Fall 2010 | Issue 19

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A Magazine from the American Academy in Berlin | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010


In this issue:

David Abraham

Brigid Cohen

Stanley Corngold

Rivka Galchen

David Gelernter

Todd Gitlin

Martin Indyk

Martin Jay

H.C. Erik Midelfort

Camilo José Vergara

James Wood

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Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 1


The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010

Harald Hauswald, Hans-Otto-Strasse, Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg, 1983, DDR

Logos Absconditus

04 Notes On The New Atheism

james wood takes stock of the new

nonbelievers and finds them lacking in the

theological subtlety of the modern novel.

08 “The Worst Book In The World”

h.c. erik midelfort reveals the culture

of censorship in early modern Germany

and how a despised little text lived for

centuries underground.

14 Bad News For The News

todd gitlin reviews three major crises

facing journalism today – and foretells of

more trouble on the horizon.

18 The E-Book Plague

david gelernter sings the praises of

that oldest of hand-held technologies: the


The Office

22 The Midterm Fix

martin indyk reviews Barack Obama’s

first year in foreign policy and proffers a

preview of the Middle East challenge.

26 The Organization Man

stanley corngold upturns Franz

Kafka’s office writings to explore how the

culture of risk insurance unaccidentally

flowed through the Prague master’s pen.

N1 On the Waterfront

The American Academy’s newsletter,

with the latest on fellows, alumni, and

trustees, as well as recent events at the

Hans Arnhold Center.

Closed Encounters

33 Uncanny Rema

rivka galchen shares an unpublished

and unheimlich outtake from her novel

Atmospheric Disturbances.

36 These Labyrinths Of Terrible Differences

brigid cohen recounts the efforts of

German-Jewish composer Stefan Wolpe to

make music beyond the nation.

40 The Price Of Entry

david abraham deliberates the

bifurcated paths to citizenship in Germany

and the United States.

44 Outcast Eyes

martin jay focuses in on a caesura in

late medieval philosophy to draw out its

influence on modern art and the very birth

of photography.

2 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010

The Berlin Journal

The American Academy

A magazine from the Hans Arnhold in Berlin

Center published by the American

Executive Director

Academy in Berlin

Gary Smith

Number Nineteen – Fall 2010 CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE


Publisher Gary Smith

Andrew J. White

Editor & Managing Editor

R. Jay Magill Jr.

Am Sandwerder 17–19

Advertising Berit Ebert,

14109 Berlin

Helena Kageneck

Tel. (49 30) 80 48 3-0

Design Susanna Dulkinys & Fax (49 30) 80 48 3-111




14 East 60th Street, Suite 604

Printed by Ruksaldruck, Berlin

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Copyright © 2010

Tel. (1) 212 588-1755

The American Academy in Berlin Fax (1) 212 588-1758

ISSN 1610-6490

Cover: Agnolo di Cosimo di Mariano

Bronzino, Portrait of a Young Man

(detail), 1530s, oil on wood. Image

courtesy bpk and the Metropolitan

Museum of Art

Honorary Chairmen Thomas L. Farmer, Richard von Weizsäcker

CO-Chairmen Karl M. von der Heyden, Henry A. Kissinger

Vice Chair Gahl Hodges Burt

President & CEO Norman Pearlstine

Treasurer Andrew S. Gundlach

Secretary John C. Kornblum

Trustees Barbara Balaj, John P. Birkelund, Manfred Bischoff,

Stephen B. Burbank, Gahl Hodges Burt, Caroline Walker Bynum,

Mathias Döpfner, Marina Kellen French, Michael E. Geyer,

Hans-Michael Giesen, Richard K. Goeltz, C. Boyden Gray, Vartan Gregorian,

Andrew S. Gundlach, Franz Haniel, Karl M. von der Heyden,

Stefan von Holtzbrinck, Wolfgang Ischinger, Josef Joffe, Henry A. Kissinger,

Michael Klein, John C. Kornblum, Regine Leibinger, Lawrence Lessig,

Nina von Maltzahn, Wolfgang Malchow, Erich Marx, Wolfgang Mayrhuber,

Julie Mehretu, Christopher von Oppenheim, Norman Pearlstine,

David Rubenstein, Volker Schlöndorff, Peter Y. Solmssen, Fritz Stern,

Kurt Viermetz, Pauline Yu

Honorary Trustee Klaus Wowereit (ex officio)

Trustees Emeriti Gerhard Casper, Diethard Breipohl

Senior Counselors Richard Gaul, Franz Xaver Ohnesorg,

Bernhard von der Planitz, Karen Roth, Yoram Roth, Victoria Scheibler


The Academy is entirely funded by private donations. If you like what we

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Contributions may be made Contributions may be made

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Director’s Note

The Power of Ideas

Twent y years ago on October 3rd East and West Germany

were officially reconciled after standing for 41 years as two

distinct nations bound by a common history and language.

The collapse of the Berlin Wall less than a year earlier had laid the

groundwork for reunification, driven by Helmut Kohl’s vision of

a unified political Germany, Mikhail Gorbachev’s willingness

to alter decades of Soviet thinking, and the tireless efforts of

Americans such as President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of

State James Baker. These leaders and the hundreds of thousands

who took to the streets of Eastern Europe turned the ideas of

liberty and pluralism into political reality, ushering in the era of

German – and European – unity.

Ideas matter. That was the message of the great political thinker

and historian Isaiah Berlin, whose writing during the dog days

of the Cold War warned against the neglect of ideas “by those who

ought to attend to them, by those who have been trained to think

critically about them.” Berlin considered that moment unprecedented

in modern history for the deep, even violent upheaval

wrought upon humanity by ideas that had been taken to their

fanatical extremes. It was a period, he said, of “open war being

fought between two systems of ideas,” and the moral charge of the

thinker or scholar was never clearer: “If professors can truly wield

this fatal power, may it not be that only other professors, or, at

least, other thinkers (and not governments or Congressional committees),

can alone disarm them?”

During the heady days of the early 1990s it seemed, as Martin

Indyk recalls in this issue, “History had ended; democracy and

free markets reigned supreme; and the United States had become

the ‘indispensable nation.’” Those times are indeed past, and yet

so very much has been accomplished in just two decades, including,

of course, the founding of the American Academy in Berlin.

Ideas flourish when nurtured in the intellectual soil of another

culture, their longevity ensured by the generosity of private

individuals committed to cultivating a fertile exchange across

the Atlantic. This has most recently been exemplified by John

Birkelund, Marina Kellen French, and Nina von Maltzahn, whose

endowments of permanent fellowships in the humanities, music,

and history, respectively, will ensure that this future work takes

place on a firm, sustainable foundation of scholarship and ideas.

The power of ideas resonates in the articles by our Fellows

and Distinguished Visitors found in this present issue: Stanley

Corngold’s exegesis of Franz Kafka’s office writings bespeak a literary

figure who found reprieve from bureaucracy in the life of the

mind; David Gelernter’s compelling ode to the book tells of novel

ways to connect concepts across time; and Brigid Cohen’s work on

the German-Jewish composer Stefan Wolpe offers insights into

seeing musical ideas beyond the nation. Lastly, historians Martin

Jay and H.C. Erik Midelfort approach ideas birthed in the medieval

and early modern periods to follow their rippling influence

– like that critical turning point twenty years ago – into the light of

our own time.

– Gary Smith


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4 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010

Courtesy US Library of Congress, Division of Prints and Photographs

Matthew Brady, Crucifix. Between 1844 and 1860. Half-plate daguerreotype, gold-toned

Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 5

Notes on the

New Atheism

Does the modern novel believe in God?

By James Wood

In the l ast decade, an invigoratingly

intemperate, often strident version of

atheism has become extremely popular.

Books like Richard Dawkins’s The God

Delusion, Sam Harris’s The End of Faith,

and Christopher Hitchens’s God Is Not

Great have sold millions of copies. Beyond

the unlikely success of these books, there

has also been the tentacular spread of

scores of atheistical and “secularist” websites

and blogs, some of them intellectually

respectable, others more dogmatic and


The New Atheism, as it has been

called, clearly has its origins in the shock

of the attacks of 9/11, and the rise of both

Islamic and evangelical Christian fundamentalism:

in The End of Faith, Sam

Harris argued, for instance, that as long as

America remains mired in Christian thinking,

it will never defeat militant Islamism,

since one backward religious system

cannot prevail over another backward

religious system. Atheism would be the

key to unlock this uneasy stalemate. The

very title of Christopher Hitchens’s book is

suggestive of similar thinking. Academics

like Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins

have broader projects, perhaps – for them,

the removal of our religious cataracts

will result in a proper appreciation of the

natural world, and of science’s ability to

describe and decode it. But it is striking

how relatively parochial even these writers

are: “Religion” for all these polemicists

seems to mean either fundamentalist

Islam or American evangelical Christianity.

Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and the

more relaxed or progressive versions of

Christianity are not in their argumentative


Now that almost a decade has passed

since the events of 9/11, and the New

Atheism has had time to establish itself as

more than simply reactive, some of its intellectual

and theological weaknesses have

become more clearly apparent. The first is

that the New Atheism is really the old atheism;

how extraordinary, when one thinks

of it, that in 2010, Richard Dawkins’s

Oxford is now alive with the very battles

The New Atheism is locked

into an essentially mimetic

relationship to the very

belief it is supposed to

negate – the candle-snuffer

and the candle belong


that gripped that city in the 1860s and

1870s! (Evolution versus biblical literalism,

positivism versus metaphor, science versus

revelation, and so on.) After all, Bertrand

Russell’s doughty essay, “Why I am not a

Christian,” first written in 1927, is still the

rather antique template for much of the

atheism of the last ten years. I grew up in a

religious household, and I remember the

furtive shock of reading Russell’s essay

when I was a teenager: it was like seeing an

adult naked for the first time. How bold, I

thought, that anyone would dare to suggest

that Jesus was not especially virtuous, and

was often bad-tempered (comparing poorly

with the Buddha and Socrates, in this

respect); that Jesus’s belief in the eternal

punishment of hell is repellent; that most

religious behavior has been tyrannical and

punitive; that the canonical proofs of the

existence of God are nonsense; and that

the earth is merely a happy accident in the

larger decay of the solar system. All this

seemed massively invigorating.

One can easily tire, however, of the

English philosopher’s insouciant empiricism

(a tone eerily reproduced in the

writings of Richard Dawkins). When

one returns to that essay as an adult, it is

Russell who seems a bit adolescent. The

gleeful listing of religious idiocies and

atrocities encourages a rebellious counterthought,

which is that religious activity has

probably been as progressive and charitable

as it has been reactionary and hateful.

The brittle skepticism about the terrible

dangers of taking things on faith surely

provokes the reasonable reply that we take

all kinds of things on faith, including scientific


This brings us to the second

major weakness of recent atheism:

its literalism. The New Atheism is

locked into an essentially mimetic relationship

to the very belief it is supposed

to negate – the candle-snuffer and the

candle belong together. Just as evangelical

Christianity is marked by scriptural

literalism, and an uncomplicated belief

in a “personal God,” so the New Atheism,

by and large, is apparently committed to

combating scriptural literalism; but the

only way to combat such literalism is with

rival literalism. The New Atheists do not

quite quarrel over how much room there

would be in heaven for all the saved souls,

as believers (and non-believers) did three

and four hundred years ago, but they are

not far from such simplicities – they take

creationism far more seriously than it has

any right to be taken, and are quite fi

6 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010

happy to debate with the Archbishop of

Canterbury (as Dawkins has done, on

television) about whether the Virgin Birth

and the Resurrection “actually happened.”

The God of the New Atheism and the God

of religious fundamentalism turn out to

be remarkably similar entities. This God

is not very Jewish, nor very philosophical:

He is never the bodiless, indescribable

entity that Maimonides or Aquinas

ceaselessly describe, intoning their fine


The third weakness is related to the

second. The literalist obsession with killing

off a literal God, who is only ever seen

as a dominating old father or elder brother

up in the sky, leaves no space for more

sophisticated or abstract conceptions of

a deity, and brings with it a startling lack

of comprehension and sympathy for what

William James called “the varieties of

religious experience.” Since faith is interpreted,

again, on the evangelical or Islamic

model, as blind – an entirely irrational,

non-empirical idiocy – so no understanding

or even interest can be extended to why

people believe the religious narratives they

follow; little or no understanding can be

logical fissures; it is dedicated to a literal

conception, and literal discussion, of God;

it is unable to offer a rich or meaningful

account of the varieties of religious belief

(within which category we should surely

include religious struggle and rebellion,

various shades of unbelief, devout atheism,

and so on).

Iam not a theologian, but a literary

critic. I come by my interest in theological

issues through my childhood,

which was dominated by biblical belief

and ecclesiastical language. As a literary

critic, I can see that the modern novel,

since, say, Melville and Flaubert started

writing in the 1850s, offers a space within

which we might be able to explore some of

our contemporary theological issues (especially

since our contemporary theological

issues have turned out to be so nostalgic).

Returning to Melville, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky,

Jens Peter Jacobsen, Woolf, Camus,

Beckett, and José Saramago allows us to

read them as theological writers, struggling

with the departure, or threatened

departure, of a God whose late and fervent

return, in 2010, would have mystified

To rule out of court the category of the religious

robs all of us, whether believers or secularists,

of some surplus of the inexpressible; it forbids the

passing of the shadow of uncertainty over our lives.

extended to what so gripped Wittgenstein –

that is to say, the unthinking, relatively

undogmatic, embeddedness of daily religious


It is not just that the New Atheism

necessarily offers feeble accounts of why

people believe in God; it also necessarily

offers feeble accounts of secular intellectual

history, too. For the history of our

secularism is the history of our religiosity.

A believer might have a conventionally

“religious experience” listening to

a Bach organ fugue in Chartres, but a

non-believer might have a less classifiable

“visionary experience” listening to Mahler,

or Radiohead, or doing physics. To rule out

of court the category of the religious robs

all of us, whether believers or secularists,

of some surplus of the inexpressible; it

forbids the passing of the shadow of uncertainty

over our lives.

So, in summary, our current atheism

is marked by at least three major weaknesses:

it helplessly replicates many of

the nineteenth-century (and earlier) theo-

many of them.

I don’t want to use such writers, ahistorically,

as helpmeets and hermeneuts of our

current theological crises; rather, reading

them again, historically, in their own theological

contexts, reveals their modernity;

and we discover that indeed they traversed,

more richly and productively, much of the

terrain we are laboring over at present.

These writers struggled with unbelief

and doubt; as novelists, they are

interested in trying to see both sides of a

theological argument, and thus they cannot

do what the New Atheists do, which

is merely to caricature any form of belief

(or unbelief, in Dostoevsky’s case) they do

not approve of. Since they are modern artists,

for whom language is to some extent

put in doubt, they are rarely literalists,

and they cannot entertain a naively literal

idea of God. Instead, they are intensely

interested in how we use metaphor and

picture-making to create an idea of God;

and of how the forms and language of

religious belief persist long after the dogmatic

content of the belief has essentially

disappeared (this is particularly true of

Woolf and Beckett).

Let me give t wo brief examples

of how we might read these writers

through a theological lens.

Contemporary fundamentalism (and contemporary

atheism) has apparently forgotten

that an old religious tradition, evident

in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, insists

on the indescribability of God.

The God of Thomas Aquinas is far

more abstract and impersonal than, say,

the evangelical preacher Rick Warren’s.

Aquinas calls this God the First Principle,

or the universal cause, or “the efficacious

principle of all things.” He is a bodiless

entity outside our universe and sustains

our existence. Aquinas argues that we can

only talk about God indirectly, through

analogy, because He is the cause and we

are merely the effect. The best way to

approach God, he suggests, is by negative

theology – by saying what He is not, rather

than what He is. (Of course, on the positive

side, he also believed that we come to know

Him best through Christ.) The Jewish

philosopher Maimonides, who was almost

Aquinas’s contemporary, took a harder line,

and argued that it was impossible to know

God by assigning Him human attributes.

“Silence is praise to thee,” Maimonides

wrote, quoting from Psalm 65.

Herman Melville knew about the

silence that Maimonides commends. For

him, however, it could not be a strategy

of worship, but an agony: God had disappeared,

and our prayers simply fall on

stony ground. “Silence, that only voice of

our God, and how can a man get a voice

out of silence?” he asks in his novel, Pierre.

Melville may or may or not have known

his Aquinas and Maimonides (though

he certainly knew his Milton, and his

Pierre Bayle, and was intensely invested

in theological matters). But it is surely

the case that Melville, driven to desperation

by this silence, does an ironic version

of Maimonides’s theology in Moby-Dick,

whereby the white whale is bombarded

with masses of descriptions and freighted

with allegory but remains gigantically

unknowable. Scores of different metaphors

are used to try to picture, to contain

in words, the whale; and the novel’s real

terror comes down to this question: what if

God is only a metaphor?

My second example is from Virginia

Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse. There is an

Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 7

interesting moment in that book when Mrs.

Ramsay, sitting thinking, looks out of the

window towards the lighthouse. A phrase

comes into her head – “We are in the hands

of the Lord.” She immediately repudiates it:

“But instantly she was annoyed with herself

for saying that. Who had said it? Not she;

One of the novel’s central

questions turns on what it

means to continue to need

or make use of a religious

language whose content is

no longer believed in.

she had been trapped into saying something

she did not mean.”

On the one hand, “We are in the hands

of the Lord” thus takes its place in the

novel with all the other flotsam of words,

the bits of verse and prose, the mental and

spoken thoughts, that float through the

novel and jostle each other. As a phrase, as

a piece of language, as a formal plea, “We

are in the hands of the Lord” belongs aside

Mr. Tansley’s mean-spirited “Women

can’t paint, can’t write,” or Tennyson’s

“Someone had blundered,” or the last line

of the Grimm fairy tale that Mrs. Ramsay

narrates to her son at bedtime (“And they

are living still at this very time”). These

phrases are all, in their different ways,

relics; it is not clear that they will endure

any longer than the summer house, or Mr.

Ramsay’s work, or Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay’s

children. Yet words persist, even if they

do not endure forever, and many of the

words that persist in To the Lighthouse, are

biblical words, some from the King James

Bible, and others that are still identifiable

as “biblical” or “religious,” but which are of

less precise provenance. One of the novel’s

central questions turns on what it means

to continue to need or make use of a religious

language whose content is no longer

believed in.

And so Mrs. R amsay’s question

remains: “Who had said it?” When

Mr. Ramsay declaims Tennyson, or

Mr. Tansley complains that “women can’t

write, can’t paint,” we know who has spoken

the words, or spoken and written them. But

in the case of “We are in the hands of the

Lord,” the words speak Mrs. Ramsay, and

if an unidentifiable voice says, “We are in

the hands of the Lord,” perhaps that voice

is the Lord’s? Why would one have need of

the words if the belief is merely a lie? Just as

consoling poetry? But the phrase is not really

poetry. It is a belief, obscurely credited by

a woman who is not “supposed” to believe

anymore in such old-fangled nonsense.

Melville meditates on whether language

can capture God; and Woolf meditates on

how language persists in capturing God,

however reflexively and unthinkingly and

vaguely we use it to do this. Both writers

exhibit an involvement, an engagement,

with the presence and absence of God that

complicates any easy attempt to define our

own relations with belief and unbelief. And

thus both Moby-Dick and To the Lighthouse

are historical texts and living texts, with

plenty still to say to us. µ

James Wood, a staff writer at The New

Yorker, is Professor of the Practice

of Literary Criticism at Harvard

University and the fall 2010 Berthold

Leibinger Fellow at the American




Welcome to the heart of Europe!

Welcome to the heart of Europe!

The highlight of any journey is when you land in Berlin. After all, Germany’s capital is among the three most popular places in

Europe – and for good reason. Berlin is a cosmopolitan city offering excellent flight connections across Europe and throughout the

The highlight of any journey is when you land in Berlin. After all, Germany’s capital is among the three most popular places in

world. Which makes us not only an attractive destination but also the perfect point of departure for your next trip around Europe.

Europe – and for good reason. Berlin is a cosmopolitan city offering excellent flight connections across Europe and throughout the

So when are you planning to touch down in Berlin?

world. Which makes us not only an attractive destination but also the perfect point of departure for your next trip around Europe.

So when are you planning to touch down in Berlin?

8 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010

“The Worst Book in

the World”

A censor-evading network of manuscripts circulated the German Enlightenment’s most

radical – and despised – of early modern ideas.

By H.C. Erik Midelfort

Over the l ast few years I have

been growing discontented with

what I will call the standard picture

of the German Enlightenment. Slow to

get started and surprisingly conservative,

the German Enlightenment, the standard

picture goes, dealt with issues like religious

toleration for Jews, Catholics, and various

flavors of Protestants, but it avoided

demands for democratic change in politics

or for a frank criticism of religion, “superstition,”

and the clergy. It avoided, in short,

a critique that would separate religion from

the affairs of state.

It seemed telling for the standard

picture that the great names of the early

Enlightenment in Germany were Gottfried

Wilhelm Leibniz, the great librarian, mathematician,

metaphysician, and polymath;

and his enthusiastic vulgarizer, Christian

Wolff, whose notion that we live in the best

of all possible worlds was brutally ridiculed

in Voltaire’s Candide. Stopping at those two

figures it seemed that the prevalent interpretation

of German intellectual and religious

history was right: That Germany was

somehow allergic to the most bracing and

most radical thoughts of the age and that

the Enlightenment was perhaps essentially

French – clearly the more radical, more

relativist, and more frankly atheistic, with

major figures like Montesquieu, Diderot,

Jean le Rond d’Alembert, Voltaire, the

Baron d’Holbach, and Rousseau; and with

important parts played by Scotland, with

Hume’s radical thinking jumping out of

the straitjacket of Presbyterian orthodoxy

in the 1730s, and as well by the Netherlands,

and then by Italy and England.

In contrast, the German Enlightenment

seems remarkably staid and proper, hidebound

to classicism and the narrow world

of the princely courts of northern Germany.

In fact, many of the naughtiest, dirtiest,

and most shocking classical writers were

incredibly slow in getting into German

Books were burned by the

common hangman, and both

authors and printers might

find themselves in jail for

their efforts to challenge

the religious or political


circulation, and especially into German

translation. While such improper poets as

Lucretius on nature and the gods, Ovid on

love, and Catullus also on love (to say nothing

of Martial), were translated into Italian,

French, and English during the sixteenth

and seventeenth centuries, the Germans

did not get around to translating them

before the second half of the eighteenth –

and even then only in fairly bowdlerized

form. What was impeding the flow of these

classic and irreverent poets into German

culture? Why so langsam?

My first thought was that perhaps the

engines of censorship were suppressing

all attempts to find German for the materialistic,

epicurean, and erotic speculations

of the ancient Romans. But when I began

reading more on the Holy Roman Empire

I found, to my surprise, that despite its

dispersed and uncoordinated form of

governance, the Empire could be highly

effective, particularly when it came to censorship.

What it required was an agreement

between local authorities and the imperial

center (in Vienna and in Frankfurt, where

imperial censors tried to supervise the

German book trade). Books were burned by

the common hangman, and both authors

and printers might find themselves in jail

for their efforts to challenge the religious

or political establishment. On a less formal

level, the threat of unorthodox words

(whether spoken or published) could lead

to losing one’s job. Moreover, it was standard

for German universities to police the

orthodoxy of its students and faculty with

confessional loyalty oaths, either to the

Catholic Church, or to the confessions of

the Lutheran or the Reformed Churches.

This could be a sharp tool with which to

keep boisterous intellects in line, and one

could make up a long list of academics who

lost their jobs over what may seem to us to

be fairly minor doctrinal deviations.

So, had censors objected to the printing

of the naughty Greeks and Romans?

Actually, no. While there were efforts to

limit exposure to Hobbes, Montaigne, and

Spinoza, no one truly cracked down on the

ancients. Instead, it was widely assumed

that the learned would read them at university,

and that meant in the original. Even

when Germans did develop a vernacular

culture and a supple, powerful German fi

Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 9

Image courtesy bpk | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Agnolo di Cosimo di Mariano Bronzino, Portrait of a Young Man, 1530s, oil on wood

10 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010

language that could handle the demands

of serious Greek and Roman thought, led

by Johann Christoph Gottsched in the

1730s, it was careful to avoid rocking the

boat. When Gottsched translated Pierre

Bayle’s enormously influential Dictionnaire

into German, for example, he wrote extensive

notes to the most challenging entries,

dissociating himself and attempting to

distance the reader from Bayle’s radically

skeptical thoughts.

