Herlinde Koelbl: photos of Angela Merkel over the years.
There is also Pantone Merkel by Noortje van Eekelen:
See also Andreas Gursky’s painting of the four chancellors.
Isabelle Thormann and Jana Hausbrandt, Rechtssprache – klar und verständlich für Dolmetscher, Übersetzer, Germanisten und andere Nichtjuristen, BDÜ Fachverlag 2016 – 446 pp. plus keyword index
Let me start by saying that this is a very full and thorough book with a variety of contents and I think anyone dealing with legal German will like to have it. It is intended for those who know nothing about legal German, so experienced legal translators will not need it, perhaps unless like me they are interested in how legal German is taught and explained. The authors have been running seminars on legal German for several years now, so they know what problems non-lawyers have in practice. (The BDÜ runs webinars on the subject by the authors too).
If you are a BDÜ member, you can consult and search online a library of all the books you bought from this publisher (provided the authors agreed to electronic searchng, including this one, together with past issues of MDÜ. I don’t know if it works for non-BDÜ members. I don’t think you will want to use the book as a dictionary – it would make more sense to work through it first – but electronic searching is very useful.
1. Who is it for?
The authors describe the book as both a reference work and a textbook, and they say it is ‘also’ suitable to prepare for the exam ‘Nachweis grundlegender Kenntnisse der deutschen Rechtssprache’, which many German Länder require court interpreters and translators to pass. In Bavaria the equivalent is or was part of the exam for court interpreters and translators called ‘Gerichts- und Behördenterminologie’. In that connection there is another book from that publisher:
Arbeitsbuch zur Gerichts- und Behördenterminologie, Auflage 2013
Autor: Ulrich Daum, Ramón Hansmeyer
The fact is that in order to pass an exam in Bavaria to be a court interpreter or translator, you do not have to choose law as your main subject, so there are a lot of candidates who ought to know something about legal German and fortunately training in this is increasing. So the legal German in these books is not the language of contracts or intellectual property or even judgments. But it’s still useful stuff.
But the subtitle adds ‘Germanists and other non-lawyers’. And parts of the book are said to be particularly suitable for those with German as a foreign language:
Dieses Buch enthält Hinweise und Teile (z.B. das Kapital “Komische Wörter und Ausdrücke”), die besonders für solche Dolmetscher, Übersetzer und Jurastudenten konzipiert wurden, die Deutsch nicht als Muttersprache, sondern als Fremdsprache gelernt haben.
Does anyone else find this ‘komische Wörter’ a bit condescending? Let’s look at them. First comes a long section of words with a different meaning, like anklagen vs. verklagen vs. einklagen, or bestandskräftig vs. rechtskräftig, then come Vertraute Wörter mit anderer Bedeutung, Fachausdrücke der Rechtssprache, Lexikalische Besonderheiten der Verwaltungssprache and at last Komische Wörter und Ausdrücke. I’m not sure why a non-native speaker should be more surprised than a native speaker by abbedingen or einer Sache keinen Abbruch tun. But anyway, I’m quibbling – the contents of the book are very useful.
2. What’s in it?
You can find details of the book here, together with a PDF sample – click on Leseprobe. I would recommend downloading this as it has a full table of contents and you can see how very full it is. The aditional material alone is very useful, closing with police grades, occupations at court, and much else.
The main parts are 1. Characteristics of legal language (about 200 pages), 2 Legal terminology – actually an introduction to law (about 160 pages) and 3 – Appendix – Additional information and solutions to the exercises.
There are execises, which seem to crop up rather unexpectedly (to me) in the first part. Thus for example:
Umwandlung eines Relativsatzes in eine Linksattribution.
Formulieren Sie die folgenden Sätze so um, dass der Relativsatz in Form einer Linksattribution ausgedrückt wird.
1. Die Verzögerung, die im November 2015 auf Grund der Klagebegründung entstand, war etwas anders als von Ihnen in Ihrem Schreiben dargestellt zustande gekommen.
