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Books this Season: Nonfiction

Spring 2005

Fiction and Poetry / World War II / Politics / Nonfiction


Anyone wanting to know more about the widow of German newspaper magnate Axel Springer should read this book. Springer turned the Bild Zeitung into Europe's biggest tabloid newspaper but at the end of his life lost control of his own publishing group. In her biography "Friede Springer", FAZ editor Inge Kloepfer tells with much sympathy and plenty of factual information the uncanny story of Friede Riewerts' fairytale metamorphosis from nursemaid to newspaper mogul's wife, and finally to one of Germany's most influential women today as head of the Springer group, writes the NZZ. After her husband's death, Friede Springer managed to buy back the majority of shares in the Springer group and prevent the fall of the empire. Kloepfer's biography received positive reviews throughout the German press: The NZZ was not bored, even though, or perhaps because, some passages border on homey storytelling. Die Zeit was not put out by the apparent closeness of author and subject. Only when Bernhard Servatius, the executor of Springer's will, is criticised on the basis of bare allegations, does it voice its concern.

Oliver Gehr's "Der Spiegel Komplex" (The Mirror complex) appeared on March 18. It tells the story of Stefan Aust, editor-in-chief of Der Spiegel, Germany's major political magazine. To this day the book has been reviewed by none of the major newspapers. Only the Berliner Zeitung has dared review it, praising the book but asking whether Aust "would have enough influence to prevent anything being said about the book? Kuno Haberbusch, head of the NDR media programme Zapp, says he does not believe in a conspiracy. But when Zapp wanted to do an report on the book last week and 25 people were asked for statements, no one said a thing. Haberbusch, who once shared a flat with Aust, says he can't remember anything like it." (Here is an interview with Aust from 1998, here a brief history of the Spiegel)

Jörg Magenau's extensive biography of Martin Walser, the first of its kind, was nodded through by the critics. Walser is a central figure in post-war German literary history, as a writer of very entertaining novels, and because of his infallible nose for the most painful historical debates. These ranged from the Auschwitz debates in the early 1970s to the Walser-Bubis debate at the turn of the century, when Walser was at loggerheads with Ignatz Bubis, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, on the question of German guilt. While people familiar with the author will discover little new in this work, the SZ attributes this less to a lack of thoroughness that to Martin Walser's high public profile. But it is interested to note that Walser is so clearly recognisable as Suhrkamp author. The FR finds "mood-avantgardist" a fitting label but resents Magenau's partisanship which overly narrows the scope of the book. (Until 1 May there will be an exhibition about Walser at the Münchner Literaturhaus in Munich)


Is Peter Sloterdijk's latest book, "Im Weltinnenraum des Kapitals" (inside the internal space of world capital), "Sectarian mutterings" as the taz would have it, or "a dizzying plethora of ideas" as the SZ gushes? One thing at least is clear: the philosopher is not economical with words. His last three-volume work, "Sphären" (Spheres), filled 2,500 pages. The new book deals with what he calls the "internal space" of globalisation. But some reviewers follow him there reluctantly. Die Zeit calls the work "instructive and important", while the FAZ has no patience for Sloterdijk's loquaciousness, which, it writes, reflects one sole principle, "I need room to expand".

Fiction and Poetry / World War II / Politics / Nonfiction - let's talk european