Even the reading habits of everyday

Germans at the time were unadventurous.

Library records for residents of

Wolfenbüttel, for example, reveal the borrowing

of novels, travel literature, histories,

and witty tales. One did not really have to

censor the ancient classics to keep their

radical ideas out of the hands of readers;

there just wasn’t much demand for them.

That there was no radical thought in

the German Enlightenment was hard for

me to believe; all the ingredients were

lished by Marteau were published in

Amsterdam by Elzevier, in fact printers

and publishers from Germany also used

that pseudonym to protect their publication

of risky works, hundreds of them, some

criticizing the Catholic faith, claiming that

the Bible was useless for Catholics, others

ridiculing religion more generally; some

in a more secular mood criticized the

aristocracy and especially King Louis xiv,

and short novels published by Marteau provided

titillating stories of lusty nuns and

priests, court scandals, and the corruption

and decadence of Catholic court culture in


Even more radical, however, was an

underground network of surreptitious

unpublished manuscripts, most of which

were anonymous and dangerous simply to

possess. Here the sleuthing of Schröder

and Mulsow has turned up an amazingly

active market of bibliophiles and learned

collectors who were willing to pay high

One of these books was called Liber de tribus impostoribus,

(The Book on the Three Impostors), a notorious work

that claimed the three great Western religions were

all based on fraud: Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed were

branded as “imposters.”

sums for rare works that criticized or ridiculed

the central propositions of their culture.

These works were usually not printed

before the mid-eighteenth century or, if

printed, were immediately destroyed by

government officials or by publishers who

were afraid of getting caught with forbidden

literature in their shops.

One of these books was called

Liber de tribus impostoribus, (The

Book on the Three Impostors), a

notorious work that claimed the three

great Western religions were all based on

fraud: Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed were

branded as “imposters.” The book had

been reputedly written by someone at the

court of Emperor Frederick II in the midthirteenth

century, or perhaps by some perverse

Renaissance intellectual (a Boccaccio

or a Rabelais or a Giordano Bruno), or

perhaps been derived from late medieval

Jewish or Muslim sources. Horrified commentators

from the sixteenth and seventeenth

centuries often enough claimed that

they had heard of or perhaps even seen a

printed copy of this infamous work, but

not one ever gave any detailed information

about the work before the late seventeenth

there: plenty of printing presses, plenty of

educated and even daring or inventive intellects,

immigration, and travel. As a historian

of early modern Germany, I knew that

Germans certainly were aware of what was

going on around them. Still, I thought, perhaps

I was looking for explicit and public

hints of radical thought in Germany where

they simply were not to be found.

But then my suspicions were confirmed

by an amazing flood of recent German and

Italian scholarship. Two German scholars

in particular, Winfried Schröder and

Martin Mulsow, have documented a dramatic

spread of Spinozan ideas and of radically

unorthodox, Socinian (anti-Trinitarian),

Jewish, materialist, and religio-critical

works of just the sort that the anti-atheists

had been warning of. But these works have

been nearly impossible to find because they

were part of a massive, clandestine network

of works that, if printed, bore false dates

and false places of publication, leaving

most future scholars in the dark.

The most famous of these books were

published by a printer who did not really

exist: the mythical “Pierre Marteau, of

Cologne.” While some researchers guess

that many of the works supposedly pubcentury,

not even a table of contents. When

actual copies of the work did surface, in

the eighteenth century, they were demonstrably

the products of the late seventeenth

century, and it slowly became apparent that

there were in fact three different works that

claimed the honor, or dishonor, of being

the notorious Book on the Three Impostors:

two were in French: La vie et l’esprit de

Mr. Benoit de Spinosa (1719), which became

known after 1768 as the Traité des trois

imposteurs, and a hitherto little-known

manuscript found only in Paris, the Préface

du Traité sur la Religion de M***.

It is, however, the third one that

reveals something about the German

Enlightenment: Composed in Latin in all

likelihood by a German jurist in Hamburg,

Johann Joachim Müller, it was written in

1688. Müller’s grandfather had been the

eminent Hamburg theologian Johann

Müller, who in 1672 published a work

dedicated to destroying atheism entitled

Atheismus devictus (Atheism Conquered).

While the grandfather had attacked the

Book on the Three Impostors, it was clear

that he had never seen it. The grandson

remedied that deficit by writing what he

imagined such a work would contain. It

is not clear exactly what Johann Joachim

Müller’s goal might have been, for in outward

respects he seems to have been an

obedient and faithful Lutheran citizen of

the zealously Orthodox Lutheran Hamburg.

Perhaps he merely meant to tweak the

noses of the hard-line pastors of his city,

including Pastor Johann Friedrich Mayer,

who showed a morbid and intense interest

in rare “atheistical” works. Müller may

even have learned much of what he knew

of skeptical and unorthodox thought from

Pastor Mayer’s personal library.

The basic idea that runs through

Müller’s work is that whatever claims

Christians make for their preferred books

of revelation are exactly parallel to the

claims the Jews make for their scriptures

and that Muslims make for the Koran:

Miracles? Holy lives? Stories of inspiration?

Coherent theology? Tradition? These

all might count for one of these Holy

Scriptures, but it seemed obvious that they

could not all three be true examples of

divine revelation. Some had to be false. In

every case, the witness of two traditions

tore down the credibility of the third, leaving

the reader wondering whether reliable

truth could be found anywhere. One source

of this sort of relativizing skepticism was

surely the awareness of the ancient history

Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 11

and mythology of the Greeks, Egyptians,

and Romans, whose religions seemed to

have been fashioned to meet social and

political needs: to keep rulers and priests in

power and to promote an obedient or even

submissive populace. Another source was

surely the new knowledge flooding in from

other parts of the world, allowing for a comparative

mythology that brought Hindu

and Chinese religion to Western notice and

again made the biblical stories seem more

fanciful and more mythical than they had

earlier. One of the key terms that Müller

used repeatedly in his work was comparison.

If one compared stories and ideas carefully,

they led to an almost total lack of conviction.

Müller’s book on the Three Impostors did

not depend upon claiming, as Lucretius or

Spinoza claimed, that the universe was a

place in which the gods had either retreated

to their blissful abodes or that God was

simply another word for Nature. Nor did

the book announce a new metaphysics.

Rather, it was content to question the supposed

logic by which God held His creation

responsible for the faults that He had built

into it; it questioned too the logic that if

there was a God, that He would “need” our

worship; and it cross-examined the witnesses

for one dispensation or another and

found them all wanting, in a manner that

was later strengthened by the arguments

of David Hume on miracles. What Müller

claimed was not that he knew that there

was no God, but merely than no one could

While some of its owners

did not, evidently, take it too

seriously, for others it was

“the worst book in the world.”

logians in a mocking tone, and they note

the many signs of haste in its composition,

including elementary and egregious errors

in the Latin.

When it was first published

(imperfectly) in 1753, it appeared

without both place and publisher

and with the completely misleading date of

1598. Quite apart from the author’s intentions,

the work quickly spread through

a network of interested free spirits and

excited collectors. While some of its owners

did not, evidently, take it too seriously, for

others it was “the worst book in the world,”

a blasphemous assault upon all they held

holy. Well before that, it provoked fervent

rejections and counterarguments from

theologians and others who read the work

in manuscript form, starting with Pastor

Mayer himself, who in 1702 published

a dissertation entitled In diabolicum de

tribus impostoribus librum (Concerning the

Diabolical Book on the Three Impostors).

Atheism as a risky (and possibly blasphemous)

game had turned into a genuine


This effect explains the treatment that it

received at the hands of Johann Christian

Edelmann (1698–1767), who translated

much of it and provided a lengthy commentary

to his translation. Edelmann

was a notorious free thinker, a man who

started out under the strong influence of

Pietism but who moved under the influence

of Spinoza over into deism or (as some

thought) atheism. He got into trouble with

local authorities wherever he went, until

finally Frederick II offered him asylum

in 1749 on the sole condition that he stop

publishing his every thought. And so, apart

from his autobiography (composed 1749–

1752 but first published in full in 1849), and

some correspondence that stretches to 1759,

Edelmann disappears from the historian’s


But he remained active, as we can see

from the fact that a manuscript recently discovered

by Miguel Benítez in Wrocław and

dated “Berlin 1761,” which represents the

only translation of our blasphemous little

book to survive from the eighteenth century.

The translator identified himself as

“Euander,” a pseudonym that was quickly

know if one tradition (Jewish, Christian,

Muslim, heathen) was truer than the others.

This may not constitute a fresh new

start in philosophy or theology, but it was a

caustic solvent for many of the comfortable

beliefs of his time.

This newly invented though long-feared

book on the Book on the Three Impostors was

not perhaps philosophically or theologically

subtle. It was not the long, careful argument

that might have prompted serious

theological reflection, and it did not deliberately

advance beyond Descartes or Spinoza

in any sense. The two scholars that know

the book best, Mulsow and Schröder, even

think it likely that the author meant his

production as a kind of learned little joke, a

means of posing tough questions to theodeciphered

as “Edelmann.” The translation

is loose, picking out topic sentences or theses

and then commenting, often in great

detail, on the text, so much that, all told,

Edelmann’s comments bulk larger than the

text he translated.

His comments reveal that though he

shared many of the anticlerical sentiments

of the author of The Three Impostors, he

retained a steadfast belief in God. He

explicitly objected, for example, to the very

“The religions, no mater how fraudulent they mostly are,

contain nonetheless many cheerful aspects, which are a real

benefit to poor mankind in its tribulations.”

first words of the book: “Deum esse, eum

colendum esse” (God exists [and therefore]

he should be worshipped), which Müller had

called a non sequitur. In Müller’s text, the

mere existence of God gives mankind no

reason to think that He should be worshiped.

“Why?” he asks. Is God somehow

in “need” of our worship? But Edelmann

protests. “True enough, reason teaches us

no sort of honor [i.e. worship] of the sort

one find in the [various] religions, but that’s

no reason to think that God is not worthy

of any honor, for we owe Him everything

and should thank Him. Before [our text]

would be right in its conclusion, one would

have to prove that there is no God, and that

is impossible.” Here breathed a very different

spirit from that of the author of the

Three Impostors. Far from being an atheist

or skeptic, Edelmann was a deist with

warm feelings toward a divinity of some

sort. Where he agreed with Müller was in

their common conclusion that priestcraft

had deformed the originally pure conception

of God, usually in the interests of

holding the rabble in check. This is what

Edelmann thought was the core deception

of organized religion. But religion, for him,

did offer genuine comfort or consolation:

“The religions, no mater how fraudulent

they mostly are, contain nonetheless many

cheerful aspects, which are a real benefit

to poor mankind in its tribulations.” With

this in mind, it is not surprising that

Edelmann remained convinced that Jesus

was innocent of all deceit, even though he

had not intended to found a new religion.

The responsibility for that lay with St. Paul.

Similarly, for Edelmann, the Bible was not

the product of supernatural revelation, but

all the same “it contains truly many precious

and glorious truths, for which one

must hold it in high esteem.” fi

12 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010

What might we learn about the

German Enlightenment from

this little excursion with Müller

and Edelmann? First, that radical ideas

were so much in the air in the 1680s that

an irreverent (or perhaps merely witty)

young German jurist could quickly pull

together several of them and compose the

book that generations of bibliophiles and

When we ask, therefore,

whether the German

Enlightenment was radical,

the answer continues to be

basically no, but not for

the reasons we have

sometimes assumed.

theologians would both covet and dread.

Second, that he could do so right in the

heart of Lutheran Orthodoxy, in Hamburg.

Third, that he could not, of course, dream

of publishing his Book on the Three

Impostors, but that avid and curious readers

were quick to make manuscript copies of

the treatise, so avid that some 70 copies still

survive in libraries today, mostly in Central

Europe. But fourth, by the time it seemed

that Germany was “ready” for this as a published

book, by the mid-eighteenth century,

it could still only appear with a false date

of publication and with no hint of its publisher.

And when the noted theologian and

Pietist-Spinozan deist, Edelmann, undertook

to translate it into German, he could

do so only by adding a cloud of comments

that seriously weakened the conclusions

toward which young Müller had driven.

A deeply skeptical conclusion may thus

have gone too far. Yes, Christianity was

not the only religion to make faith-based

claims to a unique revelation. Yes, organized

Christianity, in spreading throughout

the Roman world and beyond, may have

made serious and debilitating compromises

with wealth, power, and pagan philosophy.

Yes, the Bible was now ever more

widely understood to have been a human

construction, not a supernatural miracle.

But that was far from the last word, and

Christian theology in the mid-eighteenth

century was just beginning to awaken from

its dogmatic slumbers.

When we ask, therefore, whether the

German Enlightenment was radical, the

answer continues to be basically no, but

not for the reasons we have sometimes

assumed. It was not that German thinkers

and theologians were too timid to engage

with the dissident ideas of the French, the

Dutch, and the English. Indeed, the first of

the three different On the Three Impostors

books was both German and deliciously

radical in its way. But the forces of repression

in Germany were active and truly

effective: if one stepped out of line, one

might lose one’s job and have to flee to

avoid jail, as many, many dissident intellectuals

in Germany found out to their dismay.

So the conservative nature of the German

Enlightenment was not entirely an intellectual

timidity. It was, rather, a caution born

of sad and intimidated experience. µ

H.C. Erik Midelfort is the Julian Bishko

Professor Emeritus of History at the

University of Virginia and the spring

2011 Ellen Maria Gorrissen Fellow at

the American Academy.


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14 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010

Bad News for

the News

Never before have so many known so much about what matters so little.

By Todd Gitlin

Journalism is passing through a

convulsion whose end is not in sight. Its

outward features are familiar: The most

lucrative advertising, especially classifieds,

has migrated onto the Internet,

where it wins the attention of readers at no

apparent cost to themselves. The circulation

of terrestrial newspapers has plunged,

and their owners have not found a way

to raise much revenue online to replace

what they have lost from the combination

of ink and newsprint. These developments

by themselves would have sufficed

to produce a crisis for publishers – not to

mention American journalists, of whom

roughly one-fifth have lost their jobs in the

past decade. Magazines and book publishing

suffer their own losses. The pity and

contempt in which au courant opinion

holds the papers is evident in the adjective

by which they are conventionally known:


The damage is not only to the specialized

industries themselves. Although there

are compensations, which I shall touch

on below, overall the depletion of the chief

social means of intelligence gathering

weakens the nerves and sinews of the body

politic. New online news sites, databases,

and blog-fests are all to the good, but there

is no way to sugarcoat this bitter pill: Fewer

journalists mean less scrutiny of power and

social troubles, more liberty for irresponsible

elites to steer society into catastrophe.

During the last decade – ten dismal years

that included abysmal campaign coverage

(2000’s Al Gore cast as fabricator, George

Bush as moderate), a preventive war predicated

on falsehoods, and the combination

of unheralded housing bubble and consequent

financial meltdown – the principal

watchdogs slept. News of the mounting

evidence of the climatic disturbances

commonly though imperfectly described

as “global warming” has been scantily and

often misleadingly delivered. Watchdogs

are not the sole prerequisites of a wise and

intelligent society, but a society cannot be

wise and intelligent without them. Great

fortunes and brilliant political careers will

always thrive on public ignorance.

The shortfall of news collection and dotconnecting

analysis is obvious. Not all of

it, of course, can be attributed to the forced

retirement of experienced writers and editors,

the closure of foreign bureaus, and the

literal shrinkage of the papers. Journalistic

credulity toward authorities, one of the

abiding sins of the enterprise, was not born

yesterday. In 2004, official mea culpas in

the New York Times and Washington Post

acknowledged after the fact that – even

at a time predating the worst erosion of

reportorial strength – their reporting of

purported Saddam-Qaeda connections

and Iraqi weapons of mass destruction

was sexed up during the run-up to the war,

Triviality and gullibility,

always the temptations of a

journalism in which public

service ranks second to

profitability, have acquired

new channels through which

to flood public life.

how “the intelligence and facts were being

fixed around the policy,” in the words of the

“Downing Street Memo,” because journalists

for the most influential papers deferred

to government officials whose cornering

of the national security market and mastery

of the manipulation of the objectivity

fetish went unchallenged. The resolve not

to repeat these errors was rapidly followed

by the financial press’s deference to Federal

Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan

as he denied the housing bubble, and to the

bankers, deregulators, and financial analysts

whose willingness to countenance perilous

derivatives and to promote the fantasy

of omniscient markets were considerable.

The decimation of the press is unlikely to

reduce the danger of future derelictions.

The consequences cannot be healthy

for a putatively democratic society whose

faith is that the general run of citizens can

learn enough about the world to guide their

governments – indirectly, through elections,

and directly, by mobilizing public

opinion – in the arts of managing unruly

reality. Greater quantities of information

circulate all the time, but the collective ability

to deliberate does not grow apace. To the

contrary: Triviality and gullibility, always

the temptations of a journalism in which

public service ranks second to profitability,

have acquired new channels through which

to flood public life. Never before have so

many known so much about what matters

so little.

The contraction of authoritative news

is part and parcel of a more sweeping

transformation in the way Americans (and

not only Americans) experience the world.

Attention, the scarcest of human resources,

is spread thin – or, to put it another way:

there are so many more entertainments

in circulation to take up one’s time, so

many new ways of stirring up disposable

emotions and sensations. Meanwhile, in

America today, people who go to the trouble

of concentrating on what is taking place in

the world and how it might be improved are

known condescendingly as “news junkies.”

In the flux of the media torrent, what

people experience as the boon of expanded

choice (think of the hundreds of fi

Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 15

December 25, 1889

The Hartford Herald (Hartford, KentuckY).

Images courtesy the National Digital Newspaper Program

and the LIbrary of Congress Chronicling America project

January 1, 1890

The Hartford Herald

January 1, 1890

The Hartford Herald

January 1, 1890

The Hartford Herald

16 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010

television channels now carried by

American cable systems, not to mention

millions of online sites) translates, in the

large, into the fragmentation of the public.

A hypothetically unified entity once celebrated

as the public sphere, in the singular,

is transformed into public sphericules –

networks of shared interest, relatively selfenclosed,

that pay attention only to subjects

that they are already, by interest or fancy,

inclined to think matters to them. Our

wondrous electronic linkages accentuate

the cultural fragmentation characteristic of

our time.

The newspapers’ command over public

attention did not begin shrinking yesterday.

American newspaper circulation has

been declining, per capita, at a constant

rate since 1960. What is new is the growing

pressure on small, mid-size, and even large

newspapers in metropolitan areas, coupled

with widespread recognition that this

decline is irreversible and that it belongs to

a larger transformation in the way in which

people encounter the world. Although

the youth “look at” the news online, they

spend less time reading it – or long-form

journalism, or books of any description –

than a decade, or two, or four ago. As for

broadcasting, when they watch television

or listen to the radio, they – as well as their

elders – can easily avoid news.

The Age of Cronkite turns out to have

been an anomaly, a briefly Golden Age

(roughly 1955–75) when national newscasters

commanded the national hearth and

were capable, along with newspapers, of

putting racial oppression, the Vietnam war,

and the crimes of the Nixon administration

on national display. During the early

dinnertime hour, there were few choices

besides news. Today, there is nothing but

choices. As I write, any reader of the New

York Times may learn on its front page, or

online, that the average wealth of white

households is six times that of black and

Latino households. But if one has a need

not to know, it is easily satisfied elsewhere.

Eventually, the

popularization of print

encouraged the development

of a civil society in

which, under the best

circumstances, a democracy

of self-correction and

improvement could evolve.

The grow th of cable television

over the past thirty years contributed

mightily to the process of public

secession. So did the unleashed electronics

of the 1990s and since. Through these and

other developments, a new cultural dispensation

has arguably emerged. Precedents

are not proofs, of course, but they are tantalizing

nevertheless. When the Greeks in

the time of Socrates adopted an alphabet,

they ushered in an age of sequential thinking:

If this, then that. Collective reason still

had to struggle, but the promise of understanding

was greatly – if fitfully – enlarged.

In fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Europe,

printing with movable type enabled individual

study, empowered dissidents, and

undermined old authorities. New elites

could bubble up, churning up new forms

of public discourse. Eventually, the popularization

of print encouraged the development

of a civil society in which, under the

best circumstances, a democracy of selfcorrection

and improvement could evolve.

On a comparable scale, there is good

reason to think that we are living amidst a

sea change in how we encounter the world,

how we take in its traces and make sense of

them – a shift from an ideal of concentration

to the diffusion of attention. This shift

of sensibility has been emerging for almost

two centuries – from photography to telegraphy,

phonography, film, and television

to the Internet, in the rise of screens and

the relative decline of sequential text. Both

losses and gains have resulted. The newspaper

was always a tool for a certain diffusion

of attention (you don’t so much read a

paper as swim around in it, McLuhan was

fond of saying) at least as much as a tool

for cognitive sequence. But the sensibility

of the Internet, mobile phones, omnipresent

screens, Facebook and Twitter and

so on – the media for the Daily Me, for

point-to-point and many-to-many transmission

– portends another sea change.

Attention attenuates. What has been called

“continuous partial attention” would seem

to describe the texture of an evolving way

of life.

Attention passes from slower access to

faster; from the textual to the visual and the

auditory, and toward multi-media combinations;

from concentration to multitasking.

At work, at home, on the road, in elevators,

malls, and waiting rooms, we spend

much of our day in a torrent of images

and sounds, navigating through the snippets,

filtering them, desirous of them,

sometimes immersed, sometimes floating,

sometimes wading, sometimes choosing,

sometimes engulfed. People devise navigational

strategies to pick their way through

the torrent. Among these navigational

strategies is the narrowing of one’s intellectual

world to a like-minded blogosphere,

which reflects, in turn, the growth of likeminded


The modern newspaper dates

from the first third of the nineteenth

century. To understand its power,

we must first look beyond the emergence

of specific reports to the creation of the

institutional means to generate them

reliably – thus, the professionalization

of reporting, the creation of specialized

beats, and so on. But we must also think

about the newspaper as a cultural form

and a prop in everyday life. The newspaper

was in the business of aggregation. It was

a sort of miscellany and it catered to, and

encouraged, learning through serendipity.

At its best, it collected incidental and

specialized readers into a functional public

and extended the scope of democratic

curiosity. Readers may have come to a

newspaper to find out about matters of

commerce, about shipping schedules and

company news; or to immerse themselves

in reports of the latest lurid murder; or to

find more reasons to root for their political

parties; or to pick up the latest about sports

and celebrities; or to keep up with the comics

or horoscopes, or, eventually, to do the

crossword puzzles, or consult the movie,

radio, and television listings. But as they

grazed through the pages, they could pick

up a certain rough acquaintance with the

shape of the larger world, and became at

least passingly familiar with the actions

of governments and other prime movers.

They didn’t need to care much about politics

to be aware, even casually, that politics

cared about them.

In other words, journalism’s ability to

serve the cause of enlightenment, and

therefore democracy, rested heavily on

the assembling of what was, in a sense, an

accidental public. Readers who wanted to

know their world better in order to govern

themselves, and were frequently partisan,

were joined in a sort of ritual collaboration

by the more casually and diffusely interested.

The fact that large numbers, even

majorities of the population, were drawn to

the news became a resource for reformers

of all stripes, especially the rationalists who

called themselves Progressives. The public

may have been a “phantom,” as Walter

Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 17

Lippmann insisted in 1925, but still, this

phantom assembled itself around breakfast

tables and on railroad cars, reading the

papers. This model public was progressive,

in that it believed that shared information

would improve the ability of public

powers to intervene usefully. For a decade

and more in the early twentieth century it

dominated both major political parties. Its

victories were tenuous and reversible. But

as the sociologist Herbert Gans has pointed

out, the template for today’s journalism

remains the Progressive model in which

informed publics intervene to control

the excesses to which vested interests are


That model of journalism as an ensemble

of usable messages carries over into the

more unruly but ever-evolving sphere of

opinion blogs and current-affairs amalgamation

sites, which encourage the perception

that political discourse might have a

new lease on life even as the traditional

news organizations founder. But intense

back-talk is not the same as illumination.

