21 January 2009

Ausser Dienst

Hugendubel is the German equivalent of Waterstones or Barnes & Noble. Here in Munich the company has nine stores including a very good English language store.

I was browsing in the store in the Fünf Höfe when I came across the recently published work of former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. In Ausser Dienst - Out of Service - Schmidt looks at Germany's place in the post-Cold War world and offers some glimpses into his own life and work.

Unfortunately, it is exactly the kind of book that is unlikely ever to appear in English since English language publishers are more interested in the drivel produced by inconsequential British and American politicians who are of no significance compared to Schmidt.

Denied the opportunity to reads the book by my linguistic ineptitude, I was left struck by the cover photograph. Schmidt, now 89 years old, sits with his right hand on a walking stick and in his left hand - in the very centre of the picture - a very conspicuous cigarette.

At a time when most politicians - even those inclined to a surreptitious smoke - would be terrified to be captured smoking in public Schmidt's unapologetic embrace of his tobacco habit is refreshing.

Last year Schmidt's habit nearly got him into trouble when he and his wife Loki were reported by an anti-smoking group for breaking the newly introduced smoking ban by lighting up in a Hamburg theatre. Loki at least was unrepentant: 'I've been smoking since I was ten. I won't stop'.


IsarSteve said...

As a non-smoker myself, I do find it hard to comprehend the deep opposition to smoking bans within Germany.

But like many things here, it has something to do with the Nazis and the third reich.

I presume that it why Schmidt is not prepared to compromise.. and anyway, a smoking ban is fascist - isn't it?



olli said...

I'm not a smoker either and I'm all for smoking bans but I do find Schmidt's unwillingness to go along with appearance politics refreshing.