THE GERMANS: The Pivotal Nation by David Marsh

THE GERMANS: The Pivotal Nation

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Published in Great Britain last year, this rich and complex analysis of a history-haunted land has been updated to reflect the November 1989 crumbling of the Berlin Wall and the movement toward reunification up to this March. Marsh, Bonn correspondent for the Financial Times, brings his considerable expertise to bear in depicting a people now wavering between euphoria and unease--exultant over the removal of cold-war barriers, but jittery over the still-pervasive legacy of Hitler. ""Success has not erased trauma,"" he writes; ""prosperity has been accompanied by fears that it could all again somehow be swept away."" West Germany's mass of bureaucratic rules and management-labor consensus, for instance, result from a fear of the unrest that paved the way for Nazism. Despite its formidable presence at the crossroads of Europe, West Germany faces a number of dilemmas as it reunites with East Germany, including an economy that grew slower than the average of the rest of the industrialized world for most of the 1980's; an influx of 720,000 refugees from Communism in 1989 alone; serious environmental problems; angst amid material plenty; outbreaks of anti-Semitism and the reappearance of far-right extremists; and the fear of neighbors who remember a country responsible for two world wars. Unfortunately, Marsh considers WW II and its painful aftermath instead of delving further into the country's past, and largely neglects German culture. Still, he has discovered and carefully organized a wealth of facts on nearly all the institutions of German public life, including many that will overturn outsiders' misconceptions (e.g., despite well-deserved reputations for humorless perfectionism, most Germans, Marsh finds, don't enjoy work). Since the East German Parliament has voted for an October 3 reunification date, this edition, like its predecessor, is already being overtaken by events. Nevertheless, in acutely examining why Germany's soul is as split as its geography, Marsh will make many Americans rethink the simplistic notion that Germany is the next superpower.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1990
Publisher: St. Martin's