It remains the case that little of the nutsand-bolts

work of reporting is conducted

by Internet sites. Almost all current-events

blogs, as well as Google’s automated news

amalgamation scheme, are in the business

of collecting news from newspaper sites or

the handful of Internet sites that commission

actual reporting – as opposed to commentary,

informed or not.

The political sites can circulate untruths

with unprecedented velocity – the case of

the “death panels” canard, which delayed

the passage of health care reform for

months, is much to the point. (The currency

of falsehoods via talk radio, Fox News,

and the right-wing blogosphere is reminiscent

of the slanderous journalism that

prevailed in the early nineteenth century.)

But the best of the new Internet sites can

also detect patterns, “connect dots,” and

thereby satisfy Lippmann’s injunction that

journalism serve as an instrument of public

purpose, an effort “to bring to light the

hidden facts, to set them into relation with

each other, and make a picture of reality on

which men can act.”

Here is an example from a website,

Talking Points Memo (tpm), with which

I’m associated: In 2006, several United

States attorneys were dismissed in midterm

by George W. Bush’s Department of

Justice. These dismissals were reported

locally. The local reports were amalgamated

nationally by a de facto collaboration

of tpm readers who in effect improvised a

national newsroom. Some volunteer tpm

reporters conducted their own investigations.

A pattern emerged: The US attorneys

had been fired in order to prevent

investigations of Republican politicians

or because they refused to initiate investigations

that would damage Democrats.

Congressional hearings ensued. The

upshot was that nine high-level officials

resigned, including the Attorney General,

Alberto Gonzales. Eventually, the Justice

Department Inspector General declared

that the process used to fire the first

seven attorneys and two others dismissed

around the same time was “arbitrary,”

“fundamentally flawed,” and “raised doubts

about the integrity of Department prosecution

decisions.” In order to produce this

rectification, an assortment of scattered

facts had to be collected into a larger, more

penetrating story.

The images presented here of Kentucky’s Hartford Herald (1875–1926) are made

possible by the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) and Chronicling America,

an Internet-based, searchable database of American newspapers. Millions of individual

newspaper pages published between 1836 and 1922 are freely available on the Library

of Congress website, www.loc.gov, where users may search the digitized pages as well

as consult a national newspaper directory of bibliographic and holdings information to

identify thousands of newspaper titles from dozens of US states available in a variety of

digital formats. In the coming years the National Endowment for the Humanities, which

sponsors the Chronicling America program, aims to have every state and US territory

represented in the NDNP database. Chronicling America is to be permanently housed

at the Library of Congress, making as much of the American newspaper’s storied past

available for future generations digitally.

An increasing number of local online sites practice

the unearthing of facts. For the most part, however,

like the early nineteenth century press, the Internet,

insofar as it is concerned with public affairs at all, lends

itself to opinionating – an occasionally useful

but frequently parasitic activity.

An increasing number of local online

sites practice the unearthing of facts. For

the most part, however, like the early nineteenth

century press, the Internet, insofar

as it is concerned with public affairs at all,

lends itself to opinionating – an occasionally

useful but frequently parasitic activity.

This may succeed in consolidating opinion

among those who feel the need to have

opinions; it may intensify feeling; it may

help mobilize people into political action.

But the circulation of news bits originally

gathered by dead-tree journalistic endeavors

does not preserve reportorial jobs or

cultivate the higher forms of journalistic

investigation and analysis. The new forms

of aggregation, juiced up with tabloidstyle

titillation (see: Huffington Post) does

nothing for the economic viability of the

mainline press. The Huffington Post thrives

on a business model that cannot serve the

interests of journalism in the long run: it

does not pay writers.

We are entering unknown

cultural territory, and it would

be foolish to think it can be

easily mapped. Ten or fifteen years into

Gutenberg’s era, could anyone have foreseen

the Reformation? After ten or fifteen

years of radio signals, could Hitler have

been imagined? We are less than one generation

into the World Wide Web. Futurists

rush in where analysts fear to tread.

Enlightenment is always at risk, Golden

Ages are brief, and human initiative is

undying. As the San Francisco radio commentator

Scoop Nisker used to say: If you

don’t like the news, go out and make some

of your own. µ

Todd Gitlin, Professor of Journalism

and Sociology and Chair of the PhD

program in Communications at

Columbia University, is a spring 2010

Bosch Fellow in Public Policy at the

American Academy.

18 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010

The E-book Plague

Ode to an old technology

By David Gelernter

© Candida Höfer/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2006

Candida Höfer, Biblioteca do Palacio dos Marquese de Fronteira Lisboa I 2006

Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 19

Electronic books, usually

intended for reading on portable

computers with screens roughly the

size and shape of a typical printed page, are

gaining ground in the book market. They

seem unimportant, but e-books show us

the technology industry’s lack of imagination,

cultural obliviousness, and love of

quantity over quality. They show us the

passivity of conventional book publishers

and suggest the public’s tendency to treat

technology not as a world-widening source

of ideas but as a habit-forming drug with

side-effects no one worries about. In an age

when art, religion, and moral seriousness

are out of fashion, technology is (of course)

the opiate of the people.

Software can do wonderful things for

the book, but only if we start with the cybersphere’s

capacity to create new things, not

to satisfy us with cheap imitations of old

ones. In the long run, technological progress

will be human progress only if technologists

start by understanding the virtues

of the things they are trying to replace. But

they almost never do. Software can add to

the traditional book but can never replace

it: The book (that is, the traditional book) is

not only the most perfect achievement in

the long history of human design, it is also

an ideal interface to software, in principle.

At its best, software can turn the silent film

of the traditional book into a modern movie;

can turn the solo violin into a concerto. But

you cannot have a movie or concerto if you

start by throwing out the pictures or the

soloist. You must build on those.

Today’s e-books are an attempt to

replace the world of books with yet

another manifestation of the Internet;

e-books mean cheapness, efficiency, and

gallons of information to pour down your

throat instead of glassfulls to enjoy. Of

course, e-books have many practical advantages.

So do plastic flowers; and furry fourlegged

robots are easier to care for than

dogs. But unlike plastic flowers and furry

robots, e-books have enormous momentum

in the marketplace because large companies

are behind them, and no one wants

to be called a Luddite; no one wants to be

against technology and in love with an

obsolete past. Now that most sins have been

abolished, it has been necessary to promote

Luddite to the top rank of bad attitudes.

Our prejudiced approach to these topics

is clear in the fact that (in English) we

use “Luddite” to mean someone who is

against new technology just because it is

new. But we have no word for someone who

is in favor of new technology just because

it is new. Yet you will meet one hundred

reverse-Luddites for every Luddite you

come across. Reverse-Luddites are bad for

society and especially bad for technology.

Their easy virtue makes technologists lazy.

Instead of seducing the public with masterful

achievements, technology only has to

ask and the public says yes.

Post war Americans were briefly

fascinated by the promise of “throwaways”

– disposable plastic plates

and tableware, throwaway paper skirts and

dresses. The goal was constant novelty for

bored consumers: new clothes every day!

Electronic books can’t literally be dumped

in the trash, but they realize the highest

ideal of the “throwaway movement”: to

reduce to zero the artistic and human value

of the objects we handle.

Granted, electronic books are cheap and

can be stored in virtually no space. They

are easy to transport: a thousand weigh no

Books fit our hands, our laps,

our desks, our shelves. Their

shape and heft suits us.

more than one. You can search and manipulate

their contents using software.

But ordinary printed books are more

robust and easier to repair. They are more

portable because you don’t have to worry

about damaging the mechanism: you

can take them to the beach or the back

yard, drop them on the street or let children

stomp on them. They never need


In a real book, the physical package is

brilliantly suited to its function: the codex,

sheets bound on end – the standard book –

is roughly 2,000 years old and is still

mankind’s greatest design achievement.

Electronic books are all the same size. Real

books come in many sizes, which is part of

their value. Novels and poetry have smallish

pages because they are all text without

figures, notes, or index; textbooks are larger,

with room for illustrations and captions; art

books and atlases are largest, sometimes

with one image covering two facing pages.

I have short, wide books suited to artists

whose paintings are long and low; and

tall, narrow books, mainly travel guides

that are easy to flip through. Children’s

books are another world of shapes and sizes


Without even opening a book you can

guess what it is (fiction? textbook?) and how

long it is. You can recognize a book by its

cover, even if you don’t remember the title

or author. You can pull a book from a shelf

based only on its appearance or remembered

location. You can flip through the

pages quickly and form a rough idea about

the book, or stop at something interesting,

or recognize a passage you are searching


Books fit our hands, our laps, our desks,

our shelves. Their shape and heft suits us.

A tennis racket, hammer, or drinking glass

is spoiled if it is too light, too heavy, not balanced

or not shaped right. Why should we

be less particular about the exact shape and

heft of books than about tennis rackets?

And books are not only useful but beautiful.

Nothing warms a room like a shelf of

books. Of the many small, ordinary objects

we handle every day, books probably do

most to soften the hard plastic surfaces of

modern life. Typeface and layout can make

each page beautiful – but even an e-book

allows us to admire those (although not

necessarily on a page of the correct size).

The texture and color of the paper stock are

part of the book’s appeal too. The jacket

design is part. The binding is part.

Granted, many old books were better

produced than the average new one: leather

spines and corners with marbelled boards

on many nineteenth-century books; decorated

cloth covers in the early twentieth

century. Modern books are too likely to be

cheaply made. Publishers miss the obvious

point that book buyers who will spend

extra money to buy a hardcover instead of

a paperback would spend a little more for

a well-made hardcover. But some modern

books are well made; and at least the bookmaking

process itself is alive. The quality of

the product will improve again when readers

insist on it.

Real books last a long time. Books that

are 150 years old are plentiful and often

inexpensive. Is it likely that our descendents

a century and a half from now will

admire the beauty and craftsmanship of old


The most important advantage of real

books is that they grow up and grow old like

human beings. It is easy to annotate a real

book – to argue, explain, or emphasize an

important passage. When you re-read the

book, your notes are part of it. Your ideas

and annotations change over time and make

the book itself change. Gradually a book

takes on the personality of its owner. fi

20 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010

My most valued possessions are books

my grandfather annotated, in English and

(in a beautiful, flowing hand) Hebrew; I

hear his voice in those notes. God willing,

my children and grand-children will hear

my voice the same way. Family Bibles have

notes on births, marriages, and deaths

going back hundreds of years; these delicate

long threads of fading ink lead us gently

into the past. I have a sixteenth-century

English Bible and a seventeenth-century

Hebrew Bible, bought from book dealers,

neither annotated; but merely turning their

soft, heavy pages, so worn they feel like

cloth, connects me to the past – current

flows across the connection, nerve impulses

travel from past to present, and we see

ourselves from far overhead; catch sight for

a moment of the majesty of human life.

Modern computing can make books

better. But publishers and the technology

industry are going about it wrong. Starting

with an incomparably brilliant design, they

ought to improve it, not replace it. Each

book might have a partner through the

looking glass, in the cybersphere. Usually

this virtual partner will merely be useful;

sometimes it will complete and perfect a

book the way a score completes a libretto.

But the physical book on paper will always

be a full partner in this ensemble.

It is natural that when you acquire a

book you should be invited into an ongoing

electronic community of reader discussion

and author comment; of course you should

have access to an electronic version of the

text, so you can search or read online. Much

informal book-discussion already occurs

on the Internet. All that is needed is for

publishers to give this discussion a natural

form – just as the book itself is a natural

form for authorship.

When you scan the book’s code with

your book pen (or some other device), you

will join the community. A time-ordered

stream in the Cloud is a natural shape for

the accumulating reviews, comments, corrections,

and updates that form the book’s

log (like a ship’s log). The log is also a good

place for authors to mention new books

they are writing, or other books they like

or dislike. The stream is part of the book:

If the book is a comet, the stream is its

luminous tail. Books hurtling through the

cybersphere leave glowing tracks behind,

like the vapor trails of high-flying airplanes

or the phosphorescent wakes churned up

by large ships in tropical seas.

When you are interested in many books,

you can blend their logs (or streams) into

one stream, which keeps you up-to-date on

the book world from your own viewpoint.

And we can go further. Often readers

have comments or questions about particular

passages – especially if they are students

studying literature or a textbook. Over

the years many students follow the same

trail and pass the same points; comments

and conversation accumulate around all

difficult or striking passages, like initials

carved in some notable old tree. When you

touch a passage on the page with your book

pen, you transmit information to a nearby

computer, which tunes in a “conversation

track” focused on exactly the word or passage

you have touched. You see a list of

comments, questions, and answers clustered

around this passage. You might hear

ongoing conversation, if readers anywhere

in the world happen to have stopped to

chat at the same place you have. Many such

conversations proceed in parallel on every

interesting street and corner of the text.

The world’s book-readers suffer from an

unsatisfied hunger for pictures. We have

always wanted to see far-away people and

places, mountains and cities and buildings.

The book exists on a human size and scale, and its length

is measured in words or pages, not megabytes. Books connect

us every day to human craftsmanship and history.

we hold their fate in our hands.

But photography is less than two hundred

years old; the mass-printing of photos is

newer than that; high-quality, inexpensive

color printing is a generation old, and

cheap, high-definition digital cameras

are even younger. It’s no surprise that the

world suffers from a gross shortage of

images. Of course there are untold millions

of photographs in the Cloud. But they are a

sprinkling of buttercups in a vast green valley.

The world is largely unphotographed.

Videos are even scarcer: If you are

looking for videos of the various species

of Eclectus parrot in the wild, or the

Cumbrian waterfalls of Scale Force, Moss

Force and Lodore that fascinated Coleridge,

good luck.

This absence of images is reflected in

our impoverished color vocabularies. We

have words for only a tiny fraction of the

colors that occur all around us in nature

and art. Art history merely asserts that

certain artists were great colorists; it says

little about the particular color-chords and

progressions that make the twelfth-century

glass of Chartres and Saint-Denis, or Titian,

or de Kooning great. Some art historians

still regard color pictures as a distraction in

art books. In the all-important field of color,

art scholarship has barely begun, because

the accurate mass-reproduction of color has

barely begun.

Publishers and tech companies will

work together to push forward the art of

the book. But the genius of the book itself,

the physical object, will always be the best

starting point; and authors and publishers

(not technologists!) will lead these collaborations

– unless they lack the vision and

heart for new things.

The book is an object that is

designed for the human eye and

human hand that has proved its

power and beauty over 2,000 years, that

is an extraordinary triumph in the art of

design. It exists on a human size and scale,

and its length is measured in words or

pages, not megabytes. Books connect us

every day to human craftsmanship and history.

We hold their fate in our hands.

Real books will always exist – but will

book-making itself? Will the world be

flooded with e-books? – cheap imitations,

alluring as plastic trees? Or will e-books

create partnerships across the border

between real space and virtual space – the

most important border of the twenty-first

century; between the word on paper and

the supporting cast in the cybersphere?

Between the soloist and the orchestra?

William Blake wrote, “To see a World in

a Grain of Sand / And a Heaven in a Wild

Flower, / Hold Infinity in the palm of your

hand / And Eternity in an hour.” The traditional

book is infinity in the palm of your

hand, is eternity in an hour. Will books

continue to help anchor us in the long history

of human craftsmanship and thought,

or will we give them up and blow away in

a gust of cheap technology into a rootless

future? Each time we buy a book, real or

electronic, we help decide for or against

humanity’s most humane art. µ

David Gelernter is Professor of

Computer Science at Yale University

and was a Distinguished Visitor at the

American Academy in July 2010.

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22 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010

the midterm fix

Barack Obama’s progressive-pragmatic foreign policy meets its Middle East test.

By Martin Indyk

Harald Hauswald, Werbetafel eines Nähmaschinenladens, Pappelallee, Berlin-

Prenzlauer Berg, 1984, DDR

On January 20, 2009, a young

African-American was inaugurated

as the forty-fourth President of the

United States. In his inaugural address,

Barack Obama made clear that engaging

with the world would be one of his highest

priorities. He intended it to be a very different

kind of engagement from that of his

predecessor, George W. Bush. There would

be withdrawal of troops from Iraq; an outstretched

hand to Iran; a reset in relations

with Russia; an expanded economic partnership

with China; and a commitment to

pursue peace in the Middle East.

Obama’s first year turned out to be an

annus horribilis. The effort to engage Iran

had foundered, a victim of regime hardliners

who stole the elections and then

brutally suppressed the opposition. Instead

of a quick start to Arab-Israeli negotiations,

the president found himself caught

up in an argument over Israeli settlement

policy. Boxed in by his generals, he reluctantly

approved sending an additional

30,000 troops to Afghanistan for a war that

seemed unwinnable. The near-collapse

of the Copenhagen climate negotiations

underscored the limits of American influence.

Political polarization and gridlock in

relations with Congress had bogged down

the president’s domestic reform agenda,

raising doubts among world leaders about

his ability to deliver. Russia’s leadership

stalled on negotiations for the new Strategic

Arms Reduction Treaty (start), hoping to

extract greater concessions. China’s newly

self-confident leadership began to throw its

weight around in bilateral relations. And

France’s president gave voice to what his

counterparts seemed to be thinking: Est-il

faible? (Is he weak?)

Every new president’s first year is bound

to be complicated. The learning curve is

always steep. The adjustment from campaign

promises to dealing with the world’s

complex realities is difficult. The new

Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 23

president quickly discovers that things look

different from the Oval Office.

In President Obama’s case, the degree

of difficulty was heightened by the circumstances

he inherited: A home-grown financial

crisis unlike anything since the Great

Depression; a losing war in Afghanistan;

emerging powers in Asia and Latin

America demanding their due; a nucleararmed

Pakistan taking on the characteristics

of a failing state; Iran marching toward

nuclear weapons; a Europe seemingly losing

its way; and in the Arab-Israeli arena, a

deeply divided Palestinian polity and a newly-elected

right-wing government in Israel

that did not accept the two-state solution.

The America that Obama inherited was no

longer the Überpower it once was. Its reputation

had been tarnished, its hard power

strained, and its pursuit of democracy and

free markets abroad discredited.

How far the United States had traveled

from those heady post-Cold-War days that

Bill Clinton, Obama’s Democratic predecessor,

had inherited a mere eight years

earlier: The Soviet Union had collapsed; the

Berlin Wall was down; Saddam Hussein’s

army had been evicted from Kuwait; the US

economy was about to take off; all Israel’s

Arab neighbors were engaged in direct

peace negotiations; and Iran was licking

its wounds after losing a debilitating eightyear

war with Iraq. History had ended;

democracy and free markets reigned

supreme; and the United States had

become the “indispensable nation.” It was

easy in those triumphant days to imagine

that the United States could use its primacy

to dictate a more free, peaceful, and open

world order. Those days were long gone.

Adeeply intelligent and

deliberative leader, Obama’s community

organizing experience in

Chicago seems to have bred in him a belief

in human progress achieved by small but

determined steps. As he told a huge, adoring

crowd in Prague in his first speech

abroad as president, the change that he

wanted them to believe in would not come

easily or quickly. In his Nobel Peace Prize

speech at the end of his first year, Obama

cited President Kennedy’s call to focus

on “a more practical, more attainable

peace, based not on a sudden revolution in

human nature, but on a gradual evolution

in human institutions.” His task was not to

seek transformational change abroad, but

to pursue a more modest effort to “bend

history in the direction of justice.” In the

meantime, there was transformational

work to be done at home: The rebuilding of

an American economy based on renewable

energy, the creation of new jobs, healthcare

and education reform. In all this he

declared he would seek a balance between

competing priorities, refusing to set goals

“that go beyond our responsibility, our

means, or our interests.”

Foreign policy scholar Walter Russell

Mead has categorized Obama’s initial

approach as “Jeffersonian,” after America’s

third president, who propounded limiting

commitments abroad in order to nationbuild

at home. But Obama’s engagement

with the world also displays, Mead observes,

a “Hamiltonian” urge to pursue a realist

effort to confront America’s adversaries.

The president’s decision to send more

troops to Afghanistan was an expression of

this balancing act: Adding 30,000 troops

In this multi-pronged

approach Obama can be

seen to be attempting to

shape a new multilateral

international order.

but announcing that they would begin coming

home in the middle of 2011. Explaining

his decision, Obama rejected the goal of

nation-building in Afghanistan “because

it sets goals that are beyond what can be

achieved at a reasonable cost and what we

need to achieve to secure our interests.”

He would instead focus on reconstructing

America, “the nation that I’m most interested

in building.”

Other instances in the president’s

first year manifested this urge to balance

competing demands: The attempt to close

Guantanamo Bay while dramatically stepping

up drone attacks on Al-Qaeda-related

terrorists; promoting a nuclear-free world

while making modest adjustments to

America’s nuclear posture; advocating

clean energy while allowing greater offshore


This balancing act pleased few and

provided fodder for Obama’s critics, who

saw his compromises as signs of weakness.

His inability to produce clean outcomes

quickly were taken as indications of incompetence.

His efforts to engage competing

powers seemed to come at the expense of

ignoring traditional allies. His reluctance

to unfurl the banner of human rights and

democracy in Iran, the Arab world, and

China indicated abandonment of valuesbased

diplomacy. Above all, these moves

produced questions about whether Obama

had a strategy at all.

This composite narr ative on

President Obama’s first year in foreign

policy, however, misses a significant

subtext in the president’s approach,

which is now emerging in sharper focus

as it takes on greater form and substance.

It is best reflected in the confluence of

summitry and diplomacy that took place

in the Spring of 2010: The signing of the

New start Treaty with Russian President

Medvedev; the unveiling of the Nuclear

Posture Review; the convening of the

Washington Nuclear Security Summit

with 43 world leaders in attendance; and

the opening of the Non-Proliferation Treaty

(npt) Review Conference. The president

intended that this effort would find its capstone

in a new UN Security Council resolution

mandating tougher sanctions against

Iran for its violations of the npt.

In this multi-pronged approach Obama

can be seen to be attempting to shape a new

multilateral international order. One of its

pillars is nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation:

“To seek the peace and security

of a world without nuclear weapons,” as

the president put it in his Prague speech.

But to achieve this purpose, Obama

believes that the United States must take

the lead – hence the New start Treaty with

its reductions in US and Russian nuclear

arsenals – and promote a rules-based system

in which the “world must stand together

to prevent the spread of these weapons.”

In this new order, those who break the

rules must face consequences: Sanctions

that “exact a real price” and the increased

pressure that “exists only when the world

stands together as one.” In this context,

curbing Iran’s nuclear program becomes

a means to encouraging old and new powers

to assume their responsibilities for the

maintenance of the order. It also becomes

one of the most significant challenges to

that order, for if the community of nations

fails to prevent Iran from abrogating its

obligations as a signatory to the Non-

Proliferation Treaty, chaos will follow – a

nuclear arms race in the Middle East will

likely be triggered and the npt will likely

collapse. Little wonder that Obama refers to

strengthening the non-proliferation regime

as “a centerpiece of my foreign policy.”

To have it succeed, the president has to

unify the approaches of the established and

emerging powers. The “reset” policy fi

24 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010

with Russia was a critical first step, yielding

Moscow’s support for the principle of

tougher sanctions against Iran. That, in

turn, made it possible to secure Chinese

support for sanctions. The give-and-take

inherent in the effort to achieve unanimity

is likely to produce a new sanctions regime

that falls short of the “crippling sanctions”

that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

called for: Russia wanted to avoid sanctions

on arms sales; China wanted to avoid

sanctions on oil trade; Brazil’s Lula wanted

time to act as an intermediary; Turkey’s

Erdogan seemed determined to protect his

new friends in Tehran. Nevertheless, the

reshaping effort proved good when a hardwon

P5 consensus held in the face of lastminute

maneuvering by Iran’s leadership.

But unanimity in itself is likely to

be inadequate to the challenge of curbing

Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The Bush

Administration succeeded in securing

three unanimous UN Security Council

condemnations of Tehran, all to little effect.

The combination of new multilateral sanctions

and tougher unilateral sanctions

taken by the United States and Europe

may drive the Iranians back to the negotiating

table. But there is not much hope

in Washington that it would be anything

more than a tactical ploy to buy more time

for building a “breakout” nuclear capability.

