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  • Hemingway und die Deutschen
  • Lesley C. Pleasant
Hemingway und die Deutschen. By Jobst C. Knigge. Hamburg, Germany: Kovac, 2009. 112 pages. Paperback 48 Euros.

In Hemingway und die Deutschen (Hemingway and the Germans), Jobst C. Knigge, a journalist with a background in history, surveys Hemingway’s personal and professional relationships and experiences with Germans, briefly cross-referencing these to German translations of Hemingway’s texts and to quotations by Germans who met him. Admitting from the start that Hemingway’s connection to Germans was not central to the author’s work, Knigge nonetheless considers Hemingway’s “special” relationship with Germans to be a “red thread” (7, 103) in his life. As a Germanist, I had hoped Knigge might prove this “red thread” to be more significant.

Although taking Hemingway to task for his political ambivalence, the 112-page study is primarily informational rather than analytical. Knigge announces on the first page that he will not discuss either Hemingway’s influence on German writers and readers or the influence of German authors on Hemingway’s style (which he considers virtually nonexistent). Except perhaps by his title, Knigge does not promise more than he delivers: Hemingway und die Deutschen is an interesting reference for those pursuing the “International Hemingway” (see for instance Ben Stoltzfus’s recent Hemingway and French Writers), and for critics studying Hemingway’s relationship to Germans from a more analytical point of view.

Citing the “limits of Hemingway’s imagination,” Knigge focuses on Hemingway’s biography, claiming that the American author “usually could only write about that which he more or less experienced himself ” (19, all translations from Knigge are mine). Written for a general German audience (all Hemingway quotations appear in German translation), the text is divided chronologically into seven main parts: “Early Years in Europe,” “Hemingway and Nazi Germany,” “German Friends in the Spanish Civil War,” “The Second World War,” “Writing about the War,” “Wives and Friendships” and “Books, Publishers, and Translators.” Knigge concedes that Hemingway did not really know, and had no interest in, Germans or their culture (7, 103). Yet, he also conveys disappointment that Hemingway did not “do enough” with his World War Two experience.

According to Knigge, Hemingway’s first (and negative) encounters with Germans occurred after World War I when he served as a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Daily Star. While covering the economic conference in [End Page 136] Genoa, Hemingway mocked the appearance of German journalists. Reporting on the French occupation of the Ruhr, Hemingway described the situation as “absurd” (14) as the fierce propaganda war had turned Germans and French into caricatures of each other (see “Hate in the Ruhr is Real” and “French Speed with Movies on the Job” in DL 289–294). Negativity colors Hemingway’s reactions to Germany and its people generally. Disturbed by the German tourist herds, he refused to hike through the Black Forest, which “was no forest but just a lot of wooded hills and highly cultivated valleys” (DL 198). Although the high inflation worked to his advantage, he felt unwelcome in Germany because of German unfriendliness toward foreigners. Returning that unfriendliness in print, Hemingway wrote of ugly, graceless people with “the look of utter stupidity that belongs only to the bactrian and the South German peasant woman” (DL 202, see “German Innkeepers” article). The capital fared no better. Knigge asserts that Hemingway disliked Berlin even before his three visits, and that the “macho” writer “couldn’t stand” “the homosexual milieu of the German metropolis” (23). For Hemingway, “There is nothing attractive nor gay about the nightlife of Berlin. It is altogether revolting... There is no nightclub in Berlin that is not disgusting, heavy, dull and hopeless” (DL 407).

Knigge criticizes Hemingway’s description of his Black Forest fishing experience that appeared not only as a newspaper article (“Fishing in Baden Perfect”), but also as a “simply recycled” (22) description in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” Questioning whether the experience really warranted a literary recurrence, the German wonders “what the reader should do with this realistic memory” (22). According to Knigge, Hemingway’s descriptions are often langatmig as well as umständlich (both terms for “longwinded”) (18, 69) and “somewhat clichéd...


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