Die im November 2015 auf Grund der Klagebegründung entstandene Verzögerung war etwas anders als von Ihnen in Ihrem Schreiben dargesellt zustande gekommen.
I’m not sure what the point of these exercises is, but it looks as if the authors want to encourage more comprehensible legal language, perhaps even plain German, which includes converting sentences back and forth. The exercises probably useful to get a feel for legal German, although I wouldn’t have the patience to do 18 of them. I admit this kind of exercise was always very appealing to me as a teacher (I remember a set of sentences on hereinbefore and so on that caused a lot of problems).
At the very end of the book there are 130 questions testing understanding or memory of the text.
4. German legal language
The first part of the book deals with the characteristics of legal German, starting with sentence patterns and continuing inter alia with prepositions, tenses and
At all events, the first 200 pages of the book give a very detailed analysis of legal German which is also clearly set out and comprehensible. I could learn from them myself. They might also form the basis for a comparative analysis of how to translate legal German into English, whether that was legalese or the kind of less heavy English that some jobs need.
5. Lists of legal terms
Still in Part 1, there are long lists of legal terms, in a number of categories:
Bedeutungsunterschiede: over 40 examples, mainly pairs of words such as Anerkenntnis vs. Geständnis, anhängig vs. rechtshängig, Erbe vs. Vermächtnis. Many of the terms are dealt with in a bit more detail later in the book.
Vertraute Wörter mit anderer Bedeutung
Fachausdrücke der Rechtssprache: ‘Diese Ausdrücke sollten Sie kennen’. A long list with definitions, starting with abdingbar, abgängig, Adhäsionsverfahren, ahnden, Akt, aktenkundig.
Komische Wörter und Ausdrücke: “mit Verlaub”, abbedingen, Abbruch, Abkömmling, Absehen, absprechen and so on.
Stilebenen, Register, Soziolekt: colloquial expressions contrasted with legalese, e.g. Adresse/Anschrift, ansehen/in Augenschein nehmen.
6. Legal terms in the context of an introduction to German law
A nice introduction to the elements of German law, both substantive and procedural. There are also lists of abbreviations and Latin expressions.
At the back, following the final exercise, there is a brief bibliography and also a list of internet links.
That concludes a summary of most of the book. Again, look at the table of contents on the website linked above for a full impression.
One problem of a book like this is searching in it. It does have an index of the keywords at the back, fortunately. Not every word given special treatment counts as a keyword, though. The ‘komische Wörter’ for us foreigners are not included in the index.
As a final comment I have some difficulty in using the definitions of words. But I am not the intended audience for the book. I would be more inclined to go to a statute or to Creifelds or anywhere else I could find a serious legal definition meant for lawyers. But this would not be possible for many of the words dealt with. German general dictionaries exclude legalese (Fachsprache) so we translators are quite dependent on the help of colleagues. Take the word nachlassen in the sense of ‘permit’, for which see Corinna Schlüter-Ellner (below). The bibliography also contains other books that may be helpful; in addition to the volume by Ulrich Daum mentioned above I would add:
Schlüter-Ellner, Corinna: Juristendeutsch verständlich gemacht. Treffende Verben in der deutschen Rechtssprache (same publisher; the book comprises two sections and is not restricted to court vocabulary)
Simon, Heike and Funk-Baker, Gesela: Einführung in das deutsche Recht und die deutsche Rechtssprache
Crime Fiction in German. Der Krimi. Edited by Katharina Hall, Cardiff 2016.
Recommended at Lizzy’s Literary Life (Lizzy Sidal), where there is also an interview with Katharina Hall aka Mrs. Peabody – she writes a blog on international crime fiction called Mrs. Peabody Investigates.
This is another book I haven’t read from cover to cover, indeed I don’t think I could, but I see it as a source ofsuggestions for reading. It looks very useful. But then again I have already read too many German crime novels. There is not much point getting addicted if you want to find time to read anything else.