Given the importance of the issue to

Obama’s vision of a new multipolar world

order, the trend in Washington is thus

toward greater confrontation with Iran.

President Obama himself has ratcheted

up his rhetoric on this subject. He has gone

from saying it is “unacceptable” for Iran

to acquire nuclear weapons to declaring

he is “determined to prevent” them from

doing so. There is also growing talk of the

military option. Chairman of the Joint

Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen,

and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates no

longer say it would be a “bad idea.” Instead

they declare that force is “on the table.”

This may be a way of signaling to Iran that

there really could be dire consequences

if they don’t take seriously the will of the

international community. It also indicates

a more confrontational trend in Obama’s


If sanctions do not convince Iran to

change course, the EU and the United

States will have to choose between preventive

military action and a strategy of containment

and deterrence. It’s fairly obvious

where the Europeans will want to go, and a

year ago President Obama would have gone

there with them. We would together have

chosen the containment and deterrence

option. That choice is no longer certain.

Given this, contending with the Arab-

Israeli conflict becomes all the more

important for President Obama. Resolving

a long-running conflict between Israel

and its Arab neighbors – particularly the

Palestinians – has a value in itself. He

believes in helping Israel, an important

ally, to resolve a debilitating conflict. The

president clearly feels that time is running

out on the solution of “two states for two

people.” But he is also motivated by a belief

What are the chances that President Obama can achieve

a breakthrough to Israeli-Palestinian peace in his second

year, or ones subsequent to it? There are several reasons

for cautious optimism.

that success will have a positive effect on

everything else that he is trying to do in the

Greater Middle East. It may not solve all the

problems, but it makes it easier to do so. It

makes it easier to get the Arab street, and

therefore Arab leaders, on board to confront

and pressure Iran. It makes it easier to isolate

Iran and to convince it that its interests

are better served by complying with the

will of the international community. And

it gives America greater credibility in this

part of the world for the broader reshaping

process Obama is promoting.

What are the chances that

President Obama can achieve

a breakthrough to Israeli-

Palestinian peace in his second year, or

ones subsequent to it? There are several

reasons for cautious optimism. The first is

called “Fayyadism,” after the Palestinian

Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, who is

changing the cassette in the minds of

Palestinians in the West Bank. He is showing

them that they can take their fate into

their own hands; they can build their own

state from the ground up; they do not have

to be victims. This is manifested in dramatic

new ways in the West Bank: A credible,

capable Palestinian security force policing

the area and working with the Israeli army

to ensure security for Palestinians and

Israelis; representative and transparent

institutions of government; and an economy

beginning to boom.

In Gaza, too, we see an interesting situation:

Hamas is now policing the territory

and preventing attacks on Israel. For the

first time since Yasser Arafat returned to

Gaza, in 1994, the Palestinian authorities

are actively preventing acts of violence

against Israel. At the same time, in Israel

there is a right-wing government that has

endorsed the two-state solution and therefore

accepted the idea of an independent

Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

This same government has placed a moratorium

on new settlement activity in the West

Bank and, apparently, is now doing its best

to avoid provocative actions – demolitions,

evictions, and announcements of new tenders

in east Jerusalem. Moreover, the Arab

states, which have always been reluctant

to provide political cover for Palestinian

leaders who would make peace, have now

formally endorsed Abu Mazen’s decision to

engage in indirect peace talks with Israel.

Israelis are beginning to see that they

have a reliable partner on the Palestinian

side. Palestinians are beginning to hope

they can achieve their independence

through negotiations and compromise

rather than through violence and terrorism.

And President Obama and Israeli

Prime Minister Netanyahu have come to

understand that it is more productive to

work with rather than against each other.

As a consequence, direct peace negotiations

should soon begin, creating an opportunity

for Obama to forward ideas that could

bridge the gaps between the two parties.

If Obama eventually succeeds on the

Palestinian issue, it will impact positively

on his effort to convince Iran that its interests

are not well served by continuing to

pursue nuclear weapons. That may yet

enable him to herald in a new, more stable

Middle Eastern order as the foundation for

the multipolar world he seeks to shape.

But if he fails, the United States might

well end up in a third war in the Middle

East, this time with Iran. That is where

“progressive pragmatism” can lead when a

new president takes the United States into

the Middle East maze. µ

Martin Indyk is Vice President and

Director of Foreign Policy at the Brookings

Institution and was a Richard C. Holbrooke

Distinguished Visitor at the American

Academy in spring 2010. This essay is

derived from his May 5, 2010 lecture.

Prof. Dr. Kurt Biedenkopf

Chairman of the “Institut für Wirtschaft

und Gesellschaft e.V.”

John Christian Kornblum

Retired United States Ambassador

to Germany

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26 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010

The Organization Man

Franz Kafka, risk insurance, and the occasional hell of office life

By Stanley Corngold

Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 27

Most readers know Franz

Kafka as the reclusive author of

stories and novels that have since

become monumental works of modern

literature. Some readers also know him as

a bureaucrat who, unhappy in his office,

castigated the “hell of office life.” But few

know that he rose at the end of his life to

the position of Senior Legal Secretary at the

Workmen’s Accident Insurance Institute

for the Kingdom of Bohemia in Prague

(called, after 1918, the Workmen’s Accident

Insurance Institute for the Czech Lands).

Kafka was no Bartleby the Scrivener, no

harmless office drudge. Rather, he was

a brilliant innovator of social and legal

reform in “the Manchester of the Empire,”

which at the time of Kafka’s tenure,

between 1908–1922, was one of the most

highly developed industrial areas of Europe.

Kafka’s professional writings have

become more and more interesting to

scholars seeking the elusive patterns of his

thought. Today, his relation to “the office”

seems predictably conflicted but by no

means entirely negative. In 1913 he wrote

the comment to his fiancée Felice Bauer

that has dictated the popular view:

Writing and office cannot be reconciled,

since writing has its center of gravity in

depth, whereas the office is on the surface

of life. So it goes up and down, and

one is bound to be torn asunder in the


Steven Ahlgren, Accounting office, New Haven, CT, 1992

But Kafka’s being torn asunder is not

the whole story. In his own words he was

a “natural” official, fully aware of “the

deep-seated bureaucrat” inside him, and

he was not blind to its advantages. In an

amazing letter written in 1922 to his friend

Oscar Baum, he wrote “of our fumbling

interpretations, which are powerless to fi

28 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010

Steven Ahlgren, Commercial bank, New Haven, CT, 1992

Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 29

deal with the ‘evolutions,’ embellishments,

or climaxes of which the bureaucracy is

capable.” If the office stood in the way of his

writing, he could also breathe an élan into

it and even furnish it with a human gaze, as

a sort of brother adversary. In a letter to his

lover Milena Jesenská, Kafka describes the

office as precisely not a machine in which

workers like him might be “a little cog” or

“a big wheel.” Rather, “To me,” he wrote,

“the office is a human being – watching me

with innocent eyes wherever I am, a living

person to whom I have become attached in

some way unknown to me.” The office, in

his words, “is not dumb, it is phantasmal.”

These remarks suggest Kafka’s awareness

of the impact of his office life on his

literary imagination. “It brought him into

direct contact,” writes the Kafka scholar

Jeremy Adler, “with industrialization,

mechanization, and bureaucracy, as well as

with the struggle between capital and labor,

and his official writings antedate his literary

breakthrough.” At the end of his life

Kafka sought to overcome imaginatively

his earlier hostility to the office. In his

novel The Castle, a hero named K., Kafka’s

“vice-exister,” struggles to enter a strange

“castle,” which runs on principles reminiscent

of Kafka’s insurance institute. The

ambition of this K.-figure is something of a

riddle, and readers will wonder what it can

mean for Kafka, who did not have to struggle

to enter his office, where his presence

was needed and paid for. But the theme

of seeking entry into a higher institution

runs throughout Kafka’s diaries in different

directions. When he writes of craving

to enter another place or sphere, it is very

often to come into his authentic being

as a writer (he coined the German word

Schriftstellersein, or “writerly being”). We

will still wonder what connection can exist

between creative, hotly intense imaginative

writing and the life-blood of the office, the

writing of briefs and filling in of forms?

The answer lies in Kafka’s analogies.

Franz Kafka wrote his manuscripts in quarto notebooks (about A5 size) or postcardsize

octavo notebooks. Today many of the manuscripts are available as facsimile prints.

Therein one finds a rich handwriting style with partly pronounced calligraphic features,

written not only in Roman script but also in a German script popular in Austro-Hungary

at the turn of the twentieth century. The rhythm and mood of Kafka’s handwriting

changes dramatically from slow and relaxed and wide to fast and tense, resulting

in undulating, expressive lines and sometimes indecipherable characters. This rich

material was the inspiration for the digital type family FF Mister K, by designer Julia

Sysmäläinen. Her Kafka typeface draws upon the strongly varying typographic character

of the original script, capturing the visual spirit of Kafka’s original manuscripts.

For him, both institutions – writing

and the law – practice feats of imaginative

embellishment: both reach for heights of

complexity, for “climaxes,” in their procedures.

In their operations and their subject

matter, especially in Kafka’s case, both deal

with concepts of fault, of standards and the

failure to meet standards, of dereliction and

shortcoming. “How do I excuse my not yet

having written anything today?” he writes,

on a typical day. “In no way. . . . I have a continual

invocation in my ear: ‘If you would

come, invisible court!’” And, finally, very

importantly, both sorts of writing, the legal

and the literary, at their best proceed impersonally.

Consider Kafka’s great description

of his fate as a writer:

If there is a higher power that wishes

to use me, or does use me, then I am

at its mercy, if no more than as a wellprepared

instrument. If not, I am nothing,

and will suddenly be abandoned in a

dreadful void.

What is striking about Kafka’s last novel

is that his personal castle, the “house of

writing” into which he forever sought

entry, wears the features of bureaucracy,

so that in the end these two kinds of being

become indistinguishable. In The Castle we

glimpse the imaginative “reconciliation” of

office and writing.

In his day time office work, Kafka

was preoccupied above all with accident

insurance, a “business” that, as he wrote

in an early letter, “interests me greatly.” It

stands to reason that as a full-time specialist

in industrial accidents, from 1908 on, he

would have introduced something of the

logic of accident insurance into his novels

and stories. On this assumption, one of the

principles of Kafka’s literary world could be

called “culture insurance,” a concept owed

to the Kafka scholar Benno Wagner. Kafka’s

stories and novels bring together fragments

of many different cultural discourses – family

language, subjective psychology, sexuality,

literature, music, artistic performance,

law, political agitation, religious ideology,

war, and more, always profiling the conflict

of values that informs them.

Kafka’s second novel, for example, The

Trial, was written in 1914, contemporaneously

with his harrowing story “In the Penal

Colony.” In The Trial, a high-ranking bank

official is arrested without his ever learning

the grounds of his arrest and subsequent

execution. “In the Penal Colony” sees fi

30 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010

Steven Ahlgren, Commercial bank, St. Paul, MN, 1992

a high-ranking officer lay a prisoner on a

machine that writes into his body the text of

the law he has broken. But before the story

is over, it is the high-ranking officer who

lays himself on the machine for punishment.

The two stories vary with haunting

complexity the conflict between highly

placed persons and the lower-order persons

they punish, while introducing these

conflicts into several different cultural

discourses. Together, The Trial and “In the

Penal Colony” allude to historical epochs

of Western law, to the bureaucratic agonies

of the day, to the Old and New Testament,

to Talmudic disputation, to Chinese torture

gardens, to the Dreyfus case, to the

Hollerith punch-card machine.

In proceeding allusively and comprehensively,

Kafka performs for his culture an

operation similar to the operation that accident

insurance performs for the work life.

His stories identify, differentiate between,

and then bundle together opposing positions

within different cultural enterprises

and in this way level the risk of defeat to

one or the other party to the conflict. The

Trial contains a literal example of this “bundling”

together of the disputants: court and

supplicant, once distinct, merge when, as

the prison chaplain, declares, “The judgment

isn’t simply delivered at some point;

the proceedings gradually merge into the

judgment.” The verdict of the court is a

judgment on the way in which the accused

conducts his defense: The accused delivers

his own verdict. Both parties, court and victim,

share responsibility for the killing.

Where wider cultural enterprises are

concerned (empires, nations, religions),

Kafka bundles risks by the strategic use of

stereotypical images to create a common

ground. He invests such stigmatizing

metaphors as “nomads,” “apes,” “vermin,”

and “dogs” with features and values that are

common to each of the conflicting groups;

in this way, a discourse of enmity and dissociation

becomes a discourse of likeness

and community. Consider, for example, the

figure of the acculturated ape Red Peter

in “A Report to an Academy,” who is at once

the trained animal, the incipient language

speaker, Esau (“And the first came out red,

all over like an hairy garment,” Genesis 25),

the adolescent experiencing orgasm, the

Jew venturing on “civility,” the fraternity

duelist qualifying with a scar, the circus

artiste, and the “European of average

culture.” Few groups, stigmatized or not,

would fail to find themselves represented in

this figure.

Again, the goal of the 1917 story

“Building the Great Wall of China” is to

protect the Empire from the nomads. These

nomads might be identifiable in turn as any

minority population wanting to be included

in a nation state, but here the Chinese

Empire, threatened by irredentism, seeks to

exclude them with an inevitably discontinuous

and porous wall. To the question, “How

can a wall afford protection when it is not

built continuously?” the narrator replies,

Indeed, not only can such a wall not protect,

but the construction itself is also in

continual danger. Those sections of the

Wall left abandoned in barren regions

can easily be destroyed, over and over,

by the nomads, especially since at that

time these people, made anxious by the

construction of the Wall, changed their

dwelling places with incomprehensible

rapidity, like locusts, and so perhaps had

a better overview of the progress of the

Wall than even we ourselves, its builders.

The key to the wall is its design. Its design

is incomprehensible, except, perhaps, to the

nomads whom it is meant to ostracize. This

fact, taken strongly, means that the builders

are dependent on the beings from whom

Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 31

it is their entire purpose to obtain protection.

Invaders and invaded share the risk of

mutual destruction. At the same time, the

paradox of the breachable wall alludes to

Kafka’s affirming a system of comprehensive

accident insurance for both on-site and

off-site industrial injuries that nonetheless

allows for negotiable gaps.

Throughout Kafka’s office writings, we

see him transforming materials from these

documents into his literary work. Images

of land surveyors, planing machines, and

underground fortification wander dreamlike

into his fiction; more importantly,

perhaps, so do modes of legal argument.

Kafka’s official policy might best be put as

redefining the being of things and relations

through the risk they constitute. An “automobile,”

for example, is a factory, housing

machinery capable of causing potential

harm to its “workman” – the chauffeur.

The automobile owner, henceforth a factory

owner, would thus be required to pay insurance

fees set on the basis of the fees levied

on other factories harboring comparable

risk. Kafka, as it happened, thought this

idea unacceptable for the pragmatic reason

that automobile owners were already

required to pay high fees merely for the

fact of owning the thing. Kafka’s stance of

distributing responsibility equipollently

between contesting parties – a stance

informing his fiction and generally arousing

displeasure among his readers – in fact

reflects the spirit of pragmatic negotiation

that he employed at the office.

The discourse of risk insurance suggests

another complementary view of the heroes

in Kafka’s fiction: they are the victims of

accidents for which no insurance has been

devised and might never be devised, such

as a policy protecting persons from the consequences

of waking up one morning as a

verminous beetle. It would be too difficult to

monetize the risk. One has so little data.

The office provided Kafka with a

trove of material images (add on quarries,

cognac, photographs, peasants)

that, duly transmuted, surface in his work.

But the best connection between the legal

writings and the fiction is captured only

by moving one stage higher on the order of

thought – from shared images and tropes

to the plane of accident, unintelligibility,

unreadability. We have two compatible

“agencies”: On one hand, accident insurance,

which responds to a growingly uncontrollable

and impersonal event by aiming to restitute

the alienated subject; and on the other,

the narrative of individuals confronting

wild accidents (waking up as a bug; being

arraigned and killed for a never-specified

crime; or losing one’s way to death). Both

systems aim to contain such accidents, make

readable the unreadable, monetize risk, gain

“a dear purchase” on chance. Except that

the fictions must do without that statistical

norming and must instead report the failure

of individuals to discover the norming reason

for the accident that has befallen them

in the creaturely order. Yet, “a certain truth,”

as Kafka wrote in his notebooks, “might lie

only in the chorus [of voices],” a bundling

together of counterpoints within the narrative

between of the voice we hear with the

voices in other Kafka texts, always available

to be heard contrapuntally. µ

Stanley Corngold is Professor

Emeritus of German and Comparative

Literature at Princeton University and

a fall 2010 Berlin Prize Fellow at the

American Academy.

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©2010 Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr llp

• Special Thanks •

The American Academy in Berlin is grateful

to Philip Morris GmbH

for generously sponsoring

the 2010 publication of the Berlin Journal.

Notebook of the American Academy in Berlin | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010

On the Waterfront

News from the Hans Arnhold Center

N2 Academy Notebook: New York

City Mayor and philanthropist

Michael Bloomberg awarded

the 2010 Henry A. Kissinger

Prize in Berlin

N4 Academy Notebook: Proudly

announcing three new

Academy fellowships;

Wolfgang Ischinger joins the

Academy Board of Trustees

N5 Sketches & Dispatches: Paul

Volcker on reforming global

finance, Ernst Cramer’s last

editorial, Philip Murphy and

Frank Langella at the Academy

N12 Life & Letters: The fall 2010

fellows, a sneak preview

of the spring 2011 class,

call for applications, and

alumni books

Honoring Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Forging transatlantic ties through visionary business and philanthropic outreach

Three hundred invited

guests attended the gala

evening celebration at the

Hans Arnhold Center for the 2010

Henry A. Kissinger Prize on May

11, awarded to Mayor of New York

City, philanthropist, and businessman

Michael R. Bloomberg.

Introductory remarks were

delivered by Academy co-chairmen

Karl von der Heyden and

Henry A. Kissinger, president

and ceo Norman Pearlstine,

honorary chairman Richard von

Weizsäcker, and trustee Stefan

von Holtzbrinck. The following

remarks were delivered by

Dr. Henry A. Kissinger:

has had,

for all Americans


who have dealt with

it in the post-war period, a very

special significance. And the

Germany that I remember most

vividly is the Germany of the

postwar period that had the courage

to rebuild and adopt democratic

institutions and rejoin the

Western community. It is the city

of the airlift, of living at the end

of an Autobahn, of the Soviet ultimatums,

of the building of the

Wall, and of transcending all of

these in the coming down of the

» continued on Page N2

American academy co-chairman Karl von der Heyden, president

NOrman Pearlstine, Henry A. Kissinger, Michael Bloomberg

© Hornischer

The New Rules

Paul Volcker presents new financial regulatory

proposals at Schloss Bellevue

Three Is A Charm

Announcing the Marina Kellen French, Nina Maria

Gorrissen, and John P. Birkelund Fellowships


certainly global,”


said two-time

Federal Reserve Chairman

Paul Volcker about the future of

international financial regulation,

“but much depends on our

two countries working together

to solve the problem.” Volcker,

who currently chairs President

Obama’s Economic Recovery

Advisory Board, spoke on March 6

at Schloss Bellevue to an exclusive

audience of American Academy

guests – diplomats, ambassadors,

central bankers, and fiscal

policy experts – from Europe and

the US. The Academy’s spring

2010 Richard von Weizsäcker

Distinguished Visitor was introduced

by then German President

Horst Köhler, former President

von Weizsäcker, and by Academy

trustee Peter Y. Solmssen, who

» continued on Page N5

The American Academy

is delighted to announce

that three trustees have

each generously endowed two

full-semester fellowships beginning

in 2011. New Berlin Prizes in

music scholarship, pre-twentiethcentury

history, and the humanities

will accentuate the Academy’s

commitment to these areas of

intellectual inquiry. The Academy

extends its gratitude to these

fellowships’ creators: Marina

Kellen French and Nina von

Maltzahn – both granddaughters

of Hans and Ludmilla Arnhold,

the couple who once lived in the

American Academy villa – and

John P. Birkelund, a trustee since

2006 and former chairman of the

National Humanities Center, for

their pioneering commitment to

the Academy and the future of its

programming in Berlin.

» continued on Page N4

N2 | Academy Notebook | News from the Hans Arnhold Center

• Academy Notebook •

All photos © Hornischer


Honoring Mayor Michael Bloomberg

» continued from N1

Wall and now being the capital of

a united Germany. That is a great

testimony to the human spirit.

In all of this period the association

with America was of central

importance to both countries

and this is why establishing an

American Academy here and in

this house has been so important.

In fact, we’re meeting today on a

day that perhaps will turn out to

have been a seminal day in the

evolution of Europe if the decisions

that were made overnight

about a joint European response

to the Greek debt crisis lead to a

greater integration of Europe.

The reason I am here tonight

is to say a few words about my

friend Michael Bloomberg. We

live in a world of enormous transition.

In every part of the world

upheavals are going on simultaneously.

Every society faces the

challenge of how to move from

the familiar – which is what they

know – to a future whose outline

is not easy to discern. There is a

Spanish proverb that says, “Roads

are made by walking.” And the

way to get from where we are to

where we should be is via some

pathfinders who have the vision

and the courage to go down roads

when it is not yet clear what the

destination will be. I have known

Michael Bloomberg for nearly two

decades and we all know his tremendous

achievements. But the

quality that I admire most is his

ability to view to the future, his

willingness to go in directions

that are not clear when they are


When he decided to run for

mayor, nobody could figure out

how he could possibly accomplish

this. I spent a weekend with him

for some other purpose and he

explained to me how he would

act as mayor and why he wanted

to be mayor. Then he carried out

everything that he said he would

do. He has made all of us feel

that he is part of our lives. One of

the guests here said to me: “Isn’t

it terrific that our mayor is now

here in Berlin?” That’s how we

feel about him. He is our mayor,

of all New Yorkers, not of one


That is why I am convinced

that he has still tremendous contributions

to make to a society

that is groping for a new definition

and for a world that is needing

men with courage and dedication.

I am very proud that Mike

will be given an award named

after me. It is a great privilege

for me to be here in this building,

in this Academy, and on this


Thank you very much.

1. Wolfgang Ischinger, David

Knower, Henry A. Kissinger,

Wolfgang malchow, Jutta


2. pre-ceremony dinner at the

hans arnhold center

3. klaus wowereit, Marina

Kellen French

News from the Hans Arnhold Center | Academy Notebook | N3


At its Fall 2009 Board

meeting the American

Academy in Berlin welcomed

longtime friend Wolfgang

Ischinger to its Board of Trustees.

Ambassador Ischinger brings

decades of invaluable experience

in diplomacy, foreign policy, and

global governance.

Currently the Global Head

of Government Relations at

Allianz SE and chairman of the

Munich Security Conference,

Ischinger served as German

ambassador to London from


wolfgang ischinger


2006 to 2008, and prior as

ambassador to the United States,

from 2001 to 2006. From 1998

to 2001 Ambassador Ischinger

was Germany’s Deputy Foreign

Minister, and as Political

Director of the Federal Foreign

Office, a post he assumed in 1995,

he worked closely with Academy

founder Richard C. Holbrooke as

head of the German Delegation

during the Bosnian Peace negotiations.

In the 1980s Ischinger

served on the private staff of

Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich


A key voice in global security

and arms control, Ischinger

noted of his coming aboard, “The

American Academy has contributed

more to a vibrant transatlantic

relationship than any other

institution in Germany.” High

praise indeed from a man of such



N4 | Academy Notebook | News from the Hans Arnhold Center

Three Is A Charm

» continued from N1

The Marina Kellen French Fellowship in Music

The Nina Maria Gorrissen Fellowship in History

Marina Kellen French

The Marina Kellen

French Fellowship in

Music will ensure the

uninterrupted presence of music

and musical scholarship at the

American Academy for years to

come. Ms. Kellen French joined

the board of the Academy in

2004. The daughter of two of the

Academy’s guiding lights, Anna-

Maria Kellen and the late Stephen

M. Kellen, Ms. Kellen French’s

extraordinary philanthropic

interests continue in the tradition

of her parents and grandpar ents:

She has long been involved in the

musical life of New York City as

a trustee of Carnegie Hall and

the Metropolitan Opera, and she

also serves on the boards of New

York’s Channel 13 (wnet) and

the National Gallery of Art, in

Washington, DC.

