and her great ambition is to perform in concert halls and private soirées.
    Or is it? Lisi’s mother pushes the conventional future of wife and mother and rigorously oversees a diet and makeover program to ready Lisi for society, but neither of her parents wants to force their daughter into marriage, especially to a non-Jewish man. It’s Lisi herself who encourages the attentions of two noblemen, both to some extent fortune hunters—the widowed Prince Egon von Senbeck-Wittenbach and the impoverished Junker Count Wilhelm von Boening. And Lisi is also the one who chooses, when her parents press her for a decision, to start an affair with one of her suitors without considering how that may affect her ability to perform.
    The casual antisemitism expressed by many of the characters in this book is almost more jarring than the occasional outbursts of hatred and bigotry. But it is both true to the times and revealing of the fundamental social rifts in Wilhelmine Germany that, less than fifty years later, would explode in the horrors of Auschwitz and Treblinka.

    A historian, journalist, and musician, Dana Mack has published two nonfiction books on marriage and parenthood, as well as articles on music, history, culture, family issues, and education in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and many other publications. All Things That Deserve to Perish is her first novel.
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    • 44 min
    Charlie Louth on Rainer Maria Rilke

    Charlie Louth on Rainer Maria Rilke

    Charlie Louth’s illuminating recent book, Rilke: The Life of the Work (Oxford University Press, 2021) examines why Rilke’s poems have exercised such preternatural attraction for now several generations of readers. The early 20th century German-language poet captured the experience of European culture irrevocably lurching into modernity, where an entire continent was forced to trade in its untenable and ultimately fantastically unrealistic Romantic worldview for the sober realization that humans are capable of even greater evil than any gods, and that life has meaning only if we continually create it. But unlike some other modernists, Rilke captured this vast cultural rupture in exceptionally beautiful and ever more effectively crafted, if ever less formal, poetry. Instead of explaining this effect away, Louth deepens the transformative experience of reading Rilke by offering his interpretation as one option among others and thus engaging the reader directly in the unfolding of each of Rilke’s words. Louth’s book follows the chronology of Rilke’s life (1875 – 1926) but focuses on the works, often in the context of the situation when they were written, rather than on Rilke’s itinerant life. I spoke with Charlie about the enduring importance of Rilke, about the Duino Elegies, and whether Rilke’s 1915 poem “Death” – or any of his works in general – can alleviate the cold fact that as humans, no matter how blessed, we will face inconsolable loss.
    Charlie Louth is Associate Professor of German and Fellow of Queen’s College, at Oxford University, in England. His research interests include poetry from the 18th century onwards, especially Goethe, Hölderlin, Mörike, Rilke and Celan; romanticism; translation; and comparative literature. His books include: Rilke: The Life of the Work (Oxford: OUP, 2020); Hölderlin and the Dynamics of Translation (Oxford: Legenda, 1998); (editor, with Patrick McGuinness), Gravity and Grace: Essays for Roger Pearson (Oxford: Legenda, 2019); (editor, with Florian Strob), Nelly Sachs im Kontext — eine »Schwester Kafkas«? (Heidelberg: Winter, 2014), and other works. He’s also translated Rilke’s Letters to Young Poet & The Letter from the Young Worker (Penguin, 2011).
    Uli Baer teaches literature and photography as University Professor at New York University. A recipient of Guggenheim, Getty and Humboldt awards, in addition to hosting "Speaking of…” he hosts (with Caroline Weber) the podcast "The Proust Questionnaire” and is Editorial Director at Warbler Press. Email ucb1@nyu.edu; Twitter @UliBaer.
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    • 1 hr 9 min
    Gershom Gorenberg, "War of Shadows: Codebreakers, Spies, and the Secret Struggle to Drive the Nazis from the Middle East" (PublicAffairs: 2021)

    Gershom Gorenberg, "War of Shadows: Codebreakers, Spies, and the Secret Struggle to Drive the Nazis from the Middle East" (PublicAffairs: 2021)

    The Second Battle of El-Alamein, alongside Stalingrad and Midway, is taught in schools the world over as one of the turning points of the Second World War—or, depending on who you talk to, the turning point.
    But what led to that battle? How did Rommel’s army push so far across North Africa? And why, perchance, did he push one time too many? What were those in Egypt and the Middle East—and not just their British overseers, thinking about the coming invasion.
    War of Shadows: Codebreakers, Spies, and the Secret Struggle to Drive the Nazis from the Middle East (PublicAffairs: 2021), written by Gershom Gorenberg, tells the story leading to the British Army holding off the Nazis at El Alamein: a battle not just of soldiers and tanks, but spies and codebreakers.
    In this interview, Gershom and I talk about the years preceding the Battle for Egypt: those who broke Enigma, the spies who unlocked their enemies secrets, and the troubled relations between nominal allies. 
    Gershom Gorenberg’s previous books are The Unmaking of Israel (HarperCollins: 2011), The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967-1977 (Macmillan: 2007), and The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount (Oxford University Press: 2002). He also co-authored The Jerusalem Report’s 1996 biography of Yitzhak Rabin, Shalom Friend, winner of the National Jewish Book Award. Gershom is a columnist for The Washington Post, and has written for The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Magazine, the New York Review of Books, The New Republic, and in Hebrew for Ha’aretz. He can be followed on Twitter at @GershomG

    You can find more reviews, excerpts, interviews, and essays at The Asian Review of Books, including its review of War of Shadows. Follow on Facebook or on Twitter at @BookReviewsAsia.
    Nicholas Gordon is an associate editor for a global magazine, and a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.
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    • 46 min

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
25 Ratings

25 Ratings

Robinson76879648 ,

Timely and topical

Given that our President is a belligerent Fascist Ethno-Nationalist, it’s a crucial time to learn your Nazi history. This is an amazing resource.

JardinCook ,

should be called N*ZI studies

Over 90% of these episodes are interviews of writers on the War, Nazi Germany and/or the Holocaust—all subjects that are already well covered elsewhere, as they should be. But there is actually more to Germany’s past and present than that.

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