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This article is taken from PN Review 40, Volume 11 Number 2, November - December 1984.

Into Germany, 1953 C.J. Fox

It had been a fine season for addicts of German studies. The peripatetic Anthony Bailey, bloodhound extraordinary for The New Yorker, had published an account, teeming with facts and impressions, of a trip north to south along the fortress line that splits Germany and with it Europe. The Thomas Mann Betrachtungen of 1918, which revealed the darkly xenophobic side of a figure later vested with fame as an enlightened cosmopolite, had finally come out in English after decades of discreet absence from our language. And then there was the continuing phenomenon of Christa Wolf, quiet chronicler of the anguish and upheavals attendant upon the German catastrophe of 1933-45 and the subsequent imposition of what Bailey calls the fault line - 'certainly a geographical and perhaps a metaphysical one' - that bisects her nation. Wolf has at last won acclaim in the English-speaking world, with even the stubbornly insular subjects of Britannia now according enthusiastic recognition to this unstrident German voice.1

Such striking literary developments revived for me memories of a journey into Germany made more than thirty years ago, undertaken, like Bailey's, out of a fascination that had begun with the animosities of wartime, and a desire to fill 'the vacuum of my own ignorance' about the Central European setting of recent millennial events. In my case, it was partly a matter of slaking a vulgarly sophomoric North American thirst for the historically melodramatic - and this accounts for the fact that it was with the phonographic ...


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