Until 1969 Ms. Kellen French

was the president of Keys to New

York, Inc., a business she founded,

which supplied interpreters

and guides to major companies

and the United Nations.

Of her new commitment to

the Academy, Executive Director

Dr. Gary Smith notes, “Marina

Kellen French’s deep knowledge

and passionate commitment to

classical music has always been

a source of inspiration. She has

long recognized that music must

remain a cornerstone of the

American Academy’s activities,

one which we can now continue

to build upon. Our gratitude and

admiration for her generosity

could not be greater.”

The Nina Maria

Gorrissen Fellowship in

History, endowed by Nina

von Maltzhan (née Gorrissen),

will focus on history prior to

the twentieth century. The

granddaughter of Hans and

Ludmilla Arnhold, Baroness von

Maltzahn has been a trustee of

the American Academy since

1997 – before the institution

even opened its doors. She is an

active supporter of music-related

projects, among them the Sing-

Akademie zu Berlin, and has for

three successive years enabled

students and professors from

the Curtis Institute of Music, in

Philadelphia, to spend a summer

week in residence at the Hans

Arnhold Center performing

and offering master classes in a

variety of musical disciplines. In

Uruguay, where Baroness von

Maltzahn has lived for the past

thirty years, she founded and

still directs Fundación el Retoño,

a youth development nonprofit

that aims to provide children

and young people with better

educational and job-training


American Academy President

and ceo Norman Pearlstine

says of the Baroness, “Nina von

Maltzahn’s longstanding support

of the American Academy has

Baroness nina von Maltzahn

been critical to the success of this

unique institution from its inception.

Her generosity has always

been done out of the spotlight, so

this named endowed fellowship

at last recognizes Nina for the

visionary force she truly is.”

The John P. Birkelund Fellowship in the Humanities

The John P. Birkelund

Fellowship in the Humanities

brings an important

new level of support to humanities

scholarship at the Academy.

Currently a general partner

with Saratoga Partners, a company

he cofounded in 1984,

Mr. Birkelund was a senior advisor

to ubs Warburg llc and past

chairman and chief executive officer

of Dillon, Read & Company,

an investment bank. Mr.

Birkelund has served as Director

of the New York Stock Exchange

and the Securities Industry

Association, and as chair of the

Polish-American Enterprise Fund

Mr. Birkelund was recognized in

1995 by the Polish government

with the award of Commander

Order of Merit with Star for his

contribution to the development

of the Polish economy. A

scholar as well as a businessman,

his book Gustav Stresemann:

Patriot und Staatsmann (2003)

received positive critical attention.

Mr. Birkelund, a trustee of

the American Academy since

2006, has served as a trustee of

Brown University and continues

to serve as a trustee at the New

York Public Library, the Frick

Collection, and the Senate of

the Phi Beta Kappa Society and

John P. Birkelund

has been elected member of the

American Academy of Arts and


American Academy co-chairman

Karl von der Heyden says

of Mr. Birkelund and this key

new fellowship, “John Birkelund

has been on the forefront of

supporting the humanities in

America, chairing the National

Humanities Center and for many

years serving on the board of

the New York Public Library

and other cultural institutions.

Importantly, John typifies the

banker as the broadly educated

wise counselor to corporate

executives – a trait now almost



News from the Hans Arnhold Center | Sketches & Dispatches | N5

• Sketches & Dispatches •

The New Rules

» continued from N1

serves on the management board

of Siemens. After his lecture,

Volcker sat down for an in-depth

discussion with Jean-Claude

Trichet, head of the European

Central Bank, Jürgen Fitschen

of Deutsche Bank, moderated

by Academy trustee Ambassador

John Kornblum.

As a sense of calm returns to

world markets, Volcker observed,

not a few institutions think they

can get back to back to business

as usual. But a variety of areas

require massive reform, Volcker

said, and following the Great

Recession of 2008–09, government-backed

financial regulation

must provide a general legal

framework for an international

approach so that an ad hoc system

does not escape oversight. Areas

desperately needing tighter regulation

include capital standards,

liquidity requirements, leverage

restrictions, countercyclical

supervisory approaches, and risk

management practices in both

institutions and by regulators

themselves. Volcker had argued

in the same spirit eight years ago

when he delivered the inaugural

Stephen M. Kellen lecture at the

American Academy, “Preserving

the Integrity of Capital Markets.”

Of this prior talk he wryly noted,

“I can only conclude that I failed

to be persuasive.”

Volcker observes that his

seemingly comprehensive points

did not get to the heart of the matter:

Protecting financial institutions

from failure. It is no longer

tenable to think that “systemically

significant institutions” can

be saved. Nor can their practices

be redeemed, their management

and creditors protected, or their

stockholders’ initial investments

retained. Such assumptions

would lead to potentially greater

and more frequent crises. “To put

it simply,” Volcker said, “We are

faced with the questions of moral

hazard on a grand scale.”

The beginning of a solution

to these systemic problems lies

in the creation of a permanent

legal framework, a hard-wired

mechanism built into the financial

system for the regulation

of financial markets that would

become, ultimately, an integral

part of international regulatory

practice. According to Volcker,

“The idea is . . . for some designated

agency to take full control

of a failing financial institution if

of systemic importance.” Under

such a model, when a significant

financial institution begins to go

under, the agency steps in to take

control and remove management.

Stockholders would lose; creditors

would be at risk. This is no

rescue or bailout, he explains, but

rather “a quick and painless end –

and then a swift burial.”

The former Federal Chairman

is of course aware of the “legal

and policy concerns about such

a grant of authority.” But such

a body is not without precedent.

In fact, something like it has

long existed in the United States:

The Federal Deposit Insurance

Corporation, created in 1933.

“Dealing with failed or failing

banks is to provide a quick

resolution process,” Volcker said.

“I believe there is growing understanding

of the need for broader

authority covering non-banks

in my country. An appropriate

provision is likely to be made

in any comprehensive financial

reform package approved by the

Congress. There is consideration

in relevant legislative bodies in

Europe as well.”


All photos © glave

Jean-claude trichet and

paul volcker

richard von weizsäcker introducing paul Volcker at schloss bellevue on march 6, 2010

paul volcker

N6 | Sketches & Dispatches | News from the Hans Arnhold Center

A Nuclear-Free World?

On February 3 a quartet

of senior American

statesmen gathered at

the Academy at the urging of

the Nuclear Threat Initiative to

discuss nuclear non-proliferation

with their German counterparts.

Henry A. Kissinger, Samuel

A. Nunn, William J. Perry, and

George P. Shultz engaged in

a historic public discussion

with Hans-Dietrich Genscher,

Helmut Schmidt, and Richard

von Weizsäcker. (Egon Bahr was

unable to attend.)

Ernst Cramer, the eminent

German-American journalist

who died on January 19, 2010,

at the age of 96, had wanted to

attend. The former publisher,

editor, and managing director of

Axel Springer Verlag penned the

following editorial, published the

day after his death in Die Welt:

Medvedev has spoken repeatedly

of “nuclear disarmament,” and

Russia’s role as a “trustworthy

partner” in these efforts. A summit

convened by Washington is to

be held in April and is supposed

to answer the call of nuclear

demobilization. The same intention

has a meeting scheduled

in February at the American

Academy in Berlin, attended

by eight experts – among them

Henry Kissinger and Richard von


All of this is necessary and

important. But the main threat

does not hail from the countries

participating in the disarmament

efforts, all of which are – to quote

Medvedev again – “assessable.”

Peril hails instead from the socalled

rogue nations and their

ruthless leaders, like Mahmoud

Ahmadinejad of Iran, Hugo

Chávez of Venezuela, or Kim

Jong-Il of North Korea. The latter

in particular does not care for

international agreements. Not

only does he plan the shipment

of strategic and other weapons to

sympathetic nations – like Burma

and Iran – he also encourages his

scientists to engineer small tactical

nuclear bombs that are both

easy to assemble and soon potentially

available to terrorists.

Last year the US already delivered

a warning: ‘The dangers of

a nuclear-equipped terrorism are

real and deeply disturbing.’ Such

weapons, in the hands of religious

fanatics or suicide bombers,

are the greatest menace to the

future of humankind. How to

avoid such a threat so far no politician

can answer.”

By Ernst Cramer

Die Welt

January 20, 2010

Translated by K. Michalek

All photos © glave

thought of

eliminating, or at


least reducing, the

number of nuclear weapons in the

world has been around for quite

a long time. Mikhail Gorbachev,

the last President of the Soviet

Union, spoke in Geneva last fall

of “nuclear disarmament” and

explained that it had been a “great

illusion” that nuclear weapons

had ever contributed to general

safety. Now the efforts to disarm

have obtained to international

priority thanks to President

Barack Obama’s proposal of a

“world without nuclear weapons.”

Even Russia’s President Dmitry

george shultz

sam nunn

henry kissinger

william perry

helmut schmidt richard von weizsäcker hans-dietrich genscher

Ambassador Murphy and

the Alliance

News from the Hans Arnhold Center | Sketches & Dispatches | N7

Every American ambassador

serves “at the

President’s pleasure,”

some more, some less. Political

appointees are closer to the Oval

Office than career diplomats

and can sometimes even make a

phone call to the top, past all official

channels. In contrast, career

diplomats generally command

broader political experience.

Ambassador Phil Murphy has

been in Berlin for 100 days. He is,

as he occasionally remarks, not a

career diplomat but a representative

of the President. The contrast

to his two predecessors appointed

by George W. Bush, one a career

politician, the other an industrialist,

could not be more distinct.

Murphy not only emanates from

the financial world of Goldman

Sachs and has substantially

contributed to Obama’s election

fund; he is also endowed with

strong political talent, audibly

exerts himself to speak German,

and possesses a boyish charm.

On Monday evening he had a

grand entrance at the American


Alienation and crisis in the

German-American relationship?

Murphy wanted none of that. No

bilateral relation is – or has been

since, even before the fall of the

Berlin Wall – more important for

American politics than that of

Germany. With that he pointed to

the Iron Curtain and the approxi-

US ambassador to germany philip d. murphy

mately 16 million Americans who

– be it soldiers or family – have

served in Germany during the

Cold War.

Nowadays the cooperation

is important in a different manner,

whether in Afghanistan

– Germany deploys the third largest

detachment of soldiers and

provides substantial development

aid – in climate change issues, or

in the reinvention of nato. The

disruptions during the Iraq War

have been surmounted, if the

appearance of the Chancellor at

a joint session of both Houses of

Congress is any indication.

The Ambassador also hinted

at constraints – and that he did

very seriously. In the Middle East,

Israel must stop building settlements.

Concerning Iran and its

suspicious nuclear activity, there

must be willingness to negotiate.

Should that fail because of the

mullahs, “then all options are

on the table.” There’s no need

to explain to anybody what that

means. No wonder it was suddenly

freezing in the well-tempered

American Academy.

By Michael Stürmer

Die Welt

December 12, 2009

Translated from the

German by Kristin


© glave

Welcoming “Richard Nixon”

Fr ank who? Frank

Langella belongs to those

kinds of actors whose

name doesn’t ring a bell with

most people but whose face

is instantly recognizable. His

filmography comprises over 80

movie and TV titles. In most he

is striking as a distinctive supporting

character. His tall build

and observant eyes, beset with a

certain mysteriousness, convey

an aura he knows how to deploy

in both thrillers and comedies.

Langella is now shooting the

thriller Unkown White Male,

directed by Spaniard Jaume

Collet-Serra in Babelsberg. The

American Academy used the

opportunity to invite the actor,

nominated in 2009 for an

Academy Award for his role as

Richard Nixon in Frost/Nixon, to

an evening talk.

Langella doesn’t look his

72 years. He talks about the

profession of acting and his

experiences therein with such

enthusiasm that one forgets his

age entirely. Without being shy,

» continued on Page N8

N8 | Sketches & Dispatches | News from the Hans Arnhold Center

© Peiper

» continued from N7

he calls things as they are: The

movie he is currently shooting

with Liam Neeson is a purely

commercial project, simple popcorn

cinema. This doesn’t hinder

his joy of working, it is just that

there’s a great deal more to tell

about a movie like Frost/Nixon.

Perhaps this is because Langella

hasn’t played the Nixon role just

in the movie, but also over 350

times on stage. He explains in a

friendly, unpretentious way how

he gained access to this ominous

character. He talked to countless

contemporary witnesses, spent

hours in front of archive footage,

increasingly perplexed as

to how he should approach his

interpretation. Then he accidentally

pressed the slow-motion

button and finally got a glimpse of

what makes Nixon tick: fear and


“Is acting really a form of art?”

asks actress Katja Riemann during

the Q&A with the audience.

“Oh, yes,” Langella responds. The

writer simply scribbles letters on

a piece of paper, but “through us,

the piece reaches the people; we

bring it to life.” Langella seems so

serene and composed saying this,

though what follows are critical

remarks about the current state

of film as an art form. These are

not words of cultural pessimism

but rather keen observations of

an abiding thinker. He laments

the industry’s lack of good scripts

and its obsession with youth: “In

the past one could see men and

women in the movies. Today

there are only boys and girls.”

katja riemann, rené pape, frank langella

By Barbara Schweizerhof

Die Welt

February 27, 2010

Translated from the

German by Kristin


Wannsee Jam

An impromptu night of music at the Hans Arnhold Center

The temper ate evening

of June 8 came to a roaring

close at the Hans Arnhold

Center, with musicians from the

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra

(jalc) joining in an impromptu

jam session. Members and

trustees of the orchestra were

at the Academy for a reception

in honor of the orchestra’s

founder and artistic director,

Wynton Marsalis, and Sir Simon

Rattle, chief conductor and

music director of the Berliner

Philharmoniker. The two cultural

giants have been collaborating

on a Marsalis project, Swing

Symphony, which premiered the

following evening at the Berliner


The early evening reception

at the Academy was attended by

several trustees of New York’s

Neue Galerie and started out

with instructors and students

from the Curtis Institute of

Music performing a movement

of Jean Françaix’s “Trio” for

violin, cello, and viola; pianist

Andrew Tyson playing a Chopin

mazurka, and Curtis baritone

Elliot Madore’s commanding

rendition of “Soliloquy” from

the Rodgers and Hammerstein

musical Carousel.

After lingering hours of conversation,

a few jalc orchestra

musicians – one of whom does

leave home without his trumpet

– initiated a post-reception,

impromptu jam session, which

saw Wynton Marsalis and pianist

trading fours: Wynton marsalis, trumpet; Dan nimmer, piano

© peiper

Dan Nimmer trade fours with the

likes of German trumpet player

Til Brönner, the jalc’s trumpeter

Marcus Printup, and jazz

singer Judy Niemack-Prins of the

Hochschule für Musik Hanns


As the evening unfurled,

cell-phones and digital cameras

captured the atmosphere, music

sweetened the air, and legendary

bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff

sang an unrehearsed duet of a

German folk song with cabaret

baritone Max Raabe, founder and

director of the Palast Ochester.

It was after midnight

when the curtain closed on

this unplanned session that

brought out some of Berlin’s

and America’s brightest musical

stars to the fabled Hans Arnhold

Center villa.


From Philadelphia to Berlin

The Curtis Institute of Music residency brings melody to the shores of the Wannsee

News from the Hans Arnhold Center | Sketches & Dispatches | N9

During the week of

June 8 distinguished

artist-teachers from the

world renowned Curtis Institute

of Music, in Philadelphia, were

in residence at the American

Academy in Berlin, a stay made

possible through the generous

support of Academy trustee

Baroness Nina von Maltzahn.

During their residency, Curtis

faculty offered master classes

to students at the distinguished

Hochschule für Musik Hanns

Eisler and, along with a few

of their outstanding students,

performed two evening concerts

in Berlin: One at the Hans

Arnhold Center and one at the

Hochschule für Musik Hanns

Eisler, featuring the compositions

of Beethoven, Mendelsohn, Ravel,

and Jean Françaix, among others.

Included on the roster of

teachers were Mikael Eliasen,

artistic director of the Curtis

Opera Theatre, who led classes

for voice students; Pamela Frank,

a Curtis alumna, who led violin

classes; viola students were

coached by Curtis alumnus and

current president Roberto Díaz, a

former principal violist of the

Philadelphia Orchestra. Curtis

teachers and students also gave

a private concert at the residence

of Andrea Gräfin von Bernstorff

and, later in the week, attended

a concert by the Singakademie,

also supported by Baroness

Maltzahn, and a rehearsal of the

Berliner Philharmoniker.

This is the third consecutive

year that teachers and students

from the Curtis Institute of Music

have graced the Hans Arnhold

Center with their musical charm.

Their stay each year is in fact part

of the Curtis On Tour program,

which brings the school’s extraor-


dinary artistry to audiences

throughout Europe, featuring

tomorrow’s leading musicians

performing alongside celebrated

alumni and faculty.

The American Academy

extends its thanks again to Curtis

faculty and students – and to

Nina von Maltzahn for mak-

ing this annual visit such an

anticipated gathering for lovers

of music throughout Berlin.


1. trustee Nina von malTzahn

2. from curtis to the met:

baritone elliot madore

© glave

© glave


N10 | Financial Overview of the American Academy in Berlin | News from the Hans Arnhold Center

• Financial Overview of the American Academy in Berlin •

The American Academy in Berlin

is funded exclusively by private

and corporate benefactors and

does not accept any donations

from governments or political

organizations. We depend rather

on the generosity of a widening

circle of friends on both sides of

the Atlantic.

The American Academy

operates as a Charitable Private

Corporation (gemeinnützige

GmbH) in Germany, which is

wholly owned by The American

Academy in Berlin, Inc., a 501(c)3

organization based in New York

City. Both organizations are registered

charities and empowered

to receive tax-deductible donations

in accordance with respective

fiscal codes.

In addition to donations to our

annual fund, certain individual

benefactors, groups of benefactors,

and corporations have

established endowments – both

multi-year or in perpetuity – to

secure the financing of named

fellowships, distinguished visitorships,

or lectureships.

The American Academy

prepares Consolidated Financial

Statements in accordance

with US Generally Accepted

Accounting Principles, which are

audited by independent auditors.

Sources of Income and


Our sources of income can be

broken down as shown in the pie

charts below:






Corporate unrestricted

Private unrestricted

Corporate restricted

Private restricted



Fellows & Distinguished

Visitor program


General Administration

In line with regulations governing

charitable organizations and

applicable tax rules, whenever

allowable we reinvest income

from our endowments to further

enhance the value and incomegenerating

potential of such


Abridged Financial Information

Our Consolidated Balance Sheet

as of December 2009 showed

net assets of $36.5m, compared

with $30.9m at the end of 2008.

net assets by category:

abridged cash flows:

This increase was attributable to

a large extent to the recovery of

global stock and bond markets

during 2009.





Available for operations: 2.1 0.3

Board-designated endowments 8.6 5.8

Fixed assets 2.6 2.8

13.3 8.9

Temporarily restricted assets 11.3 11.5

Permanently restricted assets 11.9 10.5

36.5 30.9





Net cash provided by operating activities 1.2 1.5

Net cash used in investment activities (3.0) (3.2)

Cash flows from financial activity 1.9 1.0

Exchange-rate effects (0.4) 0.9

Net (decrease)/increase in cash and

cash equivalents

(0.3) 0.2

Outlook for 2010

The global financial crisis that

swept across 2008 and 2009

has been felt by the American

Academy, as we see some

benefactors not renewing their

pledges for subsequent years. We

have responded to this situation

by reducing our expense base to

the extent that can be justified

without impinging upon our academic

program commitments.

We are extraordinarily grateful

to the members of our Board

of Trustees, who continue to

support us unhesitatingly, as we

are to the descendents of Hans

and Ludmilla Arnhold, who from

their founding gift onwards

have continued their invaluable

support of our young institution.

Not least are we grateful to the

multiple corporations, foundations,

and private individuals who

continue to enable the American

Academy in Berlin to serve as a

beacon of intellectual and cultural

life in the German capital.

Lastly, it should be noted that

despite significant refurbishments,

structural renovations,

and technological upgrades due

to be completed at the Hans

Arnhold Center during the summer

of 2010, we expect our institution

to be close to break-even

for this financial year.


News from the Hans Arnhold Center | Private Initiative – Public Outreach | N11

• Private Initiative – Public Outreach •

Fellowships and Distinguished

Visitorships Established in Perpetuity

John P. Birkelund Berlin Prize in the Humanities

Daimler Berlin Prize

German Transatlantic Program Berlin Prize

Supported by European Recovery Program funds

granted through the Transatlantic Program of the

Federal Republic of Germany

Ellen Maria Gorrissen Berlin Prize

Nina Maria Gorrissen Berlin Prize in History

Mary Ellen von der Heyden Berlin Prize for Fiction

Holtzbrinck Berlin Prize

Anna-Maria Kellen Berlin Prize

Marina Kellen French Berlin Prize in Music

Guna S. Mundheim Berlin Prize in the Visual Arts

Lloyd Cutler Distinguished Visitorship in Law

EADS Distinguished Visitorship

Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Visitorship

Stephen M. Kellen Distinguished Visitorship

John W. Kluge Distinguished Visitorship

Kurt Viermetz Distinguished Visitorship

Richard von Weizsäcker Distinguished Visitorship

Annually funded Fellowships and

Distinguished Visitorships

Bosch Berlin Prize in Public Policy

Berthold Leibinger Berlin Prize

Metro Berlin Prize

Siemens Berlin Prize

Axel Springer Berlin Prize

David Rubenstein Foreign Policy Forum

Endowment Giving

Max Beckmann Distinguished Visitorship in the

Visual Arts

Deutsche Börse AG, Villa Grisebach (Berlin), Mary

Ellen von Schacky-Schultz & Bernd Schultz

Marcus Bierich Distinguished Visitorship in the


Dr. Aldinger & Fischer Grundbesitz und

Vermarktungs GmbH, Deutsche Bank AG, Villa

Grisebach (Berlin), Mary Ellen von Schacky-

Schultz & Bernd Schultz

EADS Distinguished Visitorship


Lloyd Cutler Distinguished Visitorship in Law

Ruben Clark, Stephen M. Cutler, Dennis M.

Flannery, Carol F. Lee, Daniel & Maeva Marcus,

Joseph C. Pillman, David Westin, Roger M. and

Jill J. Witten, Verband der Automobilindustrie,




Founders’ Circle

$1 million and above

Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen

Foundation and the descendants of

Hans and Ludmilla Arnhold

Chairman’s Circle

$25,000 and above

The Arnhold Foundation

Joel Bell & Marife Hernandez

Constance & John P. Birkelund

Lester Crown

Marina Kellen French

Werner Gegenbauer

Richard Goeltz

C. Boyden Gray

Mary Ellen & Karl M. von der Heyden

Richard C. Holbrooke

Nina von Maltzahn

William von Mueffling

Christopher Freiherr von Oppenheim

Maren Otto

Norman Pearlstine &

Jane Boon Pearlstine

David M. Rubenstein

Kurt Viermetz

Trustees’ Circle

$10,000 and above

Arthur F. and Alice E. Adams

Charitable Foundation

Inge Groth-Fromm & Hartmut Fromm

Helga & Erivan Haub

Stefan von Holtzbrinck

Dr. Pia & Klaus Krone

Neubauer Family Foundation

Rafael J. Roth

Mary Ellen von Schacky-Schultz &

Bernd Schultz


$2,500 and above

Robert Z. Aliber, Heinrich J. Barth,

Waldtraut & Günter Braun, Stephen

B. Burbank, Gahl Hodges Burt,

Dennis & Hannelore Carter, Avna

Cassinelli, Matthias & Christa Druba,

Jean-Marie & Elizabeth Eveillard,

Julie Finley, Georg & Doris Gafron,

Egon Geerkens, Hans-Michael &

Almut Giesen, Marisa & Carl Hahn,

Ina Vonnegut-Hartung & Wilhelm

Hartung, Klaus & Lily Heiliger, Ben

W. Heinemann, Erika & Jan Hummel,

Henry A. Kissinger, Martin Köhler, John

C. Kornblum, Renate Küchler, Jürgen &

Serap Leibfried, Regine Leibinger &

Frank Barkow, Lawrence Lessig, Erich

Marx, Wolfgang Mayrhuber, Julie

Mehretu, Jens Odewald, Jeane Freifrau

von Oppenheim, Thomas H. Pohlmann,

Annette & Heinrich von Rantzau,

William D. & Nancy Ellison Rollnick,

Daniel & Joanna Rose Fund, The Sage

Foundation, Gjertrud Schnackenberg,

Hannes & Renate Schneider, Richard E.

