The Kid in Berlin, whose blog I am happy to have just stumbled across, has a piece on the Diez-Kracht affair. George Diez, one of the Spiegel's critics, has recently written a long take-down of Swiss writer Christian Kracht. Diez accuses Kracht of harboring right-wing sympathies based on his latest novel Imperium (g) (which involves an oddball German exile founding a colony in the South Seas in the 19th century) and, perhaps more interestingly, on Kracht's correspondence with American artists David Woodard (g). Of course, this being Germany, the Diez article is not online.
More background from the Kid.
Of course, the setting of the novel means Kracht has to depict racist mindsets - and yet Diez for one is troubled by the intransparency of the narrator's standpoint. This writer, he says, has a fascination with dictatorships and evil but never quite reveals where he stands on the issue, while it occupies a growing place in his writing.
But it's on the last of the article's four pages that Diez cuts to the quick. Because here he turns to Kracht's friend David Woodard. The two of them last year published a compendium of their email correspondence, which was generally reviewed with bored shrugs. Perhaps the weight of all that communication dulled the reviewers' senses, because some of the quotes Diez obviously underlined at the time are hair-raising. The two of them admiringly bandy about names of right-wing populists and out-and-out Nazis and - this is the important bit - discuss the Paraguayan Aryan settlement Nueva Germania. You can read about Woodard's involvement in this community in a 2005 article in the San Francisco Chronicle. You can also see on this website that Woodard was working on a novel - I can only assume on the same subject - that was supposed to be published by Blumenbar Verlag in 2009. It was not. I'd be interested to find out why not.
Is it a coincidence that Kracht chose a very similar subject for Imperium? Certainly it reflects the two men's common fascination with German oddballs who set up colonies in far-flung places, only to fail. Of course Diez can't do much more than ask similar questions himself, the writing being extremely slippery. And that's one reason why I've never read Kracht's work. Incidentally, his non-fiction book The Ministry of Truth, depicting Kim Jong Il's North Korea, is available in English, published by Feral House, a US publisher with an apparent and perhaps fitting part-focus on occultism, serial killers, Nazism, "exposing Muslim fundamentalism" and dictatorships. Other authors they publish include Ted Kaczynski, a.k.a. the Unabomber. The disclaimer reads: "Feral House does not support or justify Kaczynski's crimes, nor does the author receive royalties or compensation for this book. It is this publisher’s mission, as well as a foundation of the First Amendment, to allow the reader the ability to discern the value of any document." Many of the images on the publisher's website would be banned under German law.
You should definitely click on the link to the San Francisco Chronicle in the excerpt above. To make sure you do, here it is again.