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Germania: A Personal History of Germans Ancient and Modern Paperback – 4 Feb 2011


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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprints edition (4 Feb. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330451405
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330451406
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 13 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (152 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 38,257 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

Magnificently crazy (Will Self Esquire)

Book Description

‘This trot through German culture and history is an engrossing, informative and hilarious read’ Sunday Times

Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Rachel Kesterton on 6 Oct. 2014
Format: Paperback
I loved this book. Admittedly if you do not have a basic knowledge of the general history of Western Europe, you will find it quite hard going but for those who do, it is immensely rewarding. It is not a light read, being thick with arcane facts and twisting sentences. It is full of affection for a country that too many people see as a blank hole in the middle of Europe and, refreshingly for a book on Germany, is not unbalanced by an over-emphasis on the Nazis. In fact, it ends just before they came to power and in so doing puts fresh emphasis on all the wonders and idiosyncracies of German culture before that awful abberation. As promised on the cover, it made me laugh out loud as well as getting on the next boat/plane to Germany to revisit this beautiful, wonderful, much maligned country.

I liked the book so much, I even wrote a review of it, which I have never done about any other book, ever!
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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful By James Christie on 12 Mar. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Like some other reviewers I struggled to get past Simon Winder's inability, or unwillingness, to speak German. I am of course familiar with this peculiarly British trait, but it staggers me that anyone can love a country, spend so much time in it, and even write a book on it without taking the trouble to learn the language. Worse, he passes it off as an amusing character foible.

However, once I got past my irritation at that point, which he labours embarrassingly at the start, I soon got into the book. I found his style engaging and amusing, though on occasion he doesn't realise that he's sailing over the top and adding flourishes that draw attention to himself, rather than illuminating the subject.

It is the story that Winder tells that matters; the story of Germany's place in Europe and how it came to be the country that it is. Winder is successful in making sense of the big historical picture, a picture that we in Britain struggle to see, conditioned as we are by our experiences in the 20th century. It is easy to forget, or even be entirely unaware, that Germany was seen as one of the good guys by Britain up till the end of the 19th century. It was at different times a passive victim and a vital ally in the perennial wars against the real European villain, France. Even as late as the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71 Britain was instinctively more favourably disposed towards Prussia.

With the interesting partial exception of Frederick the Great's Prussia Germany was one of the more civilised, intellectually lively and unthreatening parts of Europe from the middle of the 17th century until German unification.

Winder is skillful and successful in conveying this very accurate, but alternative (to British eyes) version of Germany.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on 19 May 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It may sound a silly thing to say but initially I was put off by the title - 'Germania' sounded as if the author was determined to be slightly highfalutin on the subject. In truth, Simon Winder is entirely disarming in his style of writing. Even in the Introduction (and I rarely read the bit before chapter 1) his light observations put one at ease - reflecting on his age he succeeds in invoking empathy with asides such as (on being in his forties) he is now 'reconciled to dying still unable to identify tree species or remember phone numbers'.

This story of Germany from naissance to Hitler's rise to power aims to give a broad view of well, where Germany 'came from' and by doing so to improve grasp of the country and the people above the usual stereotype . Sub-titling the book a 'personal view', he distinguishes the book from a straight history essay by interweaving personal experience of Germany to create a palatable whole.

On the one hand, it is clear that the author has done his research (seven pages of bibliography) which means that you can read this book as an education. However, there is none of the dry citation that litters academic texts and distracts. Even the layout and headings are designed to break up the subject into palatable morsels, intrigue (a 'glass pyramid filled with robin eggs') and amuse. Thus, the book is not simply for those with an interest in the history of Germany but anyone who wants to understand more about a nation that is often cited more for its wars than its peace.

The weaving of personal anecdote and historic vignettes turns subject matter that might lie heavily on the digestion (like a meal of sauerkraut and bratwurst) into a buffet style feast that one can graze.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Sussex by the Sea VINE VOICE on 28 Mar. 2010
Format: Hardcover
I enjoy reading books on European history and culture, and this one seemed a dream: full of the best bits of both, and promising to be a book on Germany history that wasn't obsessed with the years between 1933 and 1945.

Unfortunately it was a little too idiosyncratic for my tastes, and is full of the references to the period of history that it promised to avoid. It seems aimed at an audience that is only aware of German history through the distorting light of the second world war, and thinks it must keep them interested by putting in a reference to the Nazis, Hitler, or the war every couple of pages. Because of this I found it very dispiriting to read, which was a great shame as there is much of interest in here, and it is told in a lively manner.

I'd like to read a good history of Germany that isn't fixated on the Twentieth Century, and one that can celebrate the advances in culture and science that have come out of Germany, but sadly this book isn't it. As a historically-based travelogue it is often quite fun, but as a whole this is a book that that whispers "don't mention the war" to the reader so much that I found it hard to to think of anything else.
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