The Corner

Identity Politics

In my Prague Journal today, I have a little note on national pride, or national claims. The Czechs, some of them, regard Mahler, Freud, and Kafka as their own. I never quite realized this. All three of these men, as you know, were German-speaking Jews who happened to be born in the Czech part of the Empire (the Austrian, or Austro-Hungarian, Empire). Mahler and Freud were about as Czech as Hirohito. (I exaggerate a bit.) Kafka, you could argue for.

A friend of mine has reminded me of an old line, one I have quoted a fair amount myself. It’s the bitter plaint of the Germans: “The Austrians managed to convince the world that Beethoven was an Austrian and Hitler a German.” A variation on that line goes, “We gave the Austrians our Beethoven, and they gave us their Hitler.”

From where I sit, Germany and Austria are more or less . . .

Hang on, I’ll save that can of worms for another time.


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