Germans: The Biography of an Obsession

George Bailey, Author Free Press $36.75 (506p) ISBN 978-0-02-901455-4
An American journalist who has spent four decades in Germany, Bailey splices autobiography, cultural and political commentary, and reportage in a sprawling narrative laced with highly personal or unsubstantiated judgments. The Germans' love of nature and matter-of-fact approach to sex are ``the legacy of their forest-dwelling ancestry,'' we are told. The author, who married a Jewish Austrian, claims that ``it was not the Austrians who took Hitler seriously.'' He describes the Nuremberg trials as ``Kafkaesque'' and vengeful, and argues that ``Hitler did not invent the fuhrer principle; he merely filled the bill.'' First published in 1972 and out of print since 1986, this edition has a new closing chapter which includes an interview with Solzhenitsyn and an account of the author's 1990 trip to East Germany, a ``sickening shock'' exposing him to pollution and grinding poverty. Bailey shines when discussing the Germans' cult of Shakespeare, their penchant for scatological profanity and passion for make-believe and art. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/02/1991
Release date: 09/01/1991
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