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German Autumn

German Autumn

Foreword by Mark Kurlansky
Translated by Robin Fulton Macpherson
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 136
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  • Book Info
    German Autumn
    Book Description:

    First published in Sweden in 1947, German Autumn, a collection of Stig Dagerman’s articles on Germany immediately after the fall of the Third Reich, was unlike any other reporting at the time. Presented here in its first American edition, Dagerman’s essays on the tragic aftermath of war, suffering, and guilt are as hauntingly relevant today as they were sixty years ago.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7892-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. FOREWORD Pitiless Fall
    (pp. vii-xiv)

    There is a place I like to go on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It is the Neue Galerie, a museum specializing in the art of Germany and Austria, much of it from what was a kind of golden age during the first part of the twentieth century. A gift shop features Austro-German design from the early twentieth century, and the bookstore sells German literature in German and translated into English (Goethe, Heine, Mann, and the great thinkers—Freud, Hegel, Spengler, Kant, Nietzsche, Marx, Jaspers), as well as books about the artists and the great expressionist filmmakers who influenced...

    (pp. 1-4)
    Robin Fulton Macpherson

    In his study of Stig Dagerman (1958) Olof Lagercrantz quotes from a letter Dagerman wrote from Munich to his friend and colleague Werner Aspenström:

    A journalist I have not yet become, and it doesn’t look as if I’ll ever be one. I have no wish to acquire all the deplorable attributes that go to make up a perfect journalist. I find it hard to understand the people I meet at the Allied Press hotel - they think that a small hunger-strike is more interesting than the hunger of multitudes. While hunger-riots are sensational, hunger itself is not sensational, and what...

  5. German Autumn
    (pp. 5-18)

    In the autumn of 1946 the leaves were falling in Germany for the third time since Churchill’s famous speech about the falling of leaves. It was a gloomy season with rain, cold – and hunger, especially in the Ruhr and generally throughout the rest of the old Third Reich. All autumn, trains arrived in the Western Zones with refugees from the Eastern Zone. Ragged, starving and unwelcome, they crowded in dark, stinking station-bunkers or in the giant windowless bunkers that look like rectangular gasometers, looming like huge monuments to defeat in Germany’s collapsed cities. The silence and passive submission of these...

  6. Ruins
    (pp. 19-26)

    When every available consolation has been exhausted a new one must be invented even if it should turn out to be absurd. In German cities it often happens that people ask the stranger to confirm that their city is the most burnt, devastated and crumbled in the whole of Germany. It is not a matter of finding consolation in the midst of distress – distress itself has become a consolation. The same people become down-hearted if you tell them that you have seen worse things in other places. It may be that we have no right to say so for each...

  7. Bombed Cemetery
    (pp. 27-34)

    On a bridge in Hamburg there is a man standing selling a little gadget: fastened to an ordinary knife, it is meant to give a more economical method of peeling potatoes. He puts on such a show when he demonstrates how using this new invention the potato-peel can be as thin as anyone could want, that all of us, who have been standing at the railing watching how heavy black barges loaded with rubble are poled up the canal, turn away and gather round him. No one is likely to satisfy his hunger by joking about it, even in Hamburg,...

  8. Poor Man’s Cake
    (pp. 35-42)

    Deep within a neglected park on the outskirts of Hamburg there lives an ageing liberal lawyer together with a writer of picaresque novels. The park is in an area of Hamburg where the streets have no other lighting than the headlamps of English vehicles as they prowl past. In the darkness you bump against invisible arms or hear invisible words in passing and with a shiver you remind yourself of the advice given by experienced correspondents - not to venture out on the dark streets of Hamburg without the company of a revolver. The park is a wilder place than...

  9. The Art of Sinking
    (pp. 43-50)

    Sink a little! Try to sink a little! When it comes to the art of sinking then there are worse and better artists. In Germany there are bad practitioners who keep themselves alive only by the thought that since they have so little to live for they have even less to die for. But there are surprisingly many who are willing to accept anything merely to survive.

    On Sundays outside the Zoo Station in Berlin a ragged and blind old man sits playing shrill psalmtunes on a little portable organ. He sits bare-headed in the cold and listens sorrowfully down...

