Hunter in the Forest

Given that France and Germany played a leading role in the formation and expansion of the European Union together, it is easy to forget that for centuries they were arch-enemies. Today, their close military and economic cooperation appears more crucial than ever — but will it last? Cultural philosopher and poet Maarten Doorman turns to the enduring images of their violent history to understand how their mutual perceptions have informed the subtle balance of power between them since 1945.

Maarten Doorman

Doorman focuses his study on four wars fought between the countries — the Wars of Liberation against Napoleon, the Franco-Prussian War, World War One and World War Two — and the works of cultural expression these events have produced. He analyses music, film, painting and literature by famous artists from the nineteenth century to today, including Madame de Staël, Heinrich Heine, Georges Bizet, Patrick Modiano, Anselm Kiefer, François Ozon and Patricia Kaas.

The author uncovers the roots of some particularly stubborn stereotypes — France representing the rationalism of the Enlightenment and Germany the creativity of Romanticism — which thankfully seem to have disappeared with the Second World War. Or have these prejudices simply gone underground, ready to re-emerge at a moment’s notice? Doorman notes that the way each country deals with the shame and pride of the past has diverged, with Germany oriented towards the future, and France towards its heroic, though not unproblematic, past.

Hunter in the Forest is not a political recon- struction of this relationship, but rather a blend of cultural philosophy and history of ideas that provides insight into how the two countries view each other. To understand the cultural differences and shifting power balances between France and Germany is to understand the challenges to joint-leadership of Europe in the unpredictable years to come. By delving into the rich cultures of two of Europe’s largest powers, the book also serves as an impressive counterbalance to the Anglosphere’s ever-expanding dominance.

Maarten Doorman has written an erudite book full of striking anecdotes about the relationship between the French and Germans as seen through their art.

de Volkskrant

An important book!

Cees Nooteboom
Maarten Doorman
Professor Maarten Doorman (b. 1957) is a philosopher and writer. He teaches the philosophy of culture at Maastricht University and is Endowed Professor of History of German Culture at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
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