At the beginning there is a 24-page table with a chronology of crime fiction in German set against current historical events. It goes from 1786 (with a couple of earlier events) to 2015. At the back is a full annotated bibliography of sources. Each chapter ends with notes, bibliography of texts, and further secondary reading. There are chapters by various authors on subjects including Austrian and Swiss crime fiction, Der Afrika-Krimi, Der Frauenkrimi and TV shows. Occasional quotations are in English, although the books referred to are not necessarily available in English.
It’s not the aim of the book to analyse crime fiction at length, so it is a bit dry in parts, I think, when it appears more like a catalogue than a commentary.
The time when I read most crime fiction in German was the 90s, and I see that it completely omits one of my favourite spoof series, by Helmut Zenker, about the detective Minni Mann (Zenker is only mentioned for the Kottan TV series). I suppose Minni Mann is not very PC. Titles include Die Mann im Mond and Die Mann ist tot und lässt Sie grüßen. Quite a lot of them have been reprinted, as late as 2014 – my edition of Minni Mann is from 1989. They always included a contract with the author (Buchordnung):
1. Nachfolgende Buchordnung tritt mit der Übernahme von MINNI MANN in Kraft.
2. Lesen darf ich nur Exemplare, die ich erworben oder geschenkt bekommen habe.
3. In anderen Büchern darf ich zur gleichen Zeit nicht angetroffen werden.
4. MINNI MANN darf ich auch alleine und ohne Einwilligung der Eltern lesen.
5. Das Lesen erfolgt auf eigene Gefahr.
6. Für plötzliches Verlassen des Buches ist ein triftiger Grund wie Erkrankung, Geburt, Hochzeit oder Ableben geltend zu machen. Im Krankheitsfall ist Bestätigung des Arztes unbedingt erforderlich.
7. Schriftliche Änderungen meinerseits gehen ohne Anspruch auf Entschädigung in das Eigentum des Autors über.
8. Für während des Lesens abhanden gekommene Garderobe übernehmen Verlag und Autor keine Haftung.
9. Ein Lesezeichen ist nicht erwünscht. Ich darf die Ecke der Seite umbiegen, auf der ich mich befinde.
10. Ich weiß, dass ich als Leser zumindest einen Bekannten oder Verwandten zum Kauf eines eigenen Exemplars bewegen muss. Der Ankauf ist zu kontrollieren.
11. Sollte mir das Buch missfallen, bin ich wenigstens verpflichtet, ein Exemplar meinem besten Feind zu schenken.
12. Nach der Lektüre schließe ich das Buch sorgfältig und stelle es zu den anderen Zenker-Büchern.
13. Gerichtsstand ist ausschließlich Klosterneuburg.
A couple of years ago I did attend a good CIOL seminar on German crime fiction, the translation thereof, I think, by Karen Seago. There is stuff by her online too, but a lot of it only accessible through academic institutions. There’s an article by her in The Journal of Specialised Translation though: Crime (fiction) in Translation (PDF)
This is a first look – not a review, because I haven’t read the whole book.
Comparative Law for Legal Translators, by Guadalupe Soriano-Barabino, published by Peter Lang 2016 – also available as an e-book, PDF – volume 17 of New Trends in Translation Studies
This book is by one legal translation academic with shorter contributions from two others. Between them they cover the languages French, Spanish, Italian, German and English. It is part of a series published by Peter Lang called New Trends in Translation Studies – volume 17, in fact.
The title suggested to me that it is a book about comparative law intended for legal translators, but in fact it is a book intended for academics about how comparative law might help legal translators, and help train them, and it contains concrete examples of exercises. It is quite a short book but rather heavy going in parts, as one might expect when the intended audience are academics rather than practitioners. There is frequent quoting from Zweigert and Kötz, for example – an excellent book but not what I was expecting. I was expecting one author’s views, not opinions frequently buttressed with citations. That is not exactly what the introduction says, but it does say it’s addressed to translators-to-be, translator trainers and professional translators ‘who wish to develop their activity in the field of legal translation’.
