England

England

England

England

Excerpt

I read Herr Dibelius' book for the first time in 1923. The German edition had a preface which is for understandable reasons omitted in this translation. I shall nevertheless quote the first two sentences of that preface, for they help to an understanding of the book.

'The idea of writing this book came to me,' Herr Dibelius begins, 'in the war. It forced itself on me from my overwhelming sense of a people giving its best in fighting an enemy which it did not know.'

This book is therefore in a sense a war book, but of a re able and, I think, a noble kind. It is addressed to a German and not to an English public, designed as it is to help the German people to understand the people with whom they have been fighting. The author has a proper pride in his own people, is convinced that they have made their own unique contribution to the civilization of the world: but he is trying with all his might to understand -- as sympathetically and objectively as he can -- the contribution made by England.

But though this book was meant originally to be read not by Englishmen but by Germans, it seems to me that it must be of interest and value to us; and though it was written in a sense as a war book, it is more adapted to serve the purposes of peace. For if we are going to direct the civilization of the world by co-operation instead of by war, men of different nations will have to learn to understand one another, and one of the most enlightening things about other people is the peculiar way we strike them. 'To see ourselves as others see us' helps us, no doubt, to understand ourselves. For the things about us that strike other people -- and this is perhaps even truer of nations than of individuals -- are mostly the things we ourselves so much take for granted that we are ourselves hardly conscious of them. All nations -- but perhaps above all the English -- are apt to take for granted that their own ways of doing things and of looking at the world are the natural and inevitable ways, and that foreigners are just funny. We have got to learn to go on being proud of our own national culture and yet to appreciate the distinctive culture of others. This is what Herr Dibelius is doing in this book, and to follow him trying to understand us will make us understand both ourselves and Germans better.

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