Germania

In Wayward Pursuit of the Germans and Their History
Narrated by: James Cameron Stewart
Length: 18 hrs and 35 mins
Categories: History, Europe
4.2 out of 5 stars (91 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Sitting on a bench at a communal table in a restaurant in Regensburg, his plate loaded with disturbing amounts of bratwurst and sauerkraut made golden by candlelight shining through a massive glass of beer, Simon Winder was happily swinging his legs when a couple from Rottweil politely but awkwardly asked, "So, why are you here"? This audiobook is an attempt to answer that question.

Why spend time wandering around a country that remains a sort of dead zone for many foreigners, surrounded as it is by a force field of historical, linguistic, climatic, and gastronomic barriers?

Winder's audiobook is propelled by a wish to reclaim the brilliant, chaotic, endlessly varied German civilization that the Nazis buried and ruined, and that, since 1945, so many Germans have worked to rebuild. Germania is a very funny audiobook on serious topics: how we are misled by history, how we twist history, and how sometimes it is best to know no history at all. It is a audiobook full of curiosities, odd food, castles, mad princes, fairy tales, and horse-mating videos. It is about the limits of language, the meaning of culture, and the pleasure of townscape.

©2010 Simon Winder (P)2018 Tantor

What listeners say about Germania

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Anecdotal approach to Germany's History

The author's refreshing approach to tackle the complexities and absurdities of German speaking central Europe's history is mostly very enjoyable, but at times annoyingly subjective, for example when he denounces its food - perhaps Mr Winder never enjoyed delicate Austrian cuisine or the Michelin-star laden restaurants in Germany's Black Forest region - or grudgingly shares episodes of provincial residence towns of micro-states that I thought couldn't be further diminished. It covers the period from Tacitus' haughty Roman accounts of wild tribes almost accidentally inhabiting the barren swamps and forests of central Europe, having been stopped in their tracks when fleeing invading hordes and seeking greener pastures, to the end of the eccentric, but ill fated Weimar republic, shrewdly cutting off at 1933, with some epochal spillover that elegantly help tying back later observed peculiarities to preceding events. His book is enjoyable as its collection of anecdotes and fun facts, loosely fitted into a chronological corset, remarkably mirrors the empires' patchwork of in parts very diverse domains that make this part of Europe so unique and to this day appealing. The ephemeral allegiances of its rulers and citizenry - after all there have been almost 100 imperial cities in one point in time or another that enjoyed an astonishing amount of collective liberties - across the empire, equally challenging for map makers as for governing. One cannot help but walking away from this book loving the achievements, lampooning the quirks and lamenting the failures this diverse culture has bred.

11 people found this helpful

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Very Droll but Almost Entirely Uninformative

I bought this book for the German History it proclaimed to include. however it quickly became clear that the author was much more interested in using his dry wit to keep a travel journal. Vaugely set in historical order and with historical notes relating to places visited, the book is unburdened with the need to show any of the cause and effect so useful in understanding the past. prone to barely on topic tangents, the performance is well done and the deadpanned critiques insightful and entertaining but if you are looking for history you're wasting your time here.

16 people found this helpful

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Not necessarily for everyone

I'm a real fan of the author after reading Danubia, story of the Hapsburgs. His quirky, self-deprecating sense of humor is one you'll either love or hate; audio narration is an outstanding fit.

2 people found this helpful

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You’re going to have to work to enjoy

He’s very witty and very present in German cultures but makes so many in-jokes that Dennis Miller would probably rage quit at times. But if you bother to look up the places and people, it’s very rewarding.

2 people found this helpful

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German History as told by a British Snob

Overall: The author promises not to bore the reader with lists of royalty and dynastic superfluous details. He achieves this. He also achieves a bizarre self-indulgent pseudo-history. He continually injects the story with his opinions and personal anecdotes which offers little to the appreciation of the topic. For example, he states he didn't want to spend time in Berchtesgaden because it was Nazi retreat - never mind that it's located in a picturesque mountainous region and can be appreciated for that reason alone. This logic is analogous to asking why Einstein spoke German when it's the language used by the Nazis. It's stupid. Performance: On top of the book being authored by a Britain (who makes numerous references to his "Britishness"), they decided to deliver the most boring and dry performance they could. I can only assume this is in keeping with the British snobbery theme. Story: You'll get the broad strokes on German history, though I can't but feel it was tainted with some kind of "history is written by the victors" mentality.

6 people found this helpful

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Brilliant if you can tolerate a sardonic tone

This is the way history should be written by historians: Without any pretensions of absolute objectivity, interspersed with travelogue and anecdotes that have informed the writer’s interpretation of history, and with a good dose of humor. Some may find the author’s wit, conveyed with excellence by the narrator, off-putting, perhaps even offensive. At times Winder comes across as derisive enough that I had to wonder whether he has any love for Germany at all. But his tone is consistent in descriptions of other countries as well. I advise listeners to take the tone with a grain of salt, embracing the parts you like and ignoring the parts you find irritating. I’m with you, Winder, in your obsession over cabinets of curiosities and your observations about solo traveling! I’m not with you in your dismissiveness of entire cities and regions because Nazis used to occupy them and your all too stereotypical descriptions of beer halls. Overall I found the listening experience, to use Winder’s favorite word, fun. Dry history is enlivened by the author’s personal approach and style. This is the rare audiobook that I want to read at some point. I look forward to listening to (and eventually reading) the subsequent books by Winder in this series on Germany.

1 person found this helpful

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What a hoot!

If I had known that German history could be this much fun, I would have driven right past the British Isles years ago... Simon Winder is brilliant! His humor elevates this book from just a good history, to a best-ever read! The way he weaves personal and historical anecdotes into the fiber of all-things historically German is not to be missed!!

1 person found this helpful

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Bravo!

An eclectic and somewhat eccentric look at German history. German history is not a easy topic to summarize in a book. It’s a history that is complicated and, let’s face it, somewhat dour. The author does review this history of this fascinating country will humor that only an Englishman could do. This is not a Lonely Planet guide to Germany but it is a great to understanding the nuances of Germany. A great piece of work.

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wow! this is the best book I've read (heard) in

Amazingly refreshing! Reverential and dismissive, it brings Germany to the table from so many perspectives.

4 people found this helpful

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One of the best books I've ever read

The book is witty, well researched, personal and riveting. Mr Winder writes with a clear and consistent point of view. It is not often a nonfiction book causes me to pull my car to the side of the road so I can laugh and replay sections. And, I flat out cried at the powerful ending. Really, a brilliant book. I'm listening to it at the same time I'm listening to Gravity's Rainbow. A strange and bizarre and appropriate combination.