Not only is the book addressed to a variety of readers, it also contains short chapters on seven legal systems. If I wanted to use this book for legal translation between German and English, I would want more on German law than sixteen pages starting with the historical evolution of the German legal system and then concentrating on sources of law, courts and the legal profession. (The introduction to comparative law also goes back to Plato).
The first of four parts establishes, with much theorization and quotation, that legal translators need to understand source and target legal systems. A taster (p. 21):
To sum up, comparative law and legal translation interact because the former becomes an instrument for the latter. The asymmetry between different legal concepts and systems is a challenge for the translator and comparative law can help translators first to understand and later to explain (and translate) the legal concepts of the source legal system into the target legal system. The actual translation (as a product) can be rendered through the application of different techniques and strategies, which are discussed in detail in Chapter 11.
The second and third parts consist mainly of short chapters on a number of legal systems, concentrating on sources of law and court hierarchies. These chapters are preceded by a discussion on how the major legal families/systems of the world may be classified, and then a few pages on the civil law and common law systems.
The fourth and final part is headed ‘Comparative Law for Legal Translators: From Theory to Practice’, and falls into two sections. Firstly, ‘Training Legal Translators’ is mainly a discussion of what translation competence means and how legal translation competence can be defined. It concludes that legal translators do not have also to be lawyers to be good translators. finally, ‘Legal Translation in the Classroom’ suggests concrete approaches.
First, there is a discussion of how to decide on terminological equivalents: translators need to know the difference between two legal systems in order to decide how similar two terms are – are they equivalents or not close enough? Finally, there are twenty-four suggested exercises of a variety of kinds for students. Students should be encouraged, for example, to look at texts in their source and target languages which are similar, that are different but have the same purpose, that don’t exist in the other language, that have a different structure. Students should rewrite texts in legalese in plain language (an excellent idea). They should look at the same terms that have different meanings, for example in English-language jurisdictions.
This isn’t a review as I haven’t read the whole of the book. I am more interested in practical legal translation and would recommend another book from the series, Legal Translation in Context, edited by Anabel Borja Albi and Fernando Prieto Ramos, a collection of chapters – the first, by Jan Engberg, is incidentally titled ‘Comparative Law for Translation’. There is also Legal Translation Explained, by Enrique Alcaraz and Brian Hughes, from the (originally) St. Jerome Publishing series Translation Practices Explained.
After I moved back to London in 2013 I attended a course on trees at the City Lit, I can now reveal. In five whole Sundays we were promised we could learn to recognize eight trees. I immediately saw the value to me. I had not thought much about trees till then, but I needed to get out walking and there are trees everywhere, so I thought it would be interesting to know something about them. And indeed I found the course quite fascinating. We used to go to Lincoln’s Inn Fields and pull leaves and flowers apart, and one member of the class put the bits in a bag, and the following week we had to identify them again. It was good that the course wasn’t restricted to Our Native Trees, because from gingkos to Tibetan cherries to unusual types of magnolia, London is full of immigrant vegetation.
I highly recommend the teacher, Letta Jones, who holds courses elsewhere. Her website www.lettajones.co.uk will not always be quite up to date, but I think an email should get a list of courses and walks.
At the time I got some books on trees. I must say that there is no one guide to identifying trees that covers everything, and they vary in the way they help identification. You have to put time into recognizing twigs and buds and leaves and bark.
