I finally got around to reading George Packer’s great piece on Dresden that appeared in The New Yorker in February. Entitled “Embers”, it astutely discusses the way that Dresden, which was bombed in a famous Allied air raid on February 13, 1945, has been turned into, as Packer puts it, “the German Hiroshima – an outrage that reversed the roles of aggressors and victims, exposing the horror of Total War and, even, Anglo-American barbarism”. He points out that it was Joseph Goebbels, in what he calls his “last successful act of media manipulation”, who began the mythologisation of Dresden as the beautiful Baroque city inexplicably and immorally destroyed by the Allies. The myth was reinforced by David Irving’s 1963 book The Destruction of Dresden and, more recently, by Jörg Friedrich’s 2002 book Der Brand (The Fire). As a result, Dresden has become “the epicenter of German victimhood” on which neo-Nazis converge in order to “repeat a mendacious equation: Auschwitz + Dresden = 0”.
When I was in Israel last year I met the writer Assaf Gavron, whose novel CrocAttack! is published in the UK by Fourth Estate this week. The novel – which Gavron wrote while he was living in London a few years ago – tells the story of a young Israeli working for a dot-com in Tel Aviv who keeps narrowly missing being killed in terrorist attacks during the second intifada. CrocAttack! is actually Gavron’s fourth novel but the first to focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – which may be why it is also the first to have been translated into English. But actually, as I suggest in a post for the Prospect blog today, the most important and interesting theme in the novel is not terrorism but time. Gavron is now working on a novel about settlers and moved to Berlin three weeks ago. At a reading as part of Jewish Book Week in London last night, he was asked how he feels as an Israeli living in Berlin. “Most Israelis feel more more comfortable there than here,” he said.