Teutonic torment In every German there is a touch of the wild-haired Beethoven striding through forests and weeping over a mountain sunset, grappling against impossible odds to express the inexpressible. This is the Great German Soul, prominent display of which is essential whenever Art, Feeling and Truth are under discussion. Angst breeds angst For a German, doubt and anxiety expand and ramify the more you ponder them. They are astonished that things haven't gone to pot already, and are pretty certain that they soon will. Longer must be better Most Germans apply the rule that more equals better. If a passing quip makes you smile, then surely by making it longer the pleasure will be drawn out and increased. As a rule, if you are cornered by someone keen to give you a laugh, you must expect to miss lunch and most of that afternoon's appointments. Angst breeds angst Because life is ernsthaft, the Germans go by the rules. Schiller wrote, 'obedience is the first duty', and no German has ever doubted it. This fits with their sense of order and duty. Germans hate breaking rules, which can make life difficult because, as a rule, everything not expressly permitted is prohibited.
Ben Barkow, geboren 1956, ist Direktor der Wiener Library, London.