Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Kulturpunkt: Hitchens on Grass

Bilious ex-Trotskyite author Christopher Hitchens weighs in on Günter Grass and his Waffen-SS past. It's not a surprise that Hitchens would take Herr Grass to task for his rancid past. While I think Hitchens is a bit off-his-rocker with his current Bush affection, I think this passage is the very mot juste:

"Let those who want to judge, pass judgment," Grass said last week in a typically sententious utterance. Very well, then, mein lieber Herr. The first judgment is that you kept quiet about your past until you could win the Nobel Prize for literature. The second judgment is that you are not as important to German or to literary history as you think you are. The third judgment is that you will be remembered neither as a war criminal nor as an anti-Nazi hero, but more as a bit of a bloody fool.

Grass was an important novelist, at least as far as such things are decided by the academy (who write, largely for each other, and decide from this shallow pool who is "important"). However, ostensibly to set himself right and sell copies of his memoir, he mortgaged all that to come clean about his membership in the genocidal, fiercely-Nazi Waffen-SS. Good move, that. Right.

This is all, if I may borrow a phrase (or create it if no wag has done so), the pornography of fascism. I find that people are altogether too excited by National Socialism and its evil. Like the Acanthophis antarcticus, or Death Adder (what a descriptive name!), we are fascinated by a lethal creature. Rather than sending the criminals off to their justice and putting some weight behind the vow, "never again," we sit about and discuss the NSDAP and their evil designs far too much. The History Channel has made a career showing visceral, indeed, almost-pornographic (not in the etymological sense) clips of stock footage. Not least Riefenstahl's technically brilliant and morally repulsive film Triumph des Willens.

The lady doth protest too much, and - sooner or later - all that pornography of fascism warps the mind. Let Grass rot in the prison he has decided to construct with his lies and obfuscation, but - for our own sake - let's leave fascism (especially the racist, genocidal strain of the disease) in its own special Hell.

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