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The German Genius

Courtesy: Designers & Books

The concept of genius

"The concept of genius – individuals whose creations offered glimpses of divine wisdom, glimpses of perfection – meant that self-cultivation, through studying the achievements of geniuses, offered the cultivated individual the prospect of achieving an approximation of divine wisdom right here on earth." Do you believe that? Then you should right away order a copy of Peter Watson's The German Genius. The book is about German ideas that came over a period of 250 years.

The book

A lot of ideas that matter to us today were produced in Germany. German ideas have "shaped our lives more than we know or care to acknowledge." In fact, Watson, who is British, believes that the US and Britain speak English but think German. Germany not only gave us Einstein, Bach, and other geniuses, but numerous new disciplines such as cell biology, sociology, and quantum physics. Between the 1750s and the 1930s, Germany became the dominant force, intellectually. By 1933, Germans had won more Nobel Prizes than anyone else on the planet. They were "more influential in the realm of ideas than France or Britain or Italy or the Netherlands, more so even than the United States," says Watson.
"No one really likes us," said German Nobel laureate Thomas Mann a long, long time ago. Hitler and Holocaust had caused so much damage that even the Germans were not proud of being German, an opinion poll showed. Today, however, Germany is considered one of the most liked countries. Thanks to the incredible beauty of the land, thanks to the German genius.
I've finished reading over 100 pages, which would be like a third of a contemporary non-fiction. But The German Genius is a book of nearly 1000 pages! At times I feel I would have preferred a shorter, fast-paced and more colorful American version. At other times, I'm not only stunned at Watson's painstaking work, it's a pleasure reading the inspiring details he provides.

My German connection

Watched "Pop in Germany" – the only Western music show on Indian TV in the 80s ... A fan of German bands like Modern Talking, Kai Warner, Gunter Kallmann Choir, Boney M, and James Last ... I've been flying Lufthansa – even after cheaper options became available ... Love German cars – owned an Opel in the 2000s ... Have a friend in India who spent a few childhood years in Germany and still has dreams to return ... Had a German classmate at Columbia Business School: Michael von Poncet ... I asked him which German city I should visit if I only had the time to visit one. He suggested Berlin. Berlin is compared to Silicon Valley in terms of creativity and startups. I would love to visit Berlin ... in the meantime, I will try and finish reading the remaining pages of The German Genius!


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