H. Gustav Klaus and Christian Schmitt-Kilb find Britain is obsessed with war. It’s always the British war cemeteries on the Continent that are best looked after (mind you, every year or two a tin is rattled at me to contribute to German war graves, the equivalent of which I have never encountered in Britain:
Just how present war is in British intellectual debate can be gauged by browsing
through the Times Literary Supplement. One hesitates to speak of an obsession, but
not a week passes without a book on the subject of war being reviewed. No non-
specialist German weekly or monthly comes to mind that would cover the subject
so continually. The plethora of books published year in year out ranges from
military to counterfactual history, from biographies to diaries and letters of military
leaders, from reportage to photojournalism. It includes historical fiction and (anti-)
war poetry. But the fascination with war also manifests itself in museums and
historical pageants, the performing arts, photography, film and television, memori-
als and Remembrance Day(s).
The TLS took them up on this on the back page, on October 5 2007 (probably not online):
Using the past twenty issues of the TLS as a representative sample, we checked and were initially surprised to find that Klaus and Schmitt-Kilb are largely correct. They will doubtless be sighing into their schnapps over the cover picture of Adolf Hitler (September 21), which appeared long after the Journal went to press. “No non-specialist German weekly or monthly comes to mind that would cover the subject so continually.” War, inseparable from Britain’s rise as “Great”, is just as closely linked to its decline.
Far be it from us to suggest other reasons why German weeklies do not dwell on the subject, but as to the TLS’s role, we are bound to point out that “the subject of war”, in its widest application, is tantamount to the subject of history. Does a review of The Disinherited: The exiles who created Spanish culture (August 3) count as a piece about “the subject of war”? Since the reviewer mentions the “socialists, republicans” and other who were “checked by Franco’s ‘crusade’ during the Civil War”, it must do. The lead article in the TLS of May 18 was a review of Cultural Responses to the Persian Wars; in the May 25 issue, there was a piece of several books about the American West, including one on the Sioux warrior Crazy Horse, “the decisive tactician in Custer’s deafeat”. It’s not an obsession; just us doing our duty.