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Asfa-Wossen Asserate

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10+ teosta 207 jäsentä 3 arvostelua

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Dr Asfa-Wossen Asserate is probably not a very good match for the image that "Ethiopian refugee" might suggest to you: he grew up in an aristocratic family in Addis Ababa complete with dozens of servants and a German nanny, attended the German School there, and studied in Tübingen, Cambridge and Frankfurt, where he was just completing his PhD at the time of the Mengistu revolution. His father was murdered in the revolution and many members of his family imprisoned, and he was forced to remain in exile in Germany. He's a journalist and business consultant as well as writing books.

By the accident of his background, Asfa-Wossen thus ended up with a strong case of the post-colonial's affinity for metropolitan (in particular German) literature and culture. More so than most, because the grand way his family lived in Ethiopia was basically an African take on the way European gentlemen lived in the 18th and 19th centuries, and he thus probably has a lot more in common with Novalis, Hans Castorp and Wilhelm Meister than most Germans born after 1945 would have. Not surprisingly, perhaps, Asfa-Wossen's best-known book is a guide to manners.

The title of this collection of essays about various aspects of German culture refers to a mystery that has puzzled generations of visitors and has been turned by Germans into a ritual joke against themselves: the notorious inability of any self-respecting German café to serve hot drinks by the cup to customers sitting out of doors. If you're Draußen, you have to order a Kännchen (mini-pot) with your giant slice of cake, and like it. Many explanations have been put forward, ranging from the difficulty of keeping coffee warm in cups to the inefficiency of carrying full cups and saucers on a tray, but none of those considerations prevent Dutch, French, Italian or Belgian cafés from selling single cups of coffee out of doors: of course it's really just a way of pushing customers to spend a bit more money in return for the privilege of sitting outside on a fine day. (And, as Asfa-Wossen points out, the practice has in any case been rendered almost obsolete by the modern taste for ever-more-expensive variations on coffee-flavoured foamy hot milk.)

Other essays in the collection deal - mostly affectionately and with good-natured irony - with topics such as German provincialism, German food, the German press, the way other countries see Germany (with an entertaining anecdote about a disastrous dinner he had with Mrs Thatcher), the German language and why Germans should be prouder of it, the German perception of Ethiopia, and what it's like to be a refugee, even in a country that you love and feel at home in. It's pleasant and mildly funny, and very elegantly written, but it's almost unbearably polite to Germany.
… (lisätietoja)
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thorold | Jun 30, 2017 |
I've only read 87 pages of this, but I'm returning it to the library. I think it's me, and that I might enjoy it another time.
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MarthaJeanne | Aug 18, 2016 |

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