A biography of German Chancellor Angela Merkel (b. 1954) that provides insight and clarity into Germany's often underreported role in shaping the European political landscape.
In his retelling of the trajectory of Merkel's career path, Qvortrup (Political Science/Coventry Univ.) highlights differences in cross-Atlantic political culture in ways no news account can. The daughter of a Lutheran minister in communist East Germany, Merkel was a prizewinning student in mathematics and languages who went on to complete a doctorate in quantum chemistry. Only with the collapse of communism and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 did she enter the political arena. Her rise to political prominence was rapid and dramatic. As an emerging politician in the East, she won sponsorship from leaders in the West, among them Helmut Kohl, who served as chancellor from 1982 to 1998. Male chauvinist opponents derisively called her “Kohl's little girl,” but they learned one among many such lessons when she successfully overthrew Kohl as party leader in a corruption scandal. Qvortrup makes clear that the qualities of character she brought to bear were significant; her rise was not just a result of the good fortune of being in the right place at the right time or knowing the right people. As chancellor, the author demonstrates, Merkel has shown a meticulous attention to detail and “obsession with getting the facts right” that can be traced back to her childhood: when she was 9, her motto was “never show incompetence.” Merkel combined those qualities with ruthless courage in seizing opportunities as she became head of her party and then the government. Consolidating power in Europe's strongest country, she also became the continent's major political leader. Qvortrup outlines both the depth and flexibility of a mind and character unbound by the limits of ideology.
This eye-opening biography, drawing from rich behind-the-scenes knowledge, is necessary reading for anyone who wants to broaden his or her perspective on the world today.