The Hard Sell
October 22, 2009

President Obama faces an enormous political challenge in figuring out how to respond to General Stanley McChrystal's request for more soldiers in Afghanistan. One the one hand, resisting troop requests from the military during a time of war is difficult for any chief executive--particularly for Democratic presidents.

Making Sense with David Byrne
September 16, 2009

Some of us here at The Avenue are always poking our heads into each other’s offices and referencing great “metro” songs, ranging from the obligatory anti-sprawl anthem “My City Was Gone” by the Pretenders to PJ Harvey’s romantic “You Said Something” to Art Brut’s witty defense of public transportation in “The Passenger.” Always choice, despite their vintage, are songs by Talking Heads.  David Byrne, the band’s lead songwriter, embraced space and geography in many songs with scales ranging from neighborhood, to municipal, to metropolitan, to the super-regional and national.

Stunning News Out of London
September 11, 2009

A pretty shocking story from the London Times: Two months before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Margaret Thatcher told President Gorbachev that neither Britain nor Western Europe wanted the reunification of Germany and made clear that she wanted the Soviet leader to do what he could to stop it. In an extraordinary frank meeting with Mr Gorbachev in Moscow in 1989 — never before fully reported — Mrs Thatcher said the destabilisation of Eastern Europe and the breakdown of the Warsaw Pact were also not in the West’s interests.

Death and Dailiness
September 05, 2009

The Baader Meinhof Complex Vitagraph Films Still Walking IFC Films From Germany comes a film about German terrorists. Fittingly stark and dynamic, it focuses on the Baader Meinhof group that flamed from about 1967 to 1977, and it offers its explanation of the group’s existence.

Hacking the Regime
September 03, 2009

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad like to blame the uprising in Iran on outside influences. They particularly like to point their fingers at the British and the Americans, along with a requisite nod in the direction of the Zionists--a time-honored pretext for avoiding blame for discontent in their country.

From 'Album Of My Germany'
March 18, 2009

From “Album of My Germany”   Our German trip was coming to an end. I reserved the last afternoon in Berlin to visit a place I wanted Laura to see. I had seen it in 1967 and had dreamed of it since. It was a Catholic church in an outlying district, Charlottenburg. Maria Regina Martyrum stands near Plotzensee, the prison where many had been executed during the Hitler years and where, in August 1944, the eight German officers found chiefly guilty in the July plot against Hitler were hanged.

Does Berlin Know There's An Economic Crisis?
February 13, 2009

From one Financial Times story this morning: Eurozone growth contracted at its fastest ever rate at the end of last year, with an unexpectedly-bad German performance deepening the recession more than had been feared. ... economists expect the eurozone economy to contract by as much as 2 per cent this year--making the recession one of the worst in continental Europe since the second world war. And this, from another: The rapid contraction of Germany's industrial sector shows no sign of abating according to data showing a record monthly fall in output at the end of last year.

Unpleasant Truths
December 30, 2008

There is an ungainly German word, Vergangenheitsbewältigung, that has no equivalent in the English language. It means "coming to terms with past," and it was coined to refer to the efforts of German intellectuals, journalists, and even some politicians who, over the past half century, insisted that facing unpleasant truths about their country's history was both a moral and political necessity.

Mein Buch
December 24, 2008

Hitler's Private Library: The Books That Shaped His Life By Timothy W. Ryback ( Knopf, 304 pp., $24.95) Few buildings on Capitol Hill are grander than the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, with its great stairway, pillared façade, and magnificent domed reading room. And few rooms in that building seem more ordinary, even banal, than the rare book storage area where 1,200 books from the collection of Adolf Hitler stand tightly packed on steel shelves.

Oblivion City
November 05, 2008

Ashes for Breakfast: Selected Poems By Durs Gr ünbein Translated by Michael Hofmann (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 298 pp., $16) Although some poems by Durs Gr ünbein had been published in journals here and in England, it was not until the appearance of this volume, crisply and colloquially translated by Michael Hofmann, that an English-speaking reader could approach Gr ünbein's coruscating writing. Gr ünbein was born in Dresden, in East Germany, in 1962, and moved to East Berlin as a young adult.