The German Genius
The German Genius
Europe's Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution, and the Twentieth Century
HarperTorch, Hardcover, 9780060760229, 964pp.
Publication Date: June 22, 2010
Peter Watson's virtuoso sweep through modern German thought and culture, from 1750 to the present day, will challenge and confound both the stereotypes the world has of Germany and those that Germany has of itself.
From the end of the Baroque era and the death of Bach to the rise of Hitler in 1933, Germany was transformed from a poor relation among Western nations into a dominant intellectual and cultural forcemore creative and influential than France, Britain, Italy, Holland, and the United States. In the early decades of the twentieth century, German artists, writers, scholars, philosophers, scientists, and engineers were leading their freshly unified country to new and unimagined heights. By 1933, Germans had won more Nobel Prizes than any other nationals, and more than the British and Americans combined. Yet this remarkable genius was cut down in its prime by Adolf Hitler and his disastrous Third Reicha brutal legacy that has overshadowed the nation's achievements ever since.
How did the Germans transform their country so as to achieve such pre-eminence? In this absorbing cultural and intellectual history, Peter Watson goes back through time to explore the origins of the German genius, and he explains how and why it flourished, how it shaped our lives, and, most important, how it continues to influence our world. As he convincingly demonstrates, it was German thinkingfrom Beethoven and Kant to Diesel and Nietzsche, from Goethe and Wagner to Mendel and Planck, from Hegel and Marx to Freud and Schoenbergthat was paramount in the creation of the modern West. Moreover, despite World War II, figures such as Joseph Beuys, JÜrgen Habermas, and Joseph Ratzinger ensure that the German genius still resonates intellectually today.
“A compilation of essential German contributions to philosophy, theology, mathematics, natural and social science and the arts since 1750. Watson enshrines a vast pantheon of creative thinkers... [including] compressed summaries of some exceedingly difficult ideas. The range of subjects is impressive, from painters to physicists.”
-New York Times Book Review
“[The German Genius is] Watson’s eight-hundred-and-fifty-page love letter to the all-stars of the Teutonic intellect…his élan generates its own momentum… The book’s breadth is part of the point.”
-The New Yorker
“[An] engrossing, vast chronicle. . . . English now dominates the arts and sciences, but Watson writes an absorbing account of a time not so long ago when German ruled.”
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Reveals several surprises. . . . A remarkable book on many levels. The research is first-rate and it is surprisingly accessible.”
“A tour de force. . . . It is impossible not to be impressed by his range and versatility as he bounds across the disciplines. . . . This intelligent book presents a breathtaking panorama.”
-Sunday Times (London)
“[A] colossal encyclopaedia. . . . Heroic. . . . Watson derives the German genius from deep springs.”
“Watson’s book is intended to subvert the negative German stereotypes. Though it checks in at just short of 1,000 pages, it is a usefully concise introduction to the principal themes and personalities of German scientific, philosophical, social, literary and artistic culture since 1750.”
-The Times (London)
“Few wasted words—a welcome resource for students of modern history, literature and cultural studies.”
“Watson tells how the Nazis’ first artistic blacklist appeared just six weeks after Hitler assumed power in 1933 - and how his catastrophic handling of his intellectual inheritance has unfairly overshadowed the country ever since. This exhaustive and virtuoso sweep through history goes some way to restoring the balance.”
“The German Genius present a huge corpus of scholarship in easily digestible form, and its range is astonishing. No professor, least of all a German one, would have dared to essay such a synthesis; so much the worse for the professors.”
“He has an enviable gift of explaining lucidly and cogently ideas that are complicated or profound (or both). . . . Everyone interested in the sufferings and greatness of modern culture will be informed, entertained and provoked by it.”
“Assembles such a wealth of information, based on an impressive range of sources, that The German Genius will be an essential work...for years to come.”
“Watson’s story is vibrating with life. It is unputdownable. It contains a lot one didn’t know. So much enlightenment and so much that moves.”
“A joy, for its ambition, its seriousness and its moral integrity.”
“A powerful and vivid opus. . . . Watson’s story is brimming with life. You can barely put the book aside.”
“Few wasted words-a welcome resource for students of modern history, literature and cultural studies.”