Cultural Critique in the Two Unifications of Germany

  • Stephen Brockmann
Part of the New Perspectives in German Studies book series (NPG)


One of the central themes underlying criticism of German reunification in the early 1990s was the idea that reunification was, in essence, a repetition of the Reichsgründung (foundation of the Reich) carried out in 1870–71 under the leadership of Bismarck. In particular Günter Grass made this argument. His novel Ein weites Feld (Too Far Afield, 1995) was an extended comparison between the two unifications, in which most aspects of Germany in the 1990s had equivalents in the Germany of the 1870s and 1880s, the primary correspondence being that between Grass’s protagonist Fonty in the 1990s and Fonty’s literary hero Theodor Fontane in the 1870s and 1880s, while Fonty’s Chancellor Helmut Kohl corresponded to Fontane’s Bismarck in the earlier period. In his criticism of the supposed joylessness of German reunification, Grass sometimes eerily echoed, from a left-wing perspective, the criticisms of the nationalist Paul de Lagarde, who, over a century earlier, had criticised Bismarck’s Second Reich in similar terms: ‘There has never been a creation as joyless as this one.’1


Cultural Critique German Culture German Unification European Union Politics German National Identity 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

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  • Stephen Brockmann

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