Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Germany: Memories of a Nation


Today's post is on Germany: Memories of a Nation by Neil MacGregor. It is 606 pages long and is published by Alfred A. Knopf. The cover is white with the German flag on it. There is no language, no sex, and no violence in this book. The intended reader is someone who is interested in history. There Be Spoilers Ahead.

From the dust jacket- For the past 140 years, Germany has been the central power in continental europe. Twenty-five years ago a new German state came into being. How much do we really understand this new Germany, and how do its people understand themselves?
Neil MacGregor argues that, uniquely for any European country, no coherent, overarching narrative of Germany's history can be constructed, for in Germany both geography and history have always been unstable. Its frontiers have constantly shifted. Königsberg, home to the greatest German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, is now Kaliningrad, Russia; Strasbourg, in whose cathedral Wolfgang von Geothe, Germany's greatest writer, discovered the distinctiveness of his country's art and history, now lies within the borders of France. For most of the five hundred years covered by this book Germany has been composed of many separate political units, each with a distinct history. And any comfortable national story Germans might have told themselves before 1914 was destroyed by the events of the following thirty years.
German history may be inherently fragmented, but it contains a large number of widely shared memories, awarenesses, and experiences; examining some of these is the purpose of this book. MacGregor chooses objects and ideas, people and places that still resonate in the new Germany—porcelain from Dresden and rubble from its ruins, Bauhaus design and the German sausage, the crown of Charlemagne and the gates of Buchenwald—to show us something of its collective imagination. There has never been a book about Germany quite like it.

Review- Another wonderful book from MacGregor. He goes from Germany's beginnings as many small princedoms to one great nation today.  Like all MacGregor's other books he traces the history in objects from paintings to statues and many flags. He looks at the history of such diverse people, as Germany has, with great care and compassion. He does not excuse any actions but he helps the reader to remember that the people of Germany are human too. He discusses what made Germany from Luther making one German language to the women who rebuilt it after the Second World War. MacGregor's prose, as always, is easy to read and the reader gets pulled into the narrative of a nation.

I give this book a Five out of Five stars. I get nothing for my review and I borrowed this book from my local library.