Book Fairs and War: Telling What Really Happened

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What will happen to the world? Carlo Masala, Herfried Münkler and presenter Jens-Christian Rabe (from right to left) talk about it. © Renate Hoyer

War and the new world order: How writers confront fear and why politicians understand nothing.

The moderator asked his guests at the podium, who were used to grieving, whether they sometimes felt afraid and anxious. Yes, he doesn’t wake up in the morning and think: “Oh my God, everything is bad,” said Carlo Masala, professor of international politics at the University of the Bundeswehr in Munich. But he is clearly worried about the situation in the Middle East, even more so than Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Frankfurt Book Fair – Fair in wartime. In Hall 4.1, Ukrainian writers report their work. Writer Oleksandr Mykhed says he now writes with a different attitude: so that the content has a long-lasting impact, conveys emotion and helps him explain the chaos to himself. “We had to write down what it really felt like,” Mykhed said, “You have to remember what impact the Russian invasion had on me and my family.” His book covers the first 13 months after the invasion in 2022. “We had no time to process what happened, no time to react.”

His colleague Pavlo Kazarin, with an equally shaved head and an “Ukrainian Armed Forces” shirt on his body, said that the identity emerged through a series of events, but also through events that did not happen: “We have forgotten what it was. it’s like, when a plane flies.” Someone flew yesterday. “I immediately thought it was a Russian missile. But no, I’m in Frankfurt.”

You can listen to Ukrainian writers at book fairs for hours. Everything they say is so interesting and emotional that it makes you feel guilty for fear that you will be amused by them and the terrible situation they and their family are in – by the situation they are writing about.

The fears are varied at the moment; back to the professors and their fears. As a person he was worried about, said Herfried Münkler, as did Carlo Masala, also a professor of politics, when answering the opening question. “But scientists allayed the fears.” We, as a society, should “live in fear, which is not a bad thing,” suggests Münkler. “But we need to design it as something that is sustainable and manageable.”

“New World Order” was the title of the panel discussion, there was great interest and the Frankfurt Pavilion was well attended. The situation in the world is as it seems today, divided, warlike and dangerous: “It’s not that we didn’t foresee it, but that no one listened to us,” says Masala in his own way, always with seriousness in mind, but also mischief in his neck. “A lot of people see this happening, but they don’t want to admit it,” namely decision makers and politicians.

February 24, 2022, the day of the Russian army’s full invasion of Ukraine, is a moment that requires creative action, Masala said. “Berlin wants our knowledge of this.” As a result, interest in creative solutions is replaced by routine on the part of those with political responsibilities. Masala talks about time in his book “Conditionally Ready to Survive”.

Afghanistan’s turning point

Münkler mentioned another important date: August 15, 2021, the hasty withdrawal of the US military from Afghanistan. It became clear: “Aha, recognition that we are overwhelmed in terms of the public’s willingness to support such an operation.” It was clear at that time that a world order based on universal values ​​would not last long: “Because there is no one there to control it.”

In his book “World in Turmoil”, Münkler predicted five centers of power in the future – the United States, China, Russia, India and the EU. Moderator Jens-Christian Rabe of the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” added that he himself had the impression that this was causing bipolarity between China and the United States. That’s Masala’s impression too. The transition phase to a new world order has taken quite a long time, he said, and what surprised him was: “Most of the political world has forgotten how to think geopolitically and strategically.” In other words: “You only think to the point. next wall, not further away.”

“Until the next election,” Münkler continued, “anyone who thinks further has problems will not be nominated or will lose the election.” The audience laughed bitterly. “We have not yet recognized the drama of the world order we are living in today,” said Masala. In the US Pentagon there used to be a department that only thought about the future, and in the German Ministry of Defense there was a planning staff. Both were abolished. So this discussion ends hopelessly. But the book fair has proven itself again here as a place where people talk about the real situation.

Ambrose Fernandez

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