Us and them


Thomas Mann: Mario und der Zauberer.
(English title: Mario and the Magician) ISBN 978-3-596-21381-8 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I know why I love the German language and I know why I love Thomas Mann: Each word well chosen, each sentence carefully crafted. A fine novel about “us” and “them”, the manipulation of people, the abuse of power and man’s response to evil: freeze, flee or fight.

Thomas Mann: Tonio Kröger. ISBN 978-3-596-21381-8 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ A novel reflecting man’s identity and how he may or may not express his emotions and his sensitivity. Beautiful.

Both novels have been published in English under the titles “Mario and the Magician” and “Tonio Kroeger” respectively.

Thomas Mann’s novels very often allude to German Romanticim composers, be it Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann or Richard Wagner:

A breeding ground for emotions and revolutions

Living in an uncertain world


Zygmunt Baumann: Liquid Times. Living in an Age of Uncertainty.
ISBN: 978-0-745-63987-1 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ A modern day prophet explains why we feel uneasy in a globalized world, how we became disconnected from our neighbours and what shapes our existential fears. A thoughtful book, very appropriate in a time marked by “alternate facts”, delusional politicians, racism and simplistic solutions to complex problems.

Laure Mandeville: Qui est vraiment Donald Trump? ISBN 978-2-84990-3 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Short and to the point. A portray of the 45th US president and the Unites States at a historical landmark.

Arlie R. Hochschild: Strangers in their own land. ISBN 978-1-62097-225-0 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Climbing the empathy wall to see how people in the red states of the US feel about past, present, future and why Trump’s message appeals to them – a fascinating, frightening journey.

The ascendance of a populist like Donald Trump, the United Kingdom set to leave the EU, Turkey betraying its modern history – western societies face widespread discontent with the current state of political affairs. The contemporary Armenian composer Tigran Mansurian has written an interesting piece that came to my mind while I contemplated a world that seems to fall apart:

Before and after#Brexit

Egmont – Beethoven and Goethe


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Egmont.
Sämtliche Werke 3.1 Münchner Ausgabe. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ A tragedy centered on the Dutch fight against Spain and a romance between Count of Egmont and Clärchen. A classic read, no doubt, a good read, certainly, and an interesting one since the moral lessons have some validity today. A recent translation into English has been published by Hjalmar Hjorth Boyesen. The incidental music for the play has been written by Ludwig van Beethoven:

Liberty, sacrifice and charming madness

“The” Arabs do not exist



Albert Hourani: Die Geschichte der arabischen Völker.
ISBN 978-3-596-29670-5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Well researched book about the history of the Arab people, well written, a true pleasure to read. It covers a vast time span and casts away a couple of common misconceptions about the time when the Muslim creed came into being and started to define the course of Arab history until today. Anyone having an opinion about “the” Arabs should read this. “The” Arabs do not exist. The book was first published in English under the title “A History of the Arab People”.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has written a wonderful and amusing opera that casts a benevolent light upon a Muslim ruler: The Abduction from the Seraglio.

A Muslim lesson in generosity

Swiss heroes and alternative facts


Thomas Maissen: Schweizer Heldengeschichten und was dahintersteckt.
ISBN 978-3-039-19340-0 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Deconstructing the myths upon which Switzerland built its historical and political image. Alternative facts were not invented by Donald Trump.

The best known Swiss hero is of course Wilhelm Tell. Gioachino Rossini has written a beautiful overture about that subject:

Walking around with Rossini in the ear