Snyder, Peter Y. Solmssen, Annaliese

Soros, Bernhard Speyer, Gesa & Klaus

Vogt, Will Foundation (Hans George

Will), Roger M. & Jill J. Witten

President’s Circle

$25,000 and above

Alcoa Inc.

Bank of America, N.A.

Robert Bosch GmbH

Buse Heberer Fromm

Cerberus Deutschland GmbH

Daimler AG

Daimler-Fonds im Stifterverband für

die Deutsche Wissenschaft

Deloitte & Touche GmbH

Deutsche Bank AG

Deutsche Lufthansa AG

Deutsche Post AG


Goldman, Sachs & Co.

GÖRG Partnerschaft von



Macy’s Corporate Services Inc.

Marsh GmbH

MSD Sharpe & Dohme GmbH

Pfizer Pharma GmbH

Philip Morris GmbH

Porsche AG

Siemens AG

Susanna Dulkinys &

Erik Spiekermann,


Telefónica O2 Germany GmbH & Co.


Vattenfall Europe AG


up to $25,000

American International Yacht

Club e.V., Axel Springer Stiftung,

Bayer Schering Pharma AG, Bentley

Motors Limited, Bertelsmann AG,

BMW AG, Carnegie Corporation

of New York, Christie’s, Deutsche

Bundesbank, EAG – European

Advisory Group GmbH, Fleishman-

Hillard Germany / Public Affairs &

Gov. Relations, Goldman Sachs

Foundation, Hemmerling &

Constantin GmbH & Co. KG, The

Hermes Foundation, Hotel Adlon,

Hotel Savoy, Investitionsbank

Berlin, Märkischer Golfclub

Potsdam, Nextstop Inc., Foundation

“Remembrance, Responsibility and

Future,” Robert Bosch Stiftung,

Rudolf August Oetker Stiftung, Villa

Grisebach (Berlin)

This list reflects contributions made to the American Academy from May 2009 to May 2010.

Friends up to $2,500 Samuel Adler & Emily Freeman Brown, Liaquat Ahamed, James Attwood, Barbara Balaj, Stefan Beiten, Bialkin Family Foundation,

Jordan Bonfante, David & Katherine Bradley, Diethart Breipohl, Eckhard Bremer, Irene Bringmann, Isabella von Bülow, Christian Bunsen, Caroline Bynum,

Candia Clark, Remmel T. Dickinson, Brigitte Döring, Erika Falkenreck, Donald Fox, Michael Gellert, Marie Louise Gericke, Michael Geyer, Vartan Gregorian,

Christian Hacke, Helga Haftendorn, Niels Hansen Memorial Foundation, Karen Hsu, Janklow Foundation, Roe Jasen, Isabel von Jena, Marion Knauf, Michael Libal,

Quincy Liu, Hans-Jürgen Meyer, Dare & Themistocles Michos, Stephanie Moeller, Michael Münchehofe, Sybille & Steffen Naumann, Jan-Daniel Neumann,

Kathryn & Peter Nixdorff, Wolfram Nolte, Albert Rädler, Susan Rambow, Lawrence Ramer, Christa Freifrau & Hermann Freiherr von Richthofen, Hergard Rohwedder,

Nancy & Miles Rubin, Kim Scheppele, Volker Schlöndorff, Harald Schmid, Pamela & Philipp Scholz, Philipp Semmer, Anne-Marie Slaughter & Andrew Moravcsik,

Manfred von Sperber, Immo Stabreit, Ronald L. Steel, Fritz Stern, Teagle Foundation, Thomas von Thaden, James S. Tisch, Clarence & Melinda Trummel,

Nikolaus Weil, Richard von Weizsäcker, Manfred & Rosa Wennemer, Hayden & Margaret Brose White, Sabine & Ned Wiley, Pauline Yu

N12 | Life & Letters | News from the Hans Arnhold Center

• Life & Letters •

Profiles in Scholarship

The fall 2010 class of American Academy fellows

Brigid Cohen

Contrary to its seemingly

national boundaries, much modernist

art is actually the work of

émigrés, cosmopolitans, and

refugees. This quiet fact goes

too often unnoticed in theories

of modernism, argues Berlin

Prize Fellow Brigid Cohen, and

it is particularly invisible in histories

of the musical avant-garde.

Cohen, an assistant professor

of music at the University of

North Carolina, would like to

correct the oversight with her

project “Sounds of Translation:

Musical Modernism beyond

the Nation,” which reframes the

history of musical modernism,

taking it beyond the nation as it is

practiced by musical thinkers in

response to the uprooted conditions

of their times.

Cohen holds a PhD from

Harvard University, a Master

of Music from King’s College

London, and a BA from Wellesley

College. She has received fellowships

from the German Academic

Exchange Service (da ad), the

Getty Research Institute, the

Minda de Gunzberg Center for

European Studies at Harvard, the

Paul Sacher Foundation, and the

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Stanley Corngold

Franz Kafka was one of the greatest

miners of human darkness

at the fin de siècle. He also happened

to work at an insurance

company. Stanley Corngold,

a professor emeritus of comparative

literature at Princeton

University, has taught Kafka for

decades and sees some links here:

His new project aims to adumbrate

the aspects of European

law, philosophy, and the culture

of insurance that threaded

themselves into Kafka’s thought.

Corngold’s book project “Franz

Kafka: Scintillating Perspectives,”

which he aims to complete during

his Berlin Prize Fellowship,

involves the collaboration of

University of Siegen professor

Benno Wagner, a fellow expert on

Kafka’s legal writings.

A graduate of Columbia and

Cornell universities, Corngold

taught at Princeton University

from 1981 to 2009 and has published

widely on German writers

and thinkers as diverse as

Dilthey, Nietzsche, Musil, Kraus,

Mann, Benjamin, and Adorno.

Corngold received the Howard T.

Behrman Prize for Distinguished

Achievement in the Humanities

upon retiring from Princeton.

Among his books are Lambent

Traces: Franz Kafka (2004) and

The Fate of the Self: German

Writers and French Theory (1986).

Aaron Curry

Aaron Curry, the fall 2010

Guna S. Mundheim Fellow in

the Visual Arts, has repeatedly

turned to some hallowed figures

of early twentieth-century

European modernism for inspiration.

His work successfully balances

the search for modernist

“mash-up” references with an

originality of vision in a tight aesthetic

dialectic. In “Pierced Line

(Brown Goblinoid)” (2008), a flat

plywood anthropomorphic form

precariously balances on its spindly

legs like a Dali half-person

laced with lines of spray paint; in

his collages, the racy and banal

semiotics of pop-culture icons

meet face-to-face with African

sculptures; and in “Ohnedaruth”

(2009), a towering Dubuffet-like

horse-form is comprised of collapsed,

interlocked pieces of a

mammoth steel puzzle.

A graduate of the School of

the Art Institute of Chicago,

Curry completed his mfa at the

Art Center College of Design

in Pasadena, California, and

has shown at Galerie Daniel

Buchholz in Berlin and Cologne,

the Michael Werner Gallery in

London, and the David Kordansky

Gallery in Los Angeles. He has

also been included in group exhibitions

at the New Museum of

Contemporary Art in New York,

the Museum of Contemporary Art

in Detroit, and the Contemporary

Museum in Honolulu. In 2009

the Vault Gallery at ucl a’s

Hammer Museum hosted Curry’s

first solo museum show.

Laura Engelstein

Modern liberal thought is a hardwrought

set of principles that

cannot stand without political

and institutional support. Laura

Engelstein, the Henry S. McNeil

Professor of Russian History and

chair of the history department

at Yale University, is interested in

how modern liberalism became

an ideology of resistance among

Russian and Polish dissent intellectuals

and public figures who

came of age in the decades preceding

the decisive year of 1917.

Caught between revolutionary

violence and mob-appeal anti-

Semitism, these figures hewed

a moderate course in defense of

liberal values: individual and civic

rights guaranteed by a democratically

elected government under

the rule of law. In her project

“People Out of Place: Liberalism as

a Form of Resistance” Engelstein

News from the Hans Arnhold Center | Life & Letters | N13

intends to draw a group portrait

of this generation and thereby

focus on figures that transcended

traditional boundaries – in personal

histories, class and cultural

expectations, and, consequently,

in forced or voluntary emigration.

The author of The Keys to

Happiness: Sex and the Search

for Modernity in Fin-de-Siècle

Russia (1992) and, most recently,

Gallagher, Eggers Professor

of English Literature at the

University of California, Berkeley,

is interested in two closely

related phenomena: the writing

of counterfactual history and

alternate history in the novel.

Against common misapprehensions

that the two are recent

innovations, Gallagher explains

that their roots go as far back

Body Economic: Life, Death, and

Sensation in Political Economy

and the Victorian Novel (2006).

Co-chair of the editorial board of

the journal Representations and

a member of the editorial board

of Flashpoints, Gallagher has

received fellowships from the

Guggenheim Foundation and

the National Endowment for the

Humanities, among others.

and Family’s Vanishing Place in

Agriculture” – will tell the story of

her 1970s citrus-growing family

and community. Imperiled by the

transformative arrival of commercialism,

they were swept up in the

tradeoff of the area’s identity and

economy for “the false paradise of

Walt Disney World.”

As a national correspondent

for the St. Petersburg Times

© hornischer

passing the torch: the spring 2010 fellows of the american academy in berlin (from left to right): sunil khilnani, francisco

goldman, camilo josé vergara, jeffrey chipps smith, david abraham, judith wechsler, andrew norman, peter wortsman,

michael queenland, charles marsh, and janet gezari. (not picTured: leonard barkan, alex star, amy waldman)

Slavophile Empire: Imperial

Russia’s Illiberal Path (2009),

Engelstein’s research has focused

on the social and cultural history

of late imperial Russia, with

special focus on the role of law,

medicine, sexuality, and the arts

in public life.

Catherine Gallagher

What would have happened if

the South had won the American

Civil War? Or if Vesuvius had

never erupted? Catherine

as the seventeenth century. As

the Anna-Maria Kellen Fellow

at the Academy, she will further

detail where and why these hypothetical

and speculative modes of

writing originated. Gallagher’s

prior work in cultural history

has resulted in books such as

Nobody’s Story: the Vanishing

Acts of Women Writers in the

Marketplace, 1670–1820 (2004),

which won the MLA’s James

Russell Lowell Prize for an outstanding

literary study, and The

Anne Hull

Walt Disney World is the largest

recreation resort on earth, covering

some 25,000 acres. But what

now encompasses four theme

parks, two water parks, two

dozen on-site hotels, and two

health spas was once pure Florida

pasture. Journalist Anne Hull

experienced this shift in ecology

as a young girl, and her project

as a Holtzbrinck Fellow – “The

Bright State of Dislocation:

Transformation, Racial Divides

(1985–2000), Hull covered

topics ranging from welfare

reform and capital punishment

to immigration. Her writing at

the Washington Post, where she

has been for the past decade, has

covered social policy, two presidential

campaigns, Hurricane

Katrina, and the terrorist attacks

of September 11, 2001. In 2008

Hull was awarded the Pulitzer

Prize for Public Service for exposing

the neglect and mistreatment

of wounded soldiers at the Walter

N14 | Life & Letters | News from the Hans Arnhold Center

Reed Army Medical Center. The

series also received the Robert

F. Kennedy Journalism Award,

the Selden Ring Award for

Investigative Journalism, the

American Society of Newspapers

Local Coverage Award, and the

Heywood Broun Award.

Tamar Jacoby

Tamar Jacoby is president and

ceo of ImmigrationWorks

usa, a national federation of

employers working to advance

better immigration law. She will

transpose her research questions

on US immigrant integration

to Germany during her Bosch

Public Policy fellowship at the

Academy. Jacoby is particularly

interested in how Germans have

come to terms with the new face

of an increasingly immigrant

population: Do even the most

far-sighted elites understand the

transformation that is necessary?

What are Germany’s most innovative

approaches to integration?

Can the country develop a national

identity that is compelling to

newcomers yet open enough to

hold a diverse citizenry together?

From 1989 to 2007 Jacoby was

a senior fellow at the Manhattan

Institute, and prior, a senior writer

and justice editor for Newsweek

and, from 1981 to 1987, deputy

editor of the New York Times

op-ed page. Author of Someone

Else’s House: America’s Unfinished

Struggle for Integration (2000),

her articles have appeared in

the Washington Post, Wall Street

Journal, and Foreign Affairs,

among other publications.

Martin Jay

Perhaps the most critical caesura

between the Middle Ages

and the modern era is a line of

thought called nominalism. In

short, nominalism assumes that

the things of the world are individual

and particular rather than

reflections of a “real” thing that

existed in the heavens – in a word,

universals. Intellectual historian

Martin Jay of the University of

California, Berkeley, is one of

the world’s foremost experts on

European intellectual history

(Permanent Exiles, 1985), the

Frankfurt School (The Dialectical

Imagination, 1973), critical theory

(Marxism and Totality, 1983), and

visual culture (Downcast Eyes,

1993). He is now looking again

at nominalism and its influence

on the very birth of photography.

His Academy project as the Ellen

Maria Gorrissen Fellow, “Magical

Nominalism: Photography and

the Reenchantment of the World,”

has the rarified aim of explaining

how nominalism has had

an impact on twentieth-century

visual culture generally.

The author of scores of

academic articles on German

intellectual history, Marxist and

post-structural theory, and visual

culture, Jay has taught at Harvard

University, the University

of California at Berkeley,

Dartmouth College, UC Irvine,

and the School of Criticism and

Theory at Cornell University.

Kirk W. Johnson

Kirk W. Johnson began working

for usaid in December

2004. He served in Baghdad as

the mission’s chief information

officer and was then appointed

to usaid’s senior staff as the

agency’s first emissary to the city

of Fallujah, in Anbar Province,

and then on to other increasingly

weighty positions. Throughout

his time in the war zone, Johnson

wondered how Iraqis who helped

the US were going to rebuild

their lives – whether in their own

country or elsewhere. “Since

returning from Iraq,” he says,

“I’ve become deeply enmeshed

with the tragedy that has befallen

Iraqis who risked their lives to

help us.” So Johnson founded

The List: Project to Resettle Iraqi

Allies, a leading public advocacy

group for Iraqis who assisted the

US government. To help people

on The List, Johnson has gathered

over a hundred attorneys

from two leading law firms to

offer thousands of hours of pro

bono representation. His Bosch

Public Policy fellowship at the

Academy will be devoted to a

book about this project, tentatively

entitled Human Rubble:

the Tragedy of Iraqis Who Believed

in America, the first account of

Iraqis whose aid to American

occupying forces has cost them

their country.

Han Ong

Born in the Philippines, writer

Han Ong moved to the US at

age 16. He wrote his first play

at age 17, and in 1994 moved to

New York, where he received

near instantaneous critical

acclaim as a playwright. Ong’s

literary preoccupations have

concerned the immigrant

and outsider experience and

sometimes-resentful visitors to

“foreign” social hierarchies. At age

29 he became one of the youngest

recipients of the prestigious

MacArthur Fellowship – and has

since received grants from the

Guggenheim Foundation and the

National Endowment for the Arts.

Ong’s two novels, Fixer Chao

(2002) and The Disinherited

(2005), address themes of homosexual

love and clashes of class

and cultural values. In Fixer

Chao a male prostitute infiltrates

New York high society posing as

a feng-shui expert, unraveling

a host of resentments and social

tensions. The novel was selected

a Los Angeles Times Best Book of

the Year and was nominated for

a Stephen Crane First Fiction

Award. The Disinherited is about

the estranged son of a sugar magnate

who leaves his teaching job at

Columbia University to bury his

father in the Philippines. During

his Holtzbrinck fellowship at the

Academy, Ong will work on a third

novel: the story of an American

philanthropist who decides to

retire to the Philippines, where he

sponsors local students and their

dreams of attending college.

Ken Ueno

Sets of opposites gyrate throughout

composer Ken Ueno’s music:

visceral energy and contemplative

repose, hyperactivity and stillness,

tightly wound complexity and

sprawling expanse. Engaging in

multiple modes of musical construction,

Ueno, an assistant professor

of music at the University

of California, Berkeley, is at once

a composer of acoustic and electronic

works, a performer, and a

vocal improviser specializing in

“extended techniques.” Such tonal

and compositional variety has

been infused by Ueno’s experience

as an electric guitarist and

overtone singer, his fascination

with Japanese underground electronic

music, and his awareness of

late European modernism.

A graduate of West Point,

Ueno holds degrees from

Berklee College of Music, Boston

University, the Yale School of

Music, and a PhD from Harvard

University. During his Berlin

Prize in Music Composition fellowship,

Ueno intends to score a

twenty-minute solo percussion

piece for Dame Evelyn Glennie

and a thirty-minute work featuring

himself as the vocal soloist.

James Wood

Anyone with English-language

literary affinities over the past

two decades knows the work of

James Wood. From 1992 to 1995

he was the chief literary critic of

News from the Hans Arnhold Center | Life & Letters | N15

the Guardian, then a senior editor

at the New Republic, and, beginning

in 2007, a staff writer at the

New Yorker. Wood has focused on

contemporary fiction and literary

aesthetics – and their sometimes

“hysterical” practitioners.

Alongside his criticism in

periodicals, Wood has stepped

into bigger pools of literary reflection,

such as in his bestselling

book How Fiction Works (2008),

two essay collections on criticism,

The Broken Estate (1999) and The

Irresponsible Self (2004), and a

quasi-autobiographical novel,

The Book Against God (2003). His

reviews and essays have appeared

in the New York Times, the New

York Review of Books, and the

London Review of Books, where he

is a member of the editorial board.

Since September 2003 Wood

has taught literary criticism at

Harvard University. During his

time as the Berthold Leibinger

Fellow, he will work on “The

Nearest Thing to Life: the Idea of

Character in Fiction,” a historical,

practical, and philosophical

examination of the changing conception

of the fictional character.

John Wray

One sunny morning, Will Heller,

a 16-year-old paranoid schizophrenic,

gets on an uptown

B-train in New York City. As the

subway car rambles along, Will

realizes he holds the key to saving

the planet from global warming:

he has to cool down his own body.

But to do so he has to find a girl

named Emily Wallace. What follows

in John Wray’s novel Lowboy

(2008) is a twisting and haunted

tale of Heller’s sometimes fantastic,

sometimes terrifying odyssey

through the tunnels and dead

ends of Manhattan, as a delusional

young man searches for his

one great hope for contemporary

America and the world. Lowboy,

Wray’s third novel, has been

hailed for its gripping, unsentimental

account of mental illness

and unstoppable narrative force.

Wray won a Whiting Writers’

Award for his first book, The Right

Hand of Sleep (2001), and his

second, Canaan’s Tongue (2005),

led to Wray being named one of

America’s Best Young Novelists

by Granta. As a Mary Ellen von der

Heyden Fellow at the Academy,

Wray will work on a new work,

tentatively entitled “The Lost

Time Accidents,” which will follow

a central European family from

1890 to the present over the course

of four generations. The Toula

family encounters a great many of

the twentieth century’s political

and social ideologies – Marxism,

fascism, communism, environmentalism,

neo- conservativism –

yet their great passion is decidedly

non-ideological: physics, specifically

the study of the nature

of time.


Sneak Preview

Announcing the spring 2011 fellows

The incoming cl ass of

spring fellows promises yet

another high-caliber lineup

of intellectual and cultural programming.

James Der Derian,

professor of international studies

at Brown University, looks at

the ethical issues of technology,

social science, and war. Historian

of modern Germany Astrid

Eckert of Emory University

reconsiders West Germany’s

former borderland. Princeton

University professor of art and

archaeology and one of America’s

most prominent art critics, Hal

Foster, reinvestigates modernity’s

aeshetic gambit; novelist Rivk a

Galchen summons a fake

prophet who begins to believe her

own machinations; social critic

and professor of journalism Todd

Gitlin takes on the problems

of the American media; Peiter

Judson, a professor of history

at Swarthmore College, traces

the Habsburg Monarchy’s imperial

campaign for unity during

the modern period; and Ellen

Kennedy, a political scientist at

the University of Pennsylvania,

praises the macroeconomics of

Walter Eucken, one of the architects

of the German social market

economy. Dave McKenzie, a

multi-media artist, will be the

Guna S. Mundheim Fellow in the

Visual Arts; and esteemed historian

H.C. Erik Midelfort

delves into censorship culture in

early modern Germany. Norman

Naimark, the chair of East

European History at Stanford

University, will study some concrete

issues of Russia’s role in

shaping post-Cold War Europe;

and David Ruderman, a professor

of modern Jewish history and

Director of the Center for Modern

Judaic Studies at the University of

Pennsylvania, re-opens a book by

an eighteenth-century Jewish mystic

to trace its portals into modern

philosophy; and, lastly, P. Adams

Sitney, a professor of humanities

and visual arts at Princeton

University, looks at the poetry of

the cinematic sublime in the works

of filmmakers Pier Paolo Pasolini

and Andrey Tarkovsky and considers

the influence of Jean Cocteau

on American film. r.j.m.

Call for Applications

The American Academy in Berlin invites applications for residential

fellowships for the 2011–2012 and future academic years. The

application deadline is October 1, 2010. Prizes will be awarded in

February 2011 and announced in the spring of 2011. Approximately

two dozen fellowships are awarded to established scholars, writers,

and professionals who wish to engage in independent study in

Berlin. Prizes are conferred annually for an academic semester and

on occasion for an entire academic year, and include round-trip airfare,

housing, partial board, and a monthly stipend of $5,000.

Fellows are expected to reside at the Hans Arnhold Center during

the entire term of the award. Fellowships are restricted to candidates

based permanently in the US. American citizenship is not

required and American expatriates are not eligible. Candidates in

academic disciplines must have completed a doctorate at the time of

application. The Academy gives priority to a proposal’s significance

and scholarly merit rather than its specific relevance to Germany.

While it is helpful to explain how a Berlin residency might contribute

to the project’s further development, candidates need not be

working on German topics.

Application forms may be submitted through the Academy’s

website, www.americanacademy.de.

N16 | Life & Letters | News from the Hans Arnhold Center

Alumni Books

Recent releases from former fellows

Ward Just

Exiles in the Garden

Harcourt, 2009

Gary Shteyngart

Super Sad True Love Story: A Novel

Random House, 2010

Paul Berman

Flight of the Intellectuals

Melville House, 2010

Milad Doueihi (with Jane

Marie Todd)

Augustine and Spinoza

Harvard University Press, 2010

Jonathan Safran Foer

Eating Animals

Little, Brown and Company, 2009

W.J.T. Mitchell (Editor)

Critical Terms for Media Studies

University of Chicago Press, 2010

Jerry Z. Muller

Capitalism and the Jews

Princeton University Press, 2010

Helen Vendler

Last Looks, Last Books: Stevens,

Plath, Lowell, Bishop, Merrill

(The A.W. Mellon Lectures in the

Fine Arts)

Princeton University Press, 2010

Benjamin Buchloh


Gabriel Orozco

Museum of Modern Art, 2009

Svetlana Boym

Another Freedom: The Alternative

History of an Idea

University of Chicago Press, 2010

Anne Carson


New Directions, 2010

Henri Cole

Pierce the Skin: Selected Poems,


Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2010

Richard B. Freeman

Reforming the Welfare State:

Recovery and Beyond in Sweden

University of Chicago Press, 2010

Thomas Geoghegan

Were You Born on the Wrong

Continent? How the European

Model Can Help You Get a Life

New Press, 2010

Sander Gilman

Obesity: The Biography

Oxford University Press, 2010

Sigrid Nunez

Salvation City

Riverhead Books, 2010

John Phillip Santos

The Farthest Home is in an Empire

of Fire: A Tejano Elegy

Viking, 2010

Hayden V. White

The Fiction of Narrative: Essays

on History, Literature, and Theory,


Johns Hopkins University Press,


Christopher S. Wood (with

Alexander Nagel)

Anachronic Renaissance

Zone Books, 2010

Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 33

© Courtesy Luhring Augustine and White Cube

Gregory Crewdson,
(Beneath the Roses),
Digital chromogenic print
144.8 x 223.6 cm

uncanny rema

A homecoming glean

By Rivka Galchen

The following is an early draft of the opening to my novel Atmospheric Disturbances, about

a man who knows that the woman who comes home one day and claims to be his wife is, in

fact, no longer his wife. My narrator argued with me, altered his character, made certain

prefatory and anxious throat-clearings of his no longer “in character.” but I remained fond

of that alternately difficult Leo that never came to be and was sad to see him replaced.

