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German Autumn

Stig Dagerman

Publication Year: 2011

In late 1946, Stig Dagerman was assigned by the Swedish newspaper Expressen to report on life in Germany immediately after the fall of the Third Reich. First published in Sweden in 1947, German Autumn, a collection of the articles written for that assignment, was unlike any other reporting at the time. While most Allied and foreign journalists spun their writing on the widely held belief that the German people deserved their fate, Dagerman disagreed and reported on the humanness of the men and women ruined by the war—their guilt and suffering. Dagerman was already a prominent writer in Sweden, but the publication and broad reception of German Autumn throughout Europe established him as a compassionate journalist and led to the long-standing international influence of the book.

Presented here in its first American edition with a compelling new foreword by Mark Kurlansky, Dagerman’s essays on the tragic aftermath of war, suffering, and guilt are as hauntingly relevant today amid current global conflict as they were sixty years ago.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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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. ...

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pp. 1-4

In fact Dagerman was a very effective journalist of the kind he wanted to be. When the Swedish newspaper Expressen asked him to go to Germany in the autumn of 1946 and write articles about what he saw there, he was by no means unqualified for the task: ...

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German Autumn

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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. ...

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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. ...

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Bombed Cemetery

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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, ...

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Poor Man's Cake

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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. ...

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The Art of Sinking

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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. ...

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The Unwelcome

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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. ...

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The Rivals

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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 ...

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Lost Generation

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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. ...

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The Course of Justice

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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, ...

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Cold Day in Munich

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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. ...

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Through the Forest of the Hanged Boys

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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. ...

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Return to Hamburg

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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. ...

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Literature and Suffering

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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? ...

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About the Authors

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p. 137-137

Stig Dagerman (1923-1954) was regarded as the most talented writer of the Swedish postwar generation. He published his first novel, The Snake, at age twenty-two, and within four years he wrote four novels, a collection of short stories, a considerable volume of journalism, and four full-length plays. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780816678921
E-ISBN-10: 0816678928
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816677528

Page Count: 128
Publication Year: 2011