But then there are other, more discursive books on trees. And this is where the story reaches the present day. I had read a bit of the German bestseller Das Geheime Leben der Bäume by Peter Wohlleben, and much to my surprise I heard a German talking about trees to Jo Good on BBC Radio London last week, and sure enough it was he! At the time of writing the clip can still be heard as part of Prue Leith and the Barking Hour at about 1.05 (who knew one could pronounce Wohlleben like vol-au-vent?). It seems that the book has just been published in English, by a Canadian publisher, translator unnamed, as The Hidden Life of Trees. I suppose Canada is the place for lumber. Anyway, Wohlleben was passing through London and is obviously selling his book.
On air, Wohlleben was a bit sniffy about non-native trees. He had obviously practised his tree English, but he didn’t know the word pollarding. Jo Good seemed obsessed by an allegedly particularly lonely plane tree outside The Dorchester (that tree is included in The Great Trees of London and was planted in the 1930s, it says. book, website). Other callers referred to the plane tree in Cheapside, but seemingly believed it is the oldest tree in London and survived the Great Fire of London. In other words, the programme wasn’t very informative.
When I started reading the German book last year it did occur to me it might be worth translating, because there are quite a number of books about trees in English and quite a readership – but not a readership that puts them in the top ten best-selling books. One explanation is that Wohlleben tells stories and gives trees feelings.
Wohlleben was a forester for 20 years, learning how to manage wood. Later he found himself conducting nature walks and making provision for woodland burials and began to see trees differently. He retired as a forester (giving up his civil service career) and it looks as if he has published a book every year since then – see his German Wikipedia entry. But it was with Das geheime Leben der Bäume that he hit the really big time. Funnily enough, Colin Tudge’s book The Secret Life of Trees covers a lot of the same ground and got great reviews in 2005. So Wohlleben’s book had to be given a different name in translation. I read most of Tudge and found it a good read full of memorable detail, but eventually there was so much memorable detail and I was remembering so little of it that I seem to have stopped at page 252. I think this was because of the six chapters on six different tree families all over the world – the last chapter I managed was ‘From Handkerchief Trees to Teak:The Daisy-like Eudicots’.
The thing about Wohlleben is that he is a great popularizer and anthropomorphist. Both authors’ books have their references to scientific articles – I can’t help thinking Wohlleben was influenced by Tudge, not in style or detail but in the idea of writing a book on this subject, but he doesn’t cite him.
An article by Christoph Schröder in Die Zeit
Im Duktus des Märchens entwirft Wohlleben das Bild eines bestens durchorganisierten sozialen Systems, in dem zwar einerseits das Recht des Stärkeren gilt, andererseits aber der Schwächere niemals allein gelassen, sondern aufgefangen und mitgetragen wird. So beseelt wie bei Wohlleben war der Wald selbst bei den Romantikern nicht. Man spricht miteinander, liebt sich, erzieht sich und hilft sich gegenseitig mit Mahlzeiten aus, wenn Not am Stamm ist.
Kobolde haben schlechte Karten
Kann es in aufgepeitschten und unruhigen Zeiten etwas Tröstlicheres geben als den Entwurf eines funktionierenden gesellschaftlichen Gefüges, das in gegenseitiger Achtung und in Solidarität und Generationengerechtigkeit lebt? Das ist der Wohlleben-Wald: ein nur von außen, durch den Menschen bedrohter utopischer Raum, in dem es keine Schuld gibt.
In the FAZ Bäume sind so tolle Lebewesen, Melanie Mühl also considers why Wohlleben’s book has been a bestseller for months: he has been practising how to explain trees to people for years, and people want stories and feelings.
Seit zwanzig Jahren führt Peter Wohlleben Menschen durch den Wald, zeigt, erklärt, erzählt. Zwanzig Jahre Marktforschung darüber, welchen Ton er anschlagen muss, damit die Wissensvermittlung funktioniert. Bei der trockenen Wissenschaftssprache jedenfalls, da schalten die meisten sofort ab. Menschen wollen Geschichten. Und Gefühle. Wohllebens rhetorische Vermenschlichungsstrategie ist lange erprobt.