34 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010

I’m trying to introduce myself.

The ancient Greek writings on rhetoric

explain that an introduction is only

appropriate, or necessary, when dealing

with a “hostile” audience, or an ignorant

one. I don’t know who I will have as readers

– hopefully my minor prominence will gain

me a sizeable audience despite allegations

of my mental decline – but lacking even

the briefest self-disclosing banter from you,

I offer this brief intro, by way of making

assumptions on the side of caution, and


I am a fifty-year-old male psychiatrist

with no previous hospitalizations and no

relevant past medical, social, or family

history. I alone know Rema is missing. I

and, maybe, Tzvi Gal-Chen. This and other

private knowledge leads me to behavior

that seems outwardly strange, particularly

to the woman living in my old apartment

who calls herself “Rema.” But I would like

to find Rema. And even failing that I would

like to be allowed to return to my normal

life – as much as is possible – among

friends and colleagues. I will therefore

herein attempt to set out the origins and

contents of my current state of knowledge,

so that the apparent eccentricities of my

words and behavior can reveal their inherent


And so that certain recent “natural”

disasters may be more properly understood,

and addressed.

An ersatz Rema appears on

a temperate stormy night

One unusually r ainy evening

last December, when I was home

early with a migraine, a woman

entered my apartment who looked exactly

like my wife Rema. This woman closed the

door casually behind herself. Her hair was

wet. Peering over the edge of Rema’s pale

blue leather shoulder bag – that’s what this

other woman was carrying – was a russetfaced

puppy. The real Rema doesn’t like

dogs. A hayfeverishly fresh scent of shampoo,

of Rema’s shampoo, was filling the

air yellowly, and through the brashness

of that grassy scent I squinted at the doppelganger,

and at that dog, acknowledging

to myself only a deep sense that something

– something – was extraordinarily wrong.

Yes. Extraordinarily wrong. It was those

words precisely that came to me, turning

up unexpectedly, like an old movie stub

found in the pocket of a coat not worn for


I remember her standing by the door.

Her hair obscured her face somewhat as

she leaned down to de-shoe, but I could see:

same unzipping of wrinkly boots, same

taking off of same baby-blue coat with oversized

charcoal buttons, same tucking of

dyed cornsilk-blonde hair behind ears, thus

enabling me a better view of: same wide

cheekbones, bite-sized nose, dove-dark

eyes. Same bangs cut straight across like

on those dolls done up in native costumes

that live their whole lives in plastic cases

held up by a metal wire around the waist.

Same everything, but it wasn’t Rema. How

I knew? Just a feeling. But what is a feeling

but a thought groping its way towards

articulation? Like the moment near the

end of a dream when I am sometimes able

to whisper to myself, “I am dreaming.” I

remember once waking up from a dream

in which my mother, dead now for decades,

was sipping tea at my kitchen table, reading

a newspaper on the back of which there

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was a headline, “Wrong Man, Right Name,

Convicted in Murder Trial.” I was trying to

read the smaller print of the article, but my

mother kept moving the paper, readjusting,

turning pages. When I woke up I searched

all through the house for that newspaper,

and through the garbage outside as well,

but I never found it.

“Oh,” the simulacrum said quietly, seeming

to notice the dimmed lights. “I’m

sorry,” she added; her imitation of Rema’s

Argentine accent was pitch-perfect.

The simulacrum held that other monster,

that puppy, against her chest, blocking

my view of that camisole line as she began

a remarkable imitation of Rema’s slightly

irregularly rhythmed walk across the room,

past me, into the kitchen. I heard her setting

the teakettle to boil.

“You look odd,” I found myself saying.

“Yes, a dog,” she called out happily from

the kitchen. She began to speak at length,

maybe about the dog, maybe not, I couldn’t

quite concentrate. She said something

about Chinatown. Not seeing her, just

hearing her voice, and the rhythm of her

customary evasions, made it seem like she

was really Rema.

But this strange look-alike woman, when

she kissed my forehead, I blushed.

“I’m sorry about yesterday,” she said with

a pout. “I’m sorry I was making theater.”

Which was a Rema turn of phrase. I covered

my eyes with my hands so I wouldn’t

have to look at her. My migraine winced

and pulsed, as if in time with that grassy

scented shampoo that always makes my

head feel tinny and that I love in an emptystomach

kind of way. I didn’t want to think

what I was thinking. I was thinking: How

can I stop thinking these thoughts? I’m too old

for a schizophrenic break, I thought, trying

to break the other inarticulate thoughts.

And too tired for this to be mania. And too

young for – But when something unforeseen

happens it can only be realized iteratively,

in retrospect, gaining in reality one

facet at a time.

“Monster?” she whispered loudly, which

is Rema’s pet name for me.

“I don’t think – ” I said suddenly, surprised

by my own words, “you’re Rema.”

“You’re mad with me?”

“No,” I said, and turned to hide my face in

the sofa’s cushions. “I’m sorry,” I mumbled

to the small-weave wool of the cushion’s

covering. And when I felt a hand on my

shoulder, “I feel so rainy today,” I whispered,

“It must be the tired.”

By the time the water neared its

boil – the ascending pitches of our teakettle’s

tremble are so familiar to me –

I was considering a diagnosis of Migraine-

Induced Psychosis. Or if not migraine

psychosis then I’d settle for simply the catchall

Psychotic Disorder nos (Not Otherwise

Specified), which I hoped over time would

reveal itself to be that ineffable but essentially

harmless imp, a Brief Psychotic Episode.

All this oversimplified diagnostic nonsense

I offer simply because I’d like to

emphasize that I began this investigation

with many of the same hypotheses that others

are still considering. But now I’ve moved

beyond them. µ

Rivka Galchen is the author of

Atmospheric Disturbances (2008) and

in 2010 was selected one of The New

Yorker’s 20 Best Writers Under 40.

In spring 2011 she is a Mary Ellen von

der Heyden Fellow in Fiction at the

American Academy in Berlin.

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36 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010

These Labyrinths of

Terrible Differences

Composer Stefan Wolpe aimed to reconcile the most heated of national identities by

making music beyond the nation.

By Brigid Cohen

In August and September of 1938

the avant-garde émigré composer Stefan

Wolpe delivered two speeches at the

World Center for Jewish Music (wcjm)

in Jerusalem advocating a sweeping set

of agendas and programs in response to

what he called “the stench of looming

disasters across the world.” Founded in

1937 by the musical activist Salli Levy, a

student of Wolpe’s since 1935, the wcjm

realized Levy’s long-standing dream to

link Jewish musicians worldwide through

a central organization that would preserve

and encourage Jewish musical activities

through research, concert management,

and publication.

Wolpe’s speeches expressed even

vaster ambitions. He thought the wcjm

should work as a “helping hand” to

facilitate a reconfiguration of music educational

throughout the British Mandate of

Palestine in order to promote cross-cultural

understanding and a pluralism of musical

practice. Delivered at the height of the Arab

Riots, Wolpe’s plan assumed staggering

proportions. He envisioned a corps of “flying

instructors” that would teach the music

of “different peoples” and diverse compositional

techniques across Jewish rural

settlements; advocated hiring “master-practitioners”

of non-Western, especially Arab

music at conservatories; suggested enlisting

the Palestine Broadcasting Service

to record musical traditions worldwide,

including in soon-to-be Nazi-occupied

parts of central Europe; proposed a national

conference to debate the complex implications

of appropriating “folklore” in Western

notated composition; and called for a press,

a statewide magazine on musical culture,

and diverse neighborhood choruses to

transform musical life in the region. As the

composer would later state, he sought “to

heighten the energy with which the most

different kinds of cultures and productiveness,

such as one finds in Palestine, unite.”

Wolpe’s proposals may seem dreamy

and speculative, all the more so since the

composer immigrated to New York only a

few months after delivering his speeches at

the end of 1938. Yet if aesthetic modernism

is understood – in the manner of Walter

Benjamin and Michel Foucault – as an ethic

and attitude that urgently signifies the present

and imagines the world otherwise, then

Wolpe’s plan remains relevant as a richly

theorized collection of cultural possibilities.

Wolpe’s utopianism had solid

roots. As a young man in the

early 1920s, he had studied at the

Bauhaus, the utopian socialist experiment

in art education that challenged boundaries

between art and everyday life. Before

the collapse of the Weimar republic, he

had dedicated himself to antifascist, revolutionary

Marxist politics, composing for

agitprop theater troupes, conducting workers’

choruses, and spending a month in the

Soviet Union, in May 1933. Wolpe firmly

believed in music’s capacity to spur social

change through transformative aesthetic

experience. And he believed that such experiences

of transformation, when fostered

in intimate community contexts, could

eventually carry across many segments of

society. This belief led him to stake a particularly

optimistic and affirmative position

on music and its potential for political

efficacy. As he wrote in 1933:

Of course I know that all music can only

be heard as music. But since all music

at the same time emotionally transforms

in the heart and concentration of

the listener and the impression in the

same way is received (in the energy of

its rushing movements) like a ball – the

listening person transmits the movement

further, that means it participates

in his life, it leads him, educates him,

moves, drives, and in the most extreme

way it changes him.

It is striking to note that Wolpe wrote these

deeply affirmative words about music’s

capacity for inspiring change while in

flight after the Nazi takeover in 1933. Yet

it was precisely this seemingly hopeless

political environment that made such hopeful

ideals all the more necessary as a means

of surviving and finding motivation in the

midst of humanitarian catastrophe.

While Wolpe’s Weimar-era political

activity had centered overwhelmingly on

causes of class struggle and revolution, his

arrival in Palestine – where he immigrated

in January 1934 after his wife, the pianist

Irma Schoenberg, secured him a valid visa –

saw renewed commitment and a growing

focus on dilemmas of human plurality.

Wolpe’s political activism through music

took a new turn.

From 1934 to 1938 he staked out a

unique place within Jerusalem’s small

Western art music scene, becoming one of

the most dedicated and legitimate spokes-

Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 37

© Photo courtesy of Paul Sacher Foundation

their new home that they might otherwise

have simply dismissed or ignored. Brün’s

words vividly capture Wolpe’s style of interaction

and teaching:

While walking to your lesson you

already heard his voice loudly proclaiming

something, singing, hollering,

screaming, all the time making

enormous noises. Everything was significant;

everything was of the greatest

importance right now; and when you

then entered and walked up the stairs,

you entered a situation of full concern

with a terrific warmth and enthusiasm

and eagerness, and it didn’t make any

difference whether you were in or out –

you just came into it, and it immediately

continued, the last sentence he was just

saying; he turned his eyes on you and

continued it as if you had been there all

day . . . . I learned from Wolpe, although

he was not a philosopher; he demonstrated,

he did not philosophize, he

demonstrated unmistakably that things

are not interesting; you take an interest

in them. You look at a thing, and it


Stefan wolpe, circa 1936

men for the city’s nascent avant-garde. He

was the only composer in the Yishuv – the

Jewish community in Palestine – to develop

a consistent following of students, both

in the city and at various kibbutzim. He

also taught composition and theory at the

Palestine Conservatory, and as many as

sixty of his students frequented Wolpe’s

home, where – as student Josef Tal

recalled – they came so closely to identify

with the composer that they “even assumed

his physiognomy.”

Many of Wolpe’s underlings in Palestine

were young German-speaking refugees,

some of whom had arrived alone without

parents. Many regarded Wolpe as a fatherfigure

who helped them to adapt to the

trauma of their displacement. In the composer’s

own idiosyncratic words, he taught

Zweiheimigkeit or “two-homedness,” in

addition to composition and theory. Many

students recalled how they were drawn to

his personal warmth, unconventional pedagogy,

and aspirations toward a reconstructed

way of life and community in Palestine.

Wolpe’s student Herbert Brün described

how the composer taught them to be attentive

to the cultural artifacts and practices of

In Brün’s account, the “full concern” Wolpe

exhibited toward his students, in turn,

inspired in them an attentiveness toward

the things of their new home. This ethic of

attentiveness brought the possibility of new

forms of identification to compensate for

their lost pre-exile relationships and secure

national identity.

Wolpe’s own attention was consumed

by the study of what he called “musics of

today,” which included post-tonal idioms

and local non-Western musics, rather than

the modal counterpoint, fugues, and Bachstyle

chorales traditional to German music

education. He interpreted Arab musics

with the ear of a modernist composer

encountering it for the first time; he marveled

at what appeared to be breathtakingly

novel approaches to form, texture, timbre,

and tonality. He admired Arab classical

musics for their “smallest shadow-like

variations, the art of developing melodically

wild ideas, fantastic instrumentation,

thrilling variation of dynamic transitions

and manners of playing [with a] tonality so

much more richly imbued.”

In response to this heritage, Wolpe

sought to create new compositional idioms,

combining European and Middle Eastern

traditions, which he called “amalgams.” His

1936 composition Suite im Hexachord, fi

38 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010

written for oboe and clarinet, exemplifies

this idea: The second movement begins

with a sustained arpeggiation in the oboe

and clarinet, after which the oboe breaks

out in melody against the drone of the

clarinet. The melodic shape of the oboe

line very clearly draws from Arab musics,

with its smooth, stepwise motion and its

subtly altering turns, trills, and staccato figures

that precede and ornament sustained

tones. The oboe and clarinet also tend

toward heterophonic textures at the ends of

phrases – another feature surely intended

to reference Arab traditions. The Suite im

Hexachord does not make use of functional

diatonic harmony; rather the entire piece

makes use of only six pitches – the hexachord

of its title. This approach reflects not

only Wolpe’s modernist interest in nondiatonic

pitch collections, but also the composer’s

study of the Arab maqam, a system

of modes that links pitch-class collections

with melodic patterns and modes of ornamentation.

While the Suite im Hexachord

surely connects with the long European

tradition of Orientalist composition, it also

signified in richer and more complicated

ways than mere exoticism, given Wolpe’s

position in Palestine and his association of

the music with a specific project of cultural


In Jerusalem, works like the Suite im

Hexachord were performed in a monthly

informal public concert series organized

especially for friends and students, who

also premiered their own compositions.

These monthly performances, held in

friends’ homes and rented auditoriums,

were supplemented by Wolpe’s weekly

student gatherings. In this context, it is

not surprising that the composer became

thrilled when some of his students also

became invested in the idea of creating

culturally “amalgamated” musics. Wolpe

would later speak admiringly of his students’

“most beautiful [musical] thoughts”

that show “traces of the influences of Arab

neighborly surroundings.”

In the early- to mid-1930s Wolpe and his

circle’s interest in local indigenous traditions

was indeed unusual. The Yishuv’s

Western musical performance and educational

institutions were known for their

repertory narrowness, which focused on

German and East European national traditions.

Wolpe chafed at widespread prejudices

against Arab musics in the Yishuv and

within the German immigrant community.

His work was rather in keeping with his

friend the comparative musicologist Robert

Lachmann’s call to hear Arab musics “with

sympathy rather than disdain.” Wolpe

encouraged this attitude among his students

who composed in genres ranging

from chamber music to work songs to

music for kibbutzim celebrations to songs

for the Yishuv’s thriving new folk-song


As Wolpe’s speeches at the

World Center for Jewish Music

reveal, such cosmopolitanism could

motivate a wider national political vision.

In 1938 the stakes were impossibly high.

The Arab revolt brought an abrupt deterioration

in Arab-Jewish relations, with Arab

and Zionist leaderships hardening in their

determination to cease negotiations. The

period witnessed an intensification of militant

nationalist discourses in the Yishuv,

intensified by the mounting humanitarian

catastrophe in Europe. Wolpe’s alarm at the

nationalist tides in Europe and the Middle

East motivated his state-wide cross-cultural

education plan. He wrote:

I engage [at the wcjm] in a good

unified-front effort against the stupidification

and coarse conformist

distortion [Verblödung und Verblökung]

of living cultural concepts, in a country

– large like an apple tree – that in a

radio commission meeting a few days

ago expressed the piece of wisdom that

“Music – whatever kind – from Jews

– whatever kind – from the beginning of

time has always been good!!” Those are

the ways of a people forced to endure

the derision and outright activist idiocy

of some other peoples [the Germans] –

oh the terrible proportions [of this]! and

added to the already country-wide sum

of gruesomeness which passes on a

relatively dangerous stupidity.

The exemplary model of nationalism that

fueled Wolpe’s fears was, of course, Nazism,

with its violently enforced claims of moral

superiority and racially bounded identity.

After his flight from Germany, in fact,

Wolpe suffered repeated nervous breakdowns

in response to his violent memories

of the Nazi takeover.

This recent past fueled the panicked

tone of Wolpe’s personal writings, in which

he railed against essentialist notions of race,

ethnicity, and nation – especially as they

shaped concepts of musical culture and the

impulse to identify a Jewish national or ethnic

style in music. At the same time, he was

responding to a newly emerging compositional

trend that would eventually be called

the Mediterranean School of Composition,

associated with composers such as Marc

Lavri, Paul Ben-Haim, Eric W. Sternberg,

and Alexander Boskovitch.

From the late 1930s onward these

composers looked eastward for sources

of Jewish identity, integrating Middle-

Eastern and East European musical idioms

marked as “Jewish” within concert works

based on Romantic and classical forms.

Wolpe agonized over this trend, which in

some ways resembled his own search for

musical amalgams that had preceded the

Mediterranean movement by only a year or

two. Ultimately Wolpe bitterly concluded –

alongside his friend Lachmann – that the

Mediterranean School of Composition

showed little regard for Arab culture. In

the composer’s words, it sought “to force

[Arab musics] – just like the quarters where

it is expressed – into dependency through

a correspondingly moderate domesticated

tonality.” With this judgmental assessment

Wolpe compared British military

and Jewish paramilitary pacification of the

Arab quarters during the 1938 riots with

the absorption of non-Western musical

materials within a prevailingly European

aesthetic. This far-flung and hyperbolic

comparison speaks to Wolpe’s tendency to

interpret aesthetic cultural practices and

attitudes as bound up with drastic human

actions. Wolpe was so disturbed by the

Mediterraneanist movement in composition

that he also questioned the politics

of his own efforts to write “amalgamated”

musics, which he worried might amount to

little more than cultural thievery. Intense

expressions of self-recrimination emerged

in his personal writings. “There is an

abundance of guilt that must be brought

to account,” he wrote. To encourage a more

nuanced understanding of Jewish and Arab

cultural identities, “[We] must precisely fix

the education through which young people

are to be raised.”

Wolpe’s speeches at the wcjm

can be understood as a last-ditch

effort to spread his ideas about

national music pedagogy reform during

a time when he contemplated leaving

Palestine. His decision to immigrate to

New York at the end of 1938 was based

on several factors, including his nervous

breakdowns during the Arab riots; his serious

hospitalization following his car being

run off the road by an Arab driver; his

Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 39

wife’s fear that the Axis powers might move

through North Africa into the Middle East;

and professional problems caused by his

unpopular cultural politics and modernist

aesthetic and his frustration at what he perceived

as the parochialness of the art music

scene in the Mandate.

After moving to the United States Wolpe

wrote a letter to his friend Salli Levi asking

what had become of his initiatives at the

wcjm and expressing regret that they had

been met with silence. He remained in

close contact with his friends in Jerusalem,

all the while pursuing new community

involvements New York’s art-music

scenes and bebop circles, among Abstract

Expressionist artists, at Black Mountain

College, and at the Darmstadt Summer

Courses for New Music.

During these years in America Wolpe

vacillated wildly in the appraisal of his work

and life in Palestine. At his most self-critical,

in 1944, he accused himself of exploitative

musical imperialism. Moreover, as a

composer, he had become, in his words, a

“thief of a history that had become foreign

to him.” He despaired of his dream to participate

in the creation of a new multiethnic

nation in the Middle East. Recalling the

cultural-political paradoxes of his work

there, Wolpe wrote in 1944 that the excitement

of creating music for a new nation

“succeeds, and in succeeding, points to a

magical power, which always makes me

contemplative and in the joy of the encounter

also deeply sad. (Because of such doubts

I left Palestine. I no longer believed in such

national intimacies and magic circles.)”

Wolpe apparently saw his national ambitions

as having depended on forms of magical

thinking or fantasy that were at once

attractive and deceptive. The composer

subsequently referred to his departures

from Germany and Palestine as his “double

loss.” After his immigration to America, he

avoided characterizing his work in national

terms. He no longer envisioned his work as

transforming society at a national level, but

instead recognized a potential within avantgarde

communities to preserve and acknowledge

vital forms of cultural plurality.

Wolpe’s pedagogical and cultural ambitions

in Mandate-era Palestine may appear

failed and abortive, especially given their

lack of implementation and Wolpe’s harsh

self-judgment. In recent decades, however,

increasing support has accrued to Wolpe

and Lachmann’s belief in cross-cultural

education as an indispensible step toward

political reconciliation. In music, this

aspiration is most visibly represented in

Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said’s East-

West Divan Orchestra, the high-profile

project that brings together young Israeli,

Palestinian, Lebanese, Syrian, Jordanian,

and Egyptian musicans in performances

across the Middle East. As Wolpe’s friend

and student Yohenan Boehm remarked in

an interview the 1980s, his teacher was “a

terribly impractical man [whose political]

outlook was . . . ahead of its time.”

Stefan Wolpe’s case may reveal a

moment when the most seemingly necessary

actions were also utterly impossible in

the midst of intractable political dilemmas.

But one must endure and persevere, as he

said, in “these labyrinths of terrible differences,

dilemmas of truths, disappointments,

and adaptations.” µ

Brigid Cohen is an assistant professor

of music at the University of North

Carolina and a fall 2010 Berlin Prize

Fellow at the American Academy.

40 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010

the price of entry

Whatever happened to Zusammengehörigkeitsgefühl?

By David Abraham

© Photograph Courtesy of the artist

camilo josé vergara, 6 AdalbertStrasse, Berlin, 2010

Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 41

In recent years the topic of immigration

has become increasingly difficult

and painful, particularly for the

liberal left. In the prosperous, immigrantreceiving

nations of the North, two paired,

often unuttered questions have risen to

near the top of legal and political agendas:

Who belongs to the national, political, and

social community of the “we”; and, What

does belonging entail in the way of rights

and obligations? Under the impact of

unprecedented free mobility of both capital

and labor, in addition to multiple crises of

the welfare state, the borders and bonds of

citizenship have been changing – and for

the most part weakening.

If we consider two countries, Germany

and the United States, a general trend of

immigration begins to emerge: There is

an inverse relationship between the ease of

access to citizenship and what that citizenship

actually offers. Citizenship is easiest

to acquire in the United States, but it is

of less social and economic value, and it

offers less of a premium over mere legal

residence. “Hyphenated Americanism”

– Thai-American, Mexican-American, and

the like – has presented a viable integration

strategy for most groups, and it fits into a

dominant ideology of a weak state and pluralistic

society. Germany, in turn, has until

very recently had a very restrictive immigration

policy, offering permanent admission

and prospective citizenship on a very

selective (and largely ethnic) basis and, as

is well known, has had a difficult time integrating

its non-EU foreign-born residents.

Neither multiculturalism nor explicit integrationism

has been especially successful.

Yet entrance into Germany’s social-market

society, on the other hand, offers a panoply

of social and economic rights that could not

even be contemplated in America’s freemarket

liberal individualist society.

The difference between the two countries’

policies has much to do with demographics,

history, and ideology. When it

comes to incorporating new immigrants,

historic and crowded places like Europe

are at a distinct disadvantage compared

to America, a land whose law is libertarian

and which values toleration and some

trust – but is no friend to social solidarity

and puts little premium on citizenship.

