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We’ll Always Have Germany

August 11, 2011

Michael Lewis has a piece in the September Vanity Fair. Allegedly it’s about Germany, their attitude towards money and their role in Europe’s ongoing financial collapse. I think it is about much, much less (or more depending on how you view things), it is little more than an excuse to make funnies about Germany’s unsettling, but always entertaining, cultural coprophilia.

For example:

Published in 1984 by a distinguished anthropologist named Alan Dundes, Life Is Like a Chicken Coop Ladder set out to describe the German character through the stories that ordinary Germans liked to tell one another. Dundes specialized in folklore, and in German folklore, as he put it, “one finds an inordinate number of texts concerned with anality. Scheisse (shit), Dreck (dirt), Mist (manure), Arsch (ass).… Folksongs, folktales, proverbs, riddles, folk speech—all attest to the Germans’ longstanding special interest in this area of human activity.”

Then there is:

The fiercely scatological Martin Luther (“I am like ripe shit, and the world is a gigantic asshole,” Luther once explained) had the idea that launched the Protestant Reformation while sitting on the john.


After the war, Hitler’s doctors told U.S. intelligence officers that their patient had devoted surprising energy to examining his own feces, and there was pretty strong evidence that one of his favorite things to do with women was to have them poop on him.

and finally, from me at least:

“The American wife of a German-born colleague confessed to me that she understood her husband much better after reading the book,” he wrote. “Prior to that time, she had wrongly assumed that he must have some kind of peculiar psychological hang-up inasmuch as he insisted upon discussing at great length the state of his latest bowel movements.”

Lewis is an entertaining writer, but he’s just phoning it in here. Much as I wish it were true, I don’t think you can explain much about German banking culture, monetary and fiscal policy by an alleged fascination with nightsoil.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Fat Al permalink*
    August 12, 2011 12:13 pm


  2. Fat Al permalink*
    August 12, 2011 12:31 pm

    Oh, and this:

  3. August 12, 2011 2:37 pm


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