In Wahrheit gibt Wohlleben den Deutschen nicht ihren Wald zurück. Er erklärt ihnen den Baum, damit sie den Wald besser verstehen. Er fragt nicht, wie die Romantiker und die Yogamattenausroller, was der Wald für unser Seelenheil tun kann, sondern was wir für den Wald tun können.
„Ich umarme keine Bäume, und ich spreche auch nicht mit ihnen“, sagt Wohlleben.
It will be interesting to see if the book is as successful in English as it is in German.
As a footnote, Christiane Bergfeld’s blog Übersetzung und Literatur, doch nicht nur has recently been taken over by tree photos.
Colin Tudge, The Secret Life of Trees. How they live and why they matter, 2005.
Oliver Rackham, Woodlands. 2006.
Oliver Rackham, Obituary :
He was also a gifted linguist, reading Latin verse for relaxation. During a field course on the Croatian island of Rab he sat next to the local priest on a bus and questioned him closely in Latin about the management of the local woods.
Peter A. Thomas, Trees. Their Natural History.
The Bodleian Library reprinted Instructions for British Servicemen in Germany, 1944 a couple of xears ago (there are others, and if you buy it from there don’t forget to look at their bookish Christmas cards). I missed this, and also the bilingual version now doing so well in Germany, which itself appeared over two years ago:
Christian Kracht und Helge Malchow (Hrsgs.): “Leitfaden für britische Soldaten in Deutschland 1944” (Kiepenheuer und Witsch) (via Denis Scheck, Druckfrisch).
The result is a remarkable booklet, often unintentionally humorous and sometimes crudely stereotypical, it reads by turns like a travel guide (advising on the excellence of German sausages and beer – ‘one of the pleasantest in Europe’) and a crash course in psychological warfare. It is very much a document of the period, revealing as much about British wartime attitudes towards Germany as it does about British hopes and fears.
‘If you have to give orders to German civilians, give them in a firm, military manner. The German civilian is used to it and expects it.’
There seem to be a whole series of hese books, including one on German invasion plans for the British Isles.
There’s even a German Wikipedia page, and the bilingual version is available for Kindle.
It looks as if the translator was Helge Malchow.
I noticed that the new English-German volume of the Dietl/Lorenz law dictionary has appeared. Professor Egon Lorenz is still in charge. The German-English volume is announced for 2017.
LATER NOTE: More details in an email from Hans Kotzur of Kater Verlag:
es freut mich, diese Neuauflage anbieten zu können, an der seit einigen Jahren gearbeitet wird.
Der Lexikograf Dr. Kettler tritt in die Fußspuren seiner Vorgänger und hat den Umfang des ‘Dietl/Lorenz’ auf 100.000 Begriffe ausgeweitet.
Neben der Zuordnung der Terme zu den jeweiligen Geschlechtern wurde die neue deutsche Rechtschreibung nachgeführt und jeder Begriffe lexikologisch überarbeitet.
Eine Neuauflage rechtfertigt man vor allem durch inhaltliche Erneuerung und Ergänzungen. So wurden der Rechtsentwicklung Rechnung getragen und neue technische Begriffe eingeführt.
Dies betrifft zum Beispiel den Bereich IT / Computer, Compliance, und viele andere mehr.
Der Wortschatz zum Thema Banken und deren Produkte wurde erweitert. Stichwort: Basel III.
Die Vertiefung der Wirtschaftsbeziehungen mit den Vereinigten Saaten von Amerika durch die Auflösung der Deutschland AG mit der Einflussnahme der Beteiligungsgesellschaften und Fonds (vulgo Heuschrecken) fand Niederschlag.
Die Neuordnung der deutschen Immobilienlandschaft durch Veräußerung der immensen Bestände an Immobilienverwaltungsgesellschaften fand entsprechend Raum im Wörterbuch.