  10. The Unwelcome
    (pp. 51-58)

    Nowadays goods trains generally have priority on German railways. The same people who bitterly claim that Germans have been degraded to a third-class people when the occupying powers have taken season tickets for several rows in the city theatre, sit in the ice-cold compartments of the shabby passenger trains and interpret the new train system symbolically. One must certainly learn to wait: certain kinds of goods train are considered more important than several fully loaded freezing passenger trains bulging with people and their newly filled or still empty potato-sacks.

    But there are goods trains and goods trains. There are goods...

  11. The Rivals
    (pp. 59-64)

    It is convenient but not necessarily helpful to regard Germany as a patient, Europe’s ‘sick man’, in desperate need of injections of anti-Nazi serum. There is no doubt that in one way or another Germany ought to be cleansed of Nazism, but what is doubtful in this connection is that the patient theory presupposes a mystical unity which simply does not exist in Germany today. It is just not the case that the German people are thus divided into two blocs: a small anti-Nazi victory monument of gravestone dimensions, and a huge Nazi memorial of vast proportions ready to tip...

  12. Lost Generation
    (pp. 65-72)

    Germany has not just one lost generation, but many. One can argue about which is the most lost but never about which is the most regrettable. Those aged around twenty hang about the railway stations of small German towns long into the gathering darkness without having a train, or anything else, to wait for. Here one can observe small, desperate attempts at robbery carried out by nervous striplings who toss their heads defiantly when caught, or drunk schoolgirls clinging to Allied soldiers or half lying on waiting-room benches with drunk Negroes. No young generation has experienced such a fate, declares...

  13. The Course of Justice
    (pp. 73-82)

    There is a lack of happiness in post-war Germany but no lack of entertainments. Every day the cinemas run their films to packed houses, all day until nightfall, and they have introduced standing-room in order to meet the demand. On their programmes we can find Allied war films, while in the meantime American experts in militarism search with magnifying glasses for militaristic tendencies in German literature. The theatres probably have the best repertoire in northern Europe and the most eager public in the world, and the dance halls, where for the sake of hygiene the Allied military police make a...

  14. Cold Day in Munich
    (pp. 83-92)

    A Sunday in early winter in Munich, with a cold sun. The long Prinzregentenstrasse, from which one of the unhappiest heroes of world literature once started his journey towards death in Venice, lies deserted in the frosty morning light. There is nothing in the world so deserted and lonely as an empty main street on a cold morning in a bombed city. The sun glitters on the gold of the angel of peace, the angel of peace which divides Prinzregentenstrasse into two monumental gradual slopes down to the bridge over the Isar and which Hitler should have been able to...

  15. Through the Forest of the Hanged Boys
    (pp. 93-100)

    The forests heal their wounds more quickly than anything else. Here and there, of course, among the oaks there is an unemployed field-gun whose broken barrel stares morosely at the ground as if ashamed. The shells of small brown cars lie on the slopes like huge food-cans. Untidy camper-giants have been moving in a hurry through these the most assiduously well-managed of the world’s forests. Still, the war has made its way most considerately between the trees and through the little villages: the latter experienced the bombing of the cities only as a kind of red aurora at night and...

  16. Return to Hamburg
    (pp. 101-110)

    There’s no doubting him. The boy wants to go to America and nothing can be done about it. Nothing but shake one’s head and stare helplessly up into the broken roofs cloudy ironwork in the darkness high above us. But the boy who wants me to help him over to America quickly bows over my little American satchel and caresses it vexatiously.

    ‘You work for the Amis!’



    There’s a hard wind blowing through this station in South Germany. The refugees from the east stamp their feet among their grey bundles. Tired POWs on their way home after years...

  17. Literature and Suffering
    (pp. 111-121)

    What is the distance between literature and suffering? Does it depend on the nature of the suffering, on its closeness or on its strength? Is the distance less between poetry and the suffering caused by the reflection of the fire than the distance between poetry and the suffering arising from the fire itself? There are examples to hand that show there is a more or less immediate connection between poetry and remote or closed suffering. Perhaps we can say that simply to suffer with others is a form of poetry, which feels a powerful longing for words. Immediate open suffering...

  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 122-122)