Friday, 13 August 2010

German culture and politics

Very remiss of me I know as a serious blogger not to have posted since Tuesday but I have been quite busy (honest). On Tuesday lunchtime I attended the regualar meetings of the Coalition of Resistance against the Cuts at Housmans bookshop and we had a very productive meeting - lots of things are being planned for the months ahead, and more on that anon. That evening I met Moritz from Aachen, who is one of the leading lights of Grune Linke (German Green Left) and we discussed the Green Party here and in Germany and the views of German Greens on a number of issues. I also shared with him my experience of attending a number of European Green Party conferences and some of the anecdotes resulting from that. It appears that Aachen, and I was also told several years ago that Munster too, is a centre for radical German Greens. I was able to relate to Moritz that I had not been in Aachen since 1989, when as a first year student of German, I read in the German newspapers that autumn that the Berlin Wall had fallen and the GDR was in the process of collapsing! I subsequently studied at the Free University in Berlin during the period of the economic union of the two Germanies and a few years later as a EU academic programme exchange student at Hannover University during the early years of German reunification, so I have always had a good grounding in German history and politics.

Anyway we have agreed to remain in regular contact and a seminar for European progressive Greens will be organised in Aachen at some point over the next six months. As International Officer of Green Left and also a member of the international committee of the Green Party, I am particularly keen on developing links with other European Greens who see themselves clearly on the Left.

Over the last two days, apart from working, I have been trying to organise things at home as well as trying to catch up on my reading. I also met my Green Left colleague and friend, Andy Hewett, who told me about his experiences at the Edinburgh Festival (which I have never been to but which sounds really fascinating) and also his impressions of where the Left is in Scotland - the answer appears to be nowhere.

Mention of things German reminds me that although a fan of German literature and culture, as well as of music, I don't often get an opportunity to go to German theatre. I used to go often when I lived in Berlin but it is not often that a classic German play is performed here, with the possible exception of some Brecht classics which grace the stage of the National Theatre - and I have to admit that I am a big fan of Brecht. When I spotted that 'The Prince of Homburg' by Heinrich von Kleist was being performed in London I thought that I must go and see it. Kleist is one of the most famous of the German Romantics of the early 19th century and probably could be compared to Shelley here. Kleist was also a philosopher and much of his writing is philosophical in nature.

He had  a turbulent life and eventually killed himself at a very young age in a suicide pact with his lover, which was typical of the life of a Romantic poet/playwright in the early 19th century. He has had a very bad press in the 20th century because the Nazis held him up as a patriotic and nationalist writer. He was at the forefront of those German writers and poets who developed German nationalism as a reaction to Napoleon's conquest and occupation of most of the German states. But then the Nazis used a lot of German composers and writers of the past as part of their intellectual backdrop and that does not necessarily diminish their art or their message.

The play is part of the German classical canon and I am off to see it tonight. The leading prize in German literature is the Heinrich von Kleist award and is a mark of how highly his writing is regarded in Germany. An interesting footnote which I have discovered is that the play was banned during his lifetime as one of the Prussian queens, who was related to the Prince of Homburg of the title, regarded the play as an insult to the honour of her ancestor, so was only performed after Kleist's death. The play deals with the issues of orders and intuition and when it is necessary to disobey etc. An intesting question in itself and even more so for one involved in party politics.

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