“The time comes in any upright British male’s life when he needs to have made his peace with all of the following: his homosexuality, his dress sense, and Germany. The first two of these I got out of the way decades ago (true, I still occasionally wake up in the morning and flirt with becoming a dandy for the few short seconds before the stiff denim of consciousness descends on me), but Germany has proved more problematic.
“It doesn’t help that I’m half-Jewish, although we can make too much of this. It was the great English anti-Semite GK Chesterton who observed that the Jews are like everyone else – but more so. In which case, what can English Jews possibly be like? Only like the English – but more so. Still, as we’re succouring Krauts here, best to be up front: my Jewishness hasn’t helped when it comes to my getting gemütlich in the great liberal democracy known for a period as the Third Reich.
“In Germania, Simon Winder’s magnificently crazy circumambulation – through time and space – of Germany, its history, and his obsession with both, he writes that our shunning of the country is a ‘mutilating of Europe’s culture’, and that furthermore there comes a time, surely, when we must stop allowing Hitler’s estimation of his own country to prevail, to which all right-thinking Britishers must reply: ‘Donner und Blitzen! He has a point!’
“But Winder goes further, describing Germany as Britain’s ‘weird twin’, and while I’m not sure I’m ready to fully endorse this view, I have always thought the great joy in having identical twins – were one to be so blessed – would be to subject them to unnatural psychological experiments, and perhaps Germany’s history is just such an experiment… Then again, maybe it is Britain that’s the lab rat, a still more disturbing thought.”
Read the rest of Will Self’s Esquire article here.