Nicht zuletzt die Veränderungen im Rechtsgefüge, die durch EU-Bürgschaften, IWF-Garantien und supranationale dem parlamentarischen Recht nicht unterworfene Körperschaften geprägt werden, wurden nachvollzogen.
Ceta und TTIP werfen Schatten voraus, auf die ein Wörterbuch wie der Dietl / Lorenz reagieren muss.
Bleibt noch ein umfangreiches Abkürzungsverzeichnis mit ca 6.000 Einträgen und die Ausweisung britischer sowie amerikanischer Schreibweise um das Invest in dieses Meisterwerk der englisch/ deutschen Wörterbücher zu begründen.
Angeboten wird der Wortschatz als Buch Englisch / Deutsch. Artikelnummer: 4000 Preis: 169.- Euro
In Kürze wird der Wortschatz als Download Deutsch / Englisch und Englisch / Deutsch angeboten werden. Artikelnummer für Vorbestellungen 4290 Preis: 315.- Euro
Vorbesitzer der CD-Version erhalten ein Update gegen Nachweis unter Artikelnummer: 4310 für Vorbestellungen Preis: 129.- Euro
Kunden der IDS-Mietlösung von Acolada kommen bereits heute in den Genuss der elektronischen Version des Dietl/ Lorenz. Artikelnummer: 4296
Für das Jahr 2017 erwarten wir die vollständig überarbeitete Buchauflage Deutsch/ Englisch.
The bizarre Ingeborg Bachmann prize for literature has been won by Sharon Dodua Atoo, a black Germanist, mother and activist who has lived in Berlin for 24 years – see Philip Oltermann article in the Guardian. A couple of years ago the texts of the candidates were translated into English, but not this time. The reading, discussion and text, and a video about the author, can be found on the Klagenfurt prize website. She normally writes in English.
Here is more from Sharon Dodua Atoo’s website.
Steve Owen has translated the complete poems of Du Fu (1400-odd) and they are published together with the original Chinese, the Harvard Gazette reports: Translating Nine Pounds of Poetry.
What’s more, the complete work is available in an open access version free online in PDFs.
As Du Fu might have written if he’d been writing English:
Meng of the Granaries Section Comes on Foot to Give This Old Man Full Pots of New Ale and Bean Sauce
Chu shores gave passage to autumn clogs,
as my folding chair faced the evening fields.
Having strained the lees, you separated the liquid from the dregs,
the pot of bean sauce spills over as you carry it.
One will add fragrant flavor when I dine on coarse meal,
as for the other, when friends come we will get drunk.
How can one avoid ordinary things in managing life? —
please tell my rustic wife how to make these.
This isn’t a big surprise as Neil MacGregor, when he was Director of the British Museum, organized the exhibition called German: Memories of a Nation. I wrote a sniffy report on it in an earlier post. There are definitely good things in the book, however, and so in theory one could read about them or look at the maps at leisure – they seemed to me very diverse and complex, and so unsuitable for being absorbed in the course of viewing an exhibition. The book will be coming out in paperback on April 7.
There’s a video of the exhibition on this British Museum page, showing MacGregor’s theme that when the two Germanies were united 25 years ago, they had no shared history, but shared memories. A map shows over 200 currencies representing separated states, each with its own legal system, army etc. There was also a radio series of 15-minute programmes – they can be downloaded as podcasts indefinitely.
I was aware that MacGregor had studied modern languages at Oxford, but Wikipedia lists his alma mater as New College Oxford, École Normale Supérieure, University of Edinburgh and Courtauld Institute of Art – he has even more almae matres or alma maters than I have (KCL, College of Law, Institute of Education). He was a law student at Edinburgh and was called to the Bar in 1972, and to crown it all:
on a Courtauld Institute (University of London) summer school in Bavaria, the Courtauld’s director Anthony Blunt spotted MacGregor and persuaded him to take a master’s degree under his supervision. Blunt later considered MacGregor “the most brilliant pupil he ever taught”.