Archives for posts with tag: Germany

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In April 2011 I wrote a piece, entitled “It is the German banks stupid” in which I claimed that the primary reason why Europe was allowing a preventable debt crisis to engulf the Periphery had to do with the sorry state of the German banks and with the determination of the German government to do nothing that exposes their precarious condition. I called it the Great Banking Conundrum: how to deal with the Periphery’s public debts without revealing the depth of the black holes in Germany’s (and, less so, France’s) private sector banks. In that piece I opined that the powers that be in Frankfurt and Berlin were busy worrying about Germany’s banks:

“Only they do so in secret, behind closed doors, struggling to find a solution to the Great Banking Conundrum behind the European people’s backs and away from the spotlight of publicity. Their deliberations are now in a new phase, taking their cue from the Greek debt crisis. Lest I be misunderstood, the Greek crisis, however monstrous by Greek standards, is in itself no more than an annoyance for Europe’s surplus countries. A gross sum of €200 to €300 billion could be restructured quite easily or at least dealt with somehow. Its significance lies in the opportunity it offers Germany for revisiting the European banking disaster in its entirety. The Greek debt restructure, with its repercussions on Europe’s banks, is a useful case study; a dress rehearsal; an excuse to begin the process of taking the broader Great Banking Conundrum more seriously.”

It was hot in Germany last week, very hot. But were the temperatures really “record-breaking”? Even before the heat wave had reached its apex, newspapers began to pose the question: how high, exactly, must temperatures climb before we can speak of “record heat”? To find an answer, we must know how high temperatures have climbed in the past – a task that can be surprisingly complicated.

Temperatures are recorded in specific locations, and international guidelines for the recording process are well established. To determine whether a new temperature record has been broken, one must measure the temperature in a given location over a long period of time under stable conditions. One example: in Münster, a city in the Northwest of Germany, the thermometer recorded a temperature of 37.2 degrees Celsius at the city zoo last week, higher than ever before. The problem: during the previous heat wave in the summer of 2003 – when many weather stations in Germany recorded record-breaking measurements – no recordings were taken at that location. The old weather station at the zoo had been closed several years before when a more modern station opened twenty kilometers away at the airport, and the new private weather station didn’t exist yet.

I remember that I loved to read Christa Wolf’s Cassandra in a Portuguese translation.

Christa Wolf was born on March 18, 1929 in Landsberg/Warthe, today Gorzó Wielkopolski in Poland. In 1945 she moved to Mecklenburg, and in 1949 she graduated from high school and joined the SED, the former East German Communist Party. She studied German literature in Jena and Leipzig. Later she became a member of the German Writers’ Association, working as editor of the magazine “Neue deutsche Literatur” and chief editor of Neues Leben publishing house. In 1961 she published her first prose work, “Moscow Novella”. The book was well received in the GDR, but not published in the Federal Republic. Since that time she has worked as a freelance author. Her first big success was the novel “Divided Heaven”, which deals with the divided Germany. The book won her the prestigious East German Heinrich Mann Prize, and was made into a movie by East German filmmaker Konrad Wolf in 1964.

From 1963 to 1967, Christa Wolf was a candidate of the Central Committee of the SED, but resigned after giving a critical speech. In 1974 she became a member of the East German Academy of Arts, and from 1981 on was also a member of the Academy of Arts in West Berlin. In 1976 she spoke out against the denaturalisation of singer-songwriter Wolf Biermann. She was allowed to travel freely, and gave visiting lectures in the Federal Republic, Italy, Scotland, Switzerland and the USA starting 1978.

In 1983, her book “Cassandra” appeared, dealing with the conflict between the sexes. The book made her an all-German author and was her biggest international success. In 1987 she was also presented the 1st Class National Prize of the GDR. Two years later, in June 1989, she left the Communist Party – five months before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

In 1990 she published “What Remains”, a strongly autobiographical short story documenting her supervision by the Ministry for State Security. The book initiated a discussion on the complicity of intellectuals in the misanthropical conditions of the GDR. Christa Wolf was attacked in the West as a “hypocrite” and “state poet”, whereupon she retired from public life.

1993 brought a further benchmark. Christa Wolf acknowledged she had been an unofficial informant for the Ministry for State Security. She herself published the files documenting her engagement at this time. In all, Christa Wolf has written over thirty books, radio plays and film scenarios. In 1996 her novel “Medea” appeared. As with “Cassandra” it adopts the narrative voice of a figure from the world of ancient mythology.

In 2003 her book “Ein Tag im Jahr” (one day in the year) appeared, comprising her minutes from the day on each September 27th over the past four decades.