The Culture of Culture: Toward a German Variant of Performative Democracy

in German Politics and Society
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Marcel Reich-Ranicki, the German literary critic, recalls in his

recent memoirs that at age ten, when he set out from his small town

in Poland, his teacher said with tears in her eyes, “Mein Sohn, Du

fährst in das Land der Kultur.” Elias Canetti recalled in the first volume

of his memoir—The Tongue Set Free—how when he was age eight,

his mother, recently widowed, found fulfillment at the Burgtheater

and left Manchester to take up residence in Vienna. Was it just the

magic of the German language that transported these Jews and made

literary overachievers of their children? A vision of metropolitan culture

and assimilation? Culture was “the way ‘in,’” as Louis Spitzer

puts it in his book on marginality, Lives in Between.