Those who practice the same profession as me make titanic efforts to avoid congresses, symposia, and interviews on the obsessive theme of European identity. It is a question that is not new, but one that has become a burning issue in recent years, at a time when people often deny its existence.
Many of those who reject European cultural identity, and who would like to see the continent break up into a patchwork of tiny homelands, are largely unencumbered by cultural baggage apart from an almost congenital xenophobia. They are unaware that it is an identity which has been in the making since the founding of the University of Bologna in 1088, and the centuries that followed when “vagrant clerics” of all kinds roamed across the continent from university to university — from Uppsala [in Sweden] to Salerno [Italy] — communicating in the one common language they knew, Latin. It seems that European identity is only perceived only by educated people. And that is sad, but it is a start.
In this regard, I would like to quote a few pages of Proust’s Time Regained. The narrator has returned to Paris during World War One. At night, the city fears the arrival of Zeppelins, hovering over the rooftops. The people blame the hated Boches for all kinds of atrocities. Yet these pages of Proust give off a germanophile fragrance that permeates the conversations between the characters.
Charlus is a germanophile, even if his admiration for the Germans seems less linked to cultural affinities than to his sexual preferences: “‘Our admiration for the French should not make us belittle our enemies; that would be to diminish ourselves. And you do not know what a soldier the German soldier is, you who have not seen him as I have, goose-stepping on parade.’ Returning to the ideal of manhood that he had outlined to me in Balbec […], he told me: ‘You see, the superb and strapping fellow that is the Boche soldier, a strong, healthy being, who thinks only of the greatness of his country, Deutschland über alles.’”
Read the whole article here.
Read the original article at L’Expresso (in Italian) here.