Neighbours and Strangers: Literary and Cultural Relations in Germany, Austria and Central Europe since 1989 (Book Review)

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Book Review

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In this collection of fifteen papers inspired by a 2002 conference held in Salford, England, the reader will find wide variations on the broadly stated theme of neighbors and strangers in the European context. Pulling together the diversity of essays is the main problem with the volume and one that the editors have done little to alleviate in their haphazard introduction. While they allude to the unification of Germany as the impetus and point of departure for the anthology, they offer no coherent argument for the selection and sequence of the essays included in the book. The reader is left to find the links between the topics or question whether there is any guiding logic to the organization of the volume. In the absence of chapters and sectional divisions and with contributions ranging from assessments of Shakespeare to Tom Tykwer, this reader at least was more than a bit frustrated with the lack of critical coherence and apparent randomness of the collection. The mix of languages in the contributions--eleven are written in English, four are in German, while citations from German texts are without exception provided only in the original--is another factor that detracts from the book's potential appeal to a wider readership (although to be fair, there is a certain consistency in that each essay is preceded by a brief abstract in English). Therefore, I will state my position at the outset: this volume taken as a whole is of limited utility, but scholars may find the occasional essay of interest. I will endeavor to give an account of the contents of the collection below, providing connections between essays as I see them and highlighting those that I found most useful or stimulating for future scholarship.

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Copyright © 2006, H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online. This article first appeared on H-German, H-Net Reviews (2006).

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