Xenophobe's® Guides: Kultur and Kunst
When it comes to Germans and culture, size is key. But don't let that discourage you...
Xenophobe's® Guides: A book series that highlights the unique character and behaviour of different nations with insight and humour.
German culture is for the most part earnest, and big. Not for them the slender volume of elegant stories beloved of the French. Nor do they like the wry observations of village life or frail metaphysical puzzlings of the contemporary English novel. Germans want value from their Kultur and Kunst (culture and art), and value means bulk. No would-be cultural icon can get away with a small oeuvre. Just look at what they’re up against: Collected Works of Goethe, 143 volumes; Collected Works of Nietzsche, 30 volumes at least; Wagner’s operas, two weeks’ listening if you don’t break for meals or sleep; the films Heimat I, II and III, as long and convoluted as life itself.
For the Germans, what you read equals how smart you are. Germans don’t read for pleasure; they read in order to be intelligent – or at least to seem to be so. German readers are happiest when they know that every penny spent on a book has bought them an hour’s worth of hard, self-improving labour. Well-spaced lines and big friendly margins are banished as offensive indicators of being lightweight.
The trick when confronted by all this massiveness is not to be intimidated. Break off a manageable chunk. Suck it and see. You will be pleasantly surprised – at times, astonished. There never was a livelier, more fascinating writer than Goethe. He brims and fizzes and bursts with energy and ideas. His intellect soars with the exuberance of a champagne cork in flight. With something to say about everything, his ideas range from the dazzling to the downright daft.
For more, read The Xenophobe's Guide to the Germans.
Reproduced from Xenophobe's Guide to the German by kind permission of Xenophobe's® Guides.
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