Academic journal article German Quarterly

Bombs Away! Representing the Air War over Europe and Japan

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Bombs Away! Representing the Air War over Europe and Japan

Article excerpt

Wilms, Wilfried, and William Rasch, eds. Bombs Away! Representing the Air War over Europe and Japan. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006. 404 pp. euro82.00 hardcover.

Wilfried Wilms and William Rasch's comprehensive volume explores national discourses and literary and visual representations of the World War II bombing of European and Japanese cities. Written in a style that provokes and challenges, the editors' introduction seeks to unsettle the paradigms that have come to define, and at times prevent, a discussion of the Allied air war over Germany. In particular, Wilms and Rasch reject a balance of terror that weighs the destruction of German cities against Nazi crimes and suggest that we treat the bombings of German cities not as reactive but as actions in their own right. According to Rasch, this allows us to realize that "the famous move to total war that we witness occurring during the first half of the 20th century was not the simple consequence of a single serpent in the garden but rather a united European achievement" (402).

One of the most engaging features of Bombs Away! is its multiplicity of perspectives. The editors offer discussions of paintings, photographs, films, literary texts, and museum exhibits. Bombs Away! juxtaposes articles on the German and Allied experiences of the air war. The volume contains analyses of East German public discourses of the air war (Thomas C. Fox); of reports of Scandinavian correspondents from WWII Berlin (Benedikt Jager); of the public debate surrounding the Canadian TV series The Valour and the Horror about the role of the Canadian air force in WWII (Erwin Warkentin); and of museums including Daniel Libeskind's design of the Imperial Air War Museum (Silke Arnold-de Simine) and several American Air Force museums (Anna Leahy and Douglas Dechow). The contributions also include interpretations of a wide variety of literary texts ranging from Bertold Brecht's Kriegsfibel (Jennifer Bajorek) to Hans Erich Nossack's Der Untergang (Andrew Williams) and Gert Ledig's Die Vergeltung (Florian Radvan), from Arno Schmidt's Aus dem Leben eines Fauns (Timm Menke) and Gerd Gaiser's Die sterbende Jagd (Stuart Smith) to Howard Nemerov's war poetry (Diederik Oostdijk). Several articles approach the topic through a discussion of style, narrative, and aesthetics, often referencing and responding to W. G. Sebald's controversial theses about literature and the air war. …

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