Insofar as democratic citizenship involves,

as the political scientist Jean Cohen has

written, “the sovereign self-determination

of a people, and the will to act in its name

and make sacrifices,” a “we” to which

members belong and “in whose deliberations

they have a voice,” American citizenship

is indeed weak. To the extent that the

American demos is experienced in civic

and political, albeit historically embedded

rather than in ethno-cultural terms, it is

open and egalitarian. The combination of

easy entry for newcomers, decentralized

labor markets, modest social transfers, and

weak democratic self-rule has prevented

American citizenship from thickening

culturally over time. But most unchosen,

pre-political, and exclusionary elements are

now marginal compared to other times and

other places. “Common sympathies” and

“proper patriotism” are not hard for newcomers

to come by in the US.

While American-style civic nationalism

may have the potential to create a

“level playing field” for free individuals, it

is unsuited for the “solidarity” of social

justice. Most American rights are negative

liberties – Keep the government off my back –

and they are accorded to all persons rather

than just to citizens. Human-rights liberalism

in its current form makes few social

Acceptance of the

multicultural, or at least

pluralist, composition of

German society has been

gaining ground in theory as

well as practice.

demands and thus works well as an adjustment

to the American way. Ideologically, if

not in perfect reality, America gives everyone

a level playing field, but not a ladder.

And certainly it does not fix the floor.

But some thicker sense of affinity, similarity,

shared identity, or social cohesion

may be necessary for social-rights citizenship.

Over the years Germany has indeed

advanced this model. Acceptance of the

multicultural, or at least pluralist, composition

of German society has been gaining

ground in theory as well as practice. The

years 1999/2005 saw the first German

Citizenship Laws embodying jus soli (birth

on the soil) principles, and 2003 then saw

the formulation of the first immigrantattracting

immigration law in modern

German history (Zuwanderungsgesetz).

Naturalization in Germany is now possible

after a shorter period of time and with

fewer behavioral requirements. Almost

everywhere in Europe, in fact, there is now a

legal entitlement to citizenship for secondgeneration

migrants through jus soli fi

42 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010

principles; it is no longer a matter of exception

or grace. Still, while most European

states and the US have come to accept dual

citizenship, Germany has not.

What was the central goal of German

naturalization law? To ease access into

German society for all those born in

Germany. Legally, that meant introducing

birthright citizenship to the children of

long-term resident aliens and easing the

naturalization process for those residents

not born in the country. By thus distancing,

if not divorcing, citizenship and membership

from ethnicity, reformers sought to

facilitate integration into a more capacious

German identity and society. Immigrants

would more easily and more willingly

become German, while “German” itself

would come to mean something broader.

Naturalization provisions and citizenship

criteria were symbolically moved from

the Aliens Act (renamed the Residence

Act) to the Citizenship and Nationality

Act. The chief object of the new legislation

was to institute jus soli, naturalization as

a matter of right, and language-centered,

National belonging is more

than rational attachment;

it assumes some measure

of shared pre-political


Constitution-affirming integration commitment.

In so doing, Germany legislated a

civic national identity open to all, including

the 10-to-12 percent of the population classified

as foreigners (and of whom one-fifth

were German-born).

But even civic national identities are

culturally inherited artifacts, developing

as they pass from generation to generation.

National belonging is more than rational

attachment; it assumes some measure of

shared pre-political community arching

over any agreement on legal-procedural

rules and makes a nation more than a political

community organized around voluntary

association. Perhaps it demands integration

not just mutual respect. German

administrators may have been naively

optimistic when they wrote in 2000, “The

acquisition of nationality marks the beginning

of social integration.” Legal status

first, integration second.

Here is where Germany has had some

problems, reflected in the continued poor

educational and social-economic performance

of immigrants and increased

tensions between “secularized Christian”

liberalism and Muslim self-assertion. Long

term, inadequate integration threatens

Germany’s high collective social-wage and

solidarity principles. Social policies in the

welfare state operationalized citizenship

and provided a domain where it was constituted

– albeit not equally for everyone –

through a political economy. A much more

individualized, neoliberal, “thinner” society

would perhaps be in a better position to

pursue integration around civic-constitutional

and cultural principles.

Surveying a wide swath of

evidence in Germany, sociologists

Hermann Kurthen and Schmitter

Heisler hypothesize that the market sector

has been less integrated over time

in Germany than in the US, “reflecting

Germany’s more controlled and less

flexible labor-market structures and

highly institutionalized credentialism

(i.e. apprenticeships),” compared to the

US’s “more flexible labor market, especially

in the low-wage sector, low degree of

unionization, and lower degree of credentialism.”

Contrariwise, they find “more

integration in the welfare benefits sector

in Germany, reflecting the more generous

and more inclusive German welfare state,

potentially compensating for the lower

degree of labor market integration.” And

in the cultural sector, notwithstanding

a variety of barriers, Mexicans are “comparatively

more integrated than (Muslim)

Turks,” suffer less exclusion, and express

more positive identification with their

new country, though both groups continue

to show poor school and language

performance. In all cases, the effects of

low human, social, and economic capital

are hard to overcome.

There is a long tradition of explaining

America’s inequality and lack of redistribution

by pointing to its diversity. Yet

ethnic and cultural diversity may very

well have the same type of negative economic

impact in Europe. Over a decade’s

worth of very careful work by Harvard

economist Alberto Alesina and colleagues

has produced some troubling findings

– troubling for those who support the welfare

state and who would simultaneously

value liberalism’s equal desire to accept

difference. In this bivalent desire they

have found a rub.

Among Alesina’s findings are that if

those who are “different” are concentrated

among the poor, then programs that support

the poor become the objects of public

hostility. For example, half the gap between

welfare spending in the US and Europe

is explained by American heterogeneity.

That is, it is possible that generalized

trust, reciprocity, and loyalty are negatively

related to a community’s diversity; or, the

more diverse a community, the less social

trust. Second, flows of foreigners are negatively

related to spending on welfare state

programs. Even some of the staunchest

defenders of the multicultural immigration

model have concluded that the typical

industrial society would be spending 15

to 20 percent more than it does now on

social services had it kept its foreign-born

percentage where it was in 1970. In light of

this, newcomers, more often than not poorer

than the resident population, are easily

seen as exploiting social benefits.

Political and social psychologists have

long concerned themselves with issues of

in-group/out-group behaviors and what

we now call “othering.” Opponents of

discrimination and exclusion have long

argued that contact with difference can create

tolerance and that humans have a cosmopolitan

as well as a parochial potential.

Indeed, the welfare state attempts to further

this possibility by creating institutions

of reciprocity. Let us help each other through

each of our rough times. Such altruism may

be calculated over repeated encounters or

predicted on the basis of a broader empathy.

If I am “my brother’s keeper” I either want

to be confident of reciprocity or of familial


Ideally, the welfare state creates

virtuous circles of reciprocity and builds

the trust that would fight off political

entrepreneurs who would use “weak family

resemblance” to divide people. The

creation of social solidarity and trust is an

outcome of a successful welfare state, while

the welfare state is the product of a dependence

upon a society with a considerable

degree of social solidarity. The feedback is

such that the social rights of citizenship

constitute expectations, the satisfaction of

which strengthens trust in the state and

the sense of social belonging that then

augments trust. Either way, “the welfare

state,” as political scientist Gary Freeman

observed long ago, “rests on a moral and

political consensus, binding members of

the national community in a set of reciprocal

relationships” directed toward equality

on the bordered inside.

Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 43

camilo josé vergara, 18 Schlesische strasse, Berlin, 2010

Chilean-born documentary photographer

Camilo José Vergara has

been shooting America’s ghettos and

broken cities for over three decades.

His photographs and accompanying

stories have resulted in books such as

American Ruins (1999), Unexpected

Chicagoland (2001), and How the Other

Half Worships (2005). At the American

Academy in spring 2010 as a Berlin

Fellow in the Visual Arts, Vergara took

his documentary eye into the German

capital, meandering through its open

streets and hidden corners, through

its past and present, in search of the

city’s distinct personality. The result

has been a stunning array of faces and

façades, train-riders, shop windows,

subway stations, and public spaces. The

two photographs featured here are part

of Vergara’s in-progress Berlin project,

ongoing throughout 2011.

Policy acknowledgement of these inconvenient

facts can be seen on both sides of

the Atlantic: In Germany, for one, in the

limiting of jus soli benefits to children born

to mothers legally or enjoying “genuine”

ties to the country. There has also been an

effort, in Germany but also elsewhere, to

make it more difficult to access migration

and citizenship through marriage. Despite

the Grundgesetz’s strong commitment to

family rights, the importation of “country

girl” wives from the old country is widely

seen as setting back integration and language

acquisition. Lastly, in an effort

to hold the center, as political scientist

Christian Joppke describes, one increasingly

sees “the attempt by states to tie

citizenship more firmly to shared identities

and civic competence,” thereby combating

the “centrifugal tendencies” of increasingly

diverse societies. As a consequence, new

citizens (unlike born citizens) are called

upon to consent to a contractual idea of

membership; they are joining an already

existing association, one with specific rules,

a specific history, and maybe specific political

and cultural norms and values. Contra

Groucho Marx: You have to want to belong

to a club that would have someone like you

as a member.

Given these various tendencies,

we are impelled toward a rather

unattractive conclusion: The US is

more successful in integrating immigrants,

and immigrants are more successful there,

precisely because the US is marked by low

levels of solidarity and a weak welfare state.

Immigrants are on their own – along with

the rest of us. In social democratic Europe,

where social bonds and the welfare state are

thicker, more thoroughgoing integration

will remain necessary to preserve social

solidarity and maintain the welfare state,

with immigrants as functioning participants.

The “sink or swim” of America may,

perversely, be good for immigrants while

impoverishing us all. µ

David Abraham is a professor of law

at the University of Miami School of

Law and was a Bosch Fellow in Public

Policy in spring 2010.

44 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010

image courtesy of the artist

Outcast Eyes

The medieval philosophy of nominalism has rippled through the centuries and into

our ways of making meaning out of what we see.

By Martin Jay

Dan Gluibizzi, Jr., i-lines [b], 2009, Watercolor on paper, 20 x 16 inches

Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 45

Ever since its invention, in

the 1830s, photography has posed a

daunting challenge to the legion of

theorists who have sought to make sense

of its revolutionary implications. Variously

a tool of scientific inquiry, artistic creation,

and social memory, it has exploded

conventional wisdom about visual experience,

testing our sense of what an image

is, how mimetic representation duplicates

the world, and even how time itself can be

frozen in a perpetual instant or captured in

the flow of its movement. With the recent

development of digital technologies, which

seem to undermine the photograph’s function

as a reliable recorder of an actual event

or object in the world, many of these issues

have been raised anew with no consensus

yet arriving about their possible resolution.

Sometimes it is useful to return to past

moments in the history of thought to help

us deal with present questions. In the case

of photography, one possible yet rarefied

resource is a tradition that emerged in

medieval philosophy and that has had a lingering

impact ever since: Nominalism.

Beginning with the fourteenth-century

Franciscan friar William of Ockham,

whose celebrated razor was wielded to cut

away imagined entities unnecessary to

explain the world of experience, nominalism

has been understood as promoting

a principle of parsimony or economy. It

sought to purify philosophy, in particular

the reigning Scholastic orthodoxy of the

medieval Church, of its excessive conceptual

baggage, freeing it to confront the world

as it existed in all its motley particularity.

The nominalists’ favorite target was

the alleged existence of supra-individual

universals – abstractions – wrongly taken

to be more real than the particulars that

embodied them. Because it did so, nominalism

has been understood as deeply

anti-realist in its hostility to the essentialist

Aristotelian ontology of the Scholastic tradition.

For abstract universals it substituted

the conventionalist linguistic name that we

mere humans give to groupings of individual

entities in the world that seem to share

attributes – chairs, birds, oceans – thus

earning the designation of “nominalism,”

from the Latin word for name, nomen.

Ridding the mental universe of unnecessary

real universals and abstract objects,

however, could open the door for something

else. For when doubts about knowledge

or the sufficiency of human reason

were put forward, the way was opened for

faith alone to be the sole source of certainty.

In visual culture,

nominalism’s dominant

exemplar has been

photography, a medium that

insists on capturing images

of only specific things

in the world.

We may lack the means to sense or know

real universals or abstract objects, but we

can still believe that they exist. For Ockham,

revelation was the only access we have to

such entities as the soul’s immortality or

the inherent attributes of God, such as His

unfettered sovereign will.

When it came to mundane matters,

nominalism cleared the way for a less exalted

source than God’s will. Nominalism

says the categories we bestow upon the

world are the product of human invention,

an assumption which led to the self-assertion

of the species in the face of a world

that no longer could be read as a legible text

filled with meanings written by God and

available to human understanding – the socalled

Great Chain of Being. The sovereign

will of God unconstrained by innate rational

rules or essential forms is mimicked by

the assertion of humankind producing an

order that is less found than made. Modern

science, for one, is indebted to this radical

transformation: However much it pretends

to passive discovery, its hidden corollary is

the domination of pliant nature.

As Ockham’s razor sliced through the

building blocks of dominant medieval

optics, it hit the idea of the “visible species,”

which allowed an object to appear meaningful

to the eyes that beheld it. Sight, in

medieval optics, worked through the transmissions

of these forms, from the object to

the eye and vice versa. “Extramission,” as

it was called, involved the sending out of

species from the eye to meet those coming

in through “intromission.” But Ockham

rejected this idea as unnecessary, for it

added an extraneous general concept,

which he thought could be jettisoned in

favor of understanding sight as simply an

intuitive grasping of particular objects at a


Ockham’s razor also severed the

Scholastic concept of organic aesthetic

form, which, as Aquinas held, was comprised

of an object’s integrity, clarity, and

proportion, qualities believed to be universal

norms. While subsequent efforts were

made to rescue a generic metaphysics of

beauty (neo-Platonism returned during the

Renaissance and the eighteenth century;

neo-Aristotelianism enjoyed a twentiethcentury

theoretical revival), the nominalist

challenge remained. It contributed,

for example, to the rise of the novel, that

entirely anti-generic genre that defies virtually

all of the traditional rules of beauty

and form; and in musical compositions, in

the works of, for example, Gustav Mahler,

who denied an ontology of pre-given musical

forms. In visual culture, nominalism’s

dominant exemplar has been photography,

a medium that insists on capturing images

of only specific things in the world. But

photography has done so by instantiating a

version of the nominalist impulse I want to

call “magical,” with a nod to the novelists

who have developed a similar doctrine of

“magical realism.” To make my case, let me

take a detour through the work of a figure

in the visual arts who carried the nominalist

impulse to its extreme, the French (anti-)

artist Marcel Duchamp. In inventing the

brilliant provocation that came to be called

“the readymade,” an object from everyday

life that was selected as “art” rather than

made by the skill of the artist, he denied

the very idea of organic formal beauty.

Duchamp himself understood his work,

to cite a lapidary and cryptic note from

his White Box in 1914, as “a kind of pictorial

Nominalism,” a term that appeared

throughout Duchamp’s writings.

How does Duchampian nominalism

fit with our understanding

of photography in nominalist

terms? For one, whereas mainstream modernist

abstraction pursued the elusive goal

of the essential purity of the medium – as

Clement Greenberg never tired of reminding

us – Duchamp performatively rejected

that quest by giving up painting itself.

Abandoning not only the mimetic task of

painting – copying what was on the other

side of a framed, transparent window onto

the world – Duchamp also rejected the

claim that the flat canvas was an opaque

surface on which experiments in color,

form, and a texture might be pursued.

Instead, he decried all “retinal art” meant

to provide pleasure to the eye, in favor of

an art that was named as such by someone

with the cultural capital to have his act of

enunciation taken seriously. In other words,

one meaning of pictorial nominalism was

the idea that the intrinsic qualities of the

object were less important than the act of

naming it a work of art and getting fi

46 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010

image courtesy of the artist

concept. If words are to be understood as

names, it is not in the sense of a linguistic

sign but rather that of the proper name,

which does nothing to describe the characteristics

of the person to whom it refers

or to subsume him under a concept, but

rather rigidly designates him or her as a

unique entity.

Magical nominalism has to be differentiated

from its conventionalist cousin in

its relative de-emphasis of the enunciative

function of the artist, that moment of selfassertion

ex nihilo, a critical implication of

the Ockhamist critique of real universals.

Duchamp sensed that it was only by diving

into the nostalgic past that he could carry

out his nominalist function. The readymade

is something given by history, not

created by the artist in the present, and is

then re-named an “art object” – not a painting

or a sculpture, but simply “art object.”

As such, it means nothing aside from that

name, no longer an object of use, not an

object of formal beauty within a generic

tradition. Its value, we might say, lies solely

in what it is now designated.

Dan Gluibizzi, Jr., mW i-lines, 2009. Acrylic on canvas, 20 x 16 inches

the legitimating institutions – museums,

galleries, collectors, historians of art – to

accept the act as valid. Eschewing the

older ideal of creative genius in which the

gifted artist somehow channeled the same

innovative spirit that God has shown in

willing the world into being, miraculously

making the invisible visible, Duchamp

effaced himself, or at least his talent as a

traditional artist, and became the more

modest designator – the namer – of found

objects as readymade works worthy of display

in museums. In this sense, pictorial

nominalism was a variation of the older

impulse found in Ockham, which denied

that inherent qualities existed in the world

that could serve as standards of beauty. It

was a radical conventionalism in which the

decision of the enunciator – the one who

can get away with saying this bottle rack or

this urinal is a work of art and should be in

a museum – trumped any intrinsic rules of

formal beauty, such as proportion, organic

wholeness, or integrity.

There was, however, another sense in

which pictorial nominalism moved beyond

this conventionalist usage and gestured

towards a kind of nominalism that was

no longer understandable solely in terms

of denial and disenchantment. It is this

second kind that I want to call “magical


Duchamp wanted to reduce words to

their non-communicative status, expressing

nothing of the intention of the mind

that might speak them or descriptive of

an external world to which they might

refer. Ideally spoken by no one, they defy

both interpretation into something else

and their subsumption under a generic

To understand the implications of

all this for photography will require

a quick glance at the writings of two

critics, who at one time or another had

illuminating things to say about art in general

and photography in particular: Walter

Benjamin and Rosalind Krauss.

In Benjamin’s seminal 1916 essay “On

Language as Such and On the Language

of Man,” he adopted what has been called

an “Adamic” view of languages: the Fall

into a Babel of different tongues was preceded

by an Ursprache, an original pure

language. He began by expanding the word

“language” beyond a tool of human communication

or mental expression to include

everything in animate and inanimate


Whereas conventional notions of language

privilege communication between

humans about a world of objects, the more

expansive notion “knows no means, no

object, and no addressee of communication.

It means: in the name, the mental being of

man communicates itself to God.” Although

only God possesses the perfect language

in which name is equivalent to thing, man

approximates it through the giving of proper

names: “The theory of proper names is

the theory of the frontier between finite

and infinite language.”

Language in this expanded sense is

therefore more than mere signs, more

Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 47

than arbitrary conventions invented to

communicate abstract ideas or enact intersubjective

performatives. After the Fall

into Babel, however, the project of regaining

the perfect language was thwarted

by what Benjamin calls “overnaming,”

which produces the melancholy of a disenchanted

natural world no longer at one

with its original names. For Benjamin it

is the act of translation that offers hope of

reunification: it aims at getting beyond the

inadequacies of individual languages and

approaching the Ursprache beneath them.

Here, in Benjamin, we have a nominalism

that fully earns the adjective “magical”

in the sense that it rejects both abstract

universals in the Scholastic tradition and

conventional names in its Ockhamist

nominalist opponent. Instead it posits the

possibility of regaining original names,

“true” names, as designating, indeed being

at one with, the specific, qualitatively

unique things to which they had been

equivalent before the Fall into Babel and

conventionalist pluralism of different

human languages. But like Duchamp’s

pictorial nominalism, Benjamin’s soughtafter

restoration also dislocates objects

There was a parallel between the way readymades and

photographs were produced: both were “uncoded events”

that extracted signs from their contexts.

AmercAcademie_185x124 05.05.2010 16:44 Uhr Seite 1

from their functional contexts of use and

resituates them in a new realm in which

they are without any communicative

meaning beyond their existence as qualitatively

distinct things.

We are, to be sure, still a far cry from

photography. And here Rosalind Krauss’s

influential essay of 1977, “Notes on the

Index,” comes briefly to our aid. In the

context of an explanation of Duchamp’s

rejection of painting and his overcoming

of self-depiction, she turned to the

importance of the photograph’s indexical

relationship – or factual trace, like tracks

in the snow or handprints on a wall – to the

world. Drawing on C.S. Peirce’s distinction

of icon, symbol, and index, Krauss argued

that “the photograph heralds a disruption

in the autonomy of the sign. A meaninglessness

surrounds it which can only be

filled by the addition of a text.” She then

audaciously linked Duchamps’s readymades

with the photograph, writing that it

was “not surprising that Duchamp should

have described the readymade in just these

terms. It was to be a ‘snapshot’ to which

there was attached a tremendous arbitrariness

with regard to meaning, a breakdown

of the relatedness of the linguistic sign.”

There was a parallel between the way readymades

and photographs were produced:

both were “uncoded events” that extracted

signs from their contexts.

With these points in mind,

let us return to our point of

departure: William of Ockham’s

nominalism may have denied the intrinsic

intelligibility of the world in terms of real

universals, but, as noted, it opened the door

for faith. Magical nominalism can perhaps

be understood as one variant of that faith,

which is revived in visual terms most powerfully

in the case of the photograph. fi

„Every time I come here,

it lifts my spirit.“

Eric Kandel, New York

Autumn sales · 25 – 27 November 2010 in Berlin

Villa Grisebach Auktionen · Fasanenstraße 25 · D-10719 Berlin · Phone +49-30-885 915-0 · www.villa-grisebach.de

48 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010

What precisely is the object of that faith?

Why do photographs grab us and demand

our attention, telling us to stop the flow of

time and pause in our rush into the future?

Here, of course, we can only conjecture. But

if we agree that they do not affirm a world

of inherent ontological universals, or even

an aesthetic canon of conventional forms,

we can say that photographs somehow

want to be understood as the visual equivalents

of the Adamic names – the “true”

names – Benjamin hoped to rescue from

the “overnaming” of linguistic conventionalism.

They want to remain stubbornly

meaningless in the sense that they resist

being paraphrased in terms that reduce

their singularity to an exemplar or case of

a larger category or even as a metaphor of

something else. More precisely, despite

all efforts to saturate them with meaning,

photographs insist that they always contain

a measure of excess that defies paraphrastic


As Roland Barthes’ classic Camera

Lucida observes, photography stresses

the melancholy implication of its image

as memento mori, a mark of the inevitably

passing of time, implying our finitude.

But if we see the photograph instead as a

miraculous freezing of a single ephemeral

moment, a moment that is utterly irreducible

to what came before or after, an

The photograph, in short, is

a reminder that the world is

more than human projection

or construction, more than

the categories we impose

on it, more than the meanings

we impute to it.

uncanny moment that somehow is present

when the image is later viewed despite its

absence, then perhaps it can be understood

to betoken something magical. Like a

fetish, wrested out of the contextual flow of

linear time, the conventional time of historical

narrative, it resists being absorbed

into a cultural whole. Like a proper name,

it refers only to one singular object at one

instant of its existence. And as such, it limits

the sovereign power of the constitutive


Although we know that photographs,

even before the age of digitalization, are

amalgams of the instant of their being

taken and the subsequent work on them

in the developing, printing, and displaying

processes, that instant is never

entirely absorbed into those posterior


The photograph, in short, is a reminder

that the world is more than human projection

or construction, more than the

categories we impose on it, more than the

meanings we impute to it. Rather than the

humanist self-assertion that some have

seen as a consequence of conventionalist

nominalism, it implies what we might

call the counter-assertion of the world, a

world more readymade than the product

of human will, a world that somehow

stubbornly thwarts all of our most valiant

efforts to disenchant it. µ

Martin Jay is the Sidney Hellman

Ehrman Professor of History at the

University of California, Berkeley, and

the fall 2010 Ellen Maria Gorrissen

Fellow at the American Academy.

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