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March 18, 2002

German novelist is 2002 visiting Halle fellow

Lailee Mendelson is communications specialist for the Office of International Affairs.


In the festive atmosphere surrounding the destruction of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9, 1989, the German people did not foresee the difficult reunification issues ahead.

There was, for example, the question of what to do with nearly 5,000 so-called “Wall dogs,” the canine army that had guarded the border and now, overnight, had lost their life’s purpose. Could these dogs—raised under Stalinism, trained as killers—be reintegrated into European society as household pets? Would East German dogs now flood the pet market, thereby devaluing their West German counterparts?

Such serious, satirical questions are the trademark of Berlin-based novelist and journalist Peter Schneider, who will visit Emory March 18–April 5 as the Halle Institute’s 2002 Distinguished Fellow. The author of more than 20 books (including The German Comedy, from which his essay “Of Dogs and Germans” comes), Schneider also is a well-known social commentator.

Each year the Distinguished Fellow Program invites an international personality to the Emory campus for several weeks of intensive interaction with faculty, students and political and business leaders throughout Atlanta. Schneider’s visit marks an expansion of the program into the arts and humanities.

In his latest novel, Eduard’s Homecoming, a West German émigré living in the United States returns to Berlin when he becomes one of millions of Germans entitled to reclaim family property in the former GDR. When he begins to suspect that his deceased grandfather bought the building from a Jewish friend in 1933, Eduard (like an entire post-war generation) must contemplate his ancestors’ complicity in the Holocaust.

Schneider’s essays and articles have appeared in numerous newspapers and journals, including The New York Times, Der Spiegel, Le Monde and New Republic, and explore issues such as the possible revival of German nationalism, the growth of NATO and the influx of immigrants into Germany.

While at Emory, Schneider will share his insights in several meetings with faculty and students. He will lead an advanced seminar for German studies faculty on “Writing the Grossstadtroman” (novel of a great city). He will visit undergraduate classes in journalism and history to explore the role of novelist as social critic. At Goizueta Business School, he will address the rocky cultural marriage of the Chrysler/Daimler-Benz merger, the subject of his Aug. 12, 2001, article in The New York Times Magazine.

Schneider is also the author of several screenplays, including those for the films Messer im Kopf (Knife in the Head) and Das Versprechen (The Promise), which follows the personal tragedy of two lovers separated by the Wall. There will be a screening of the latter on March 19, followed by a panel discussion with Emory faculty.

This year’s program will reach well beyond the Emory campus. Schneider’s schedule includes visits to classes in 10 area colleges and universities, including Agnes Scott, Morehouse and Georgia Tech. He also will give presentations to the Goethe Institute and the Atlanta Council on International Relations.

Schneider will deliver three public lectures:

• “Sept. 11 and Its Aftermath: Media and the Collective Conscience in Germany,” March 21, 7 p.m., in the nursing school auditorium.

• “Mourners Defining the Past: Current Politics of Memory in Germany,” April 4, 3:30 p.m., Kennesaw State University.

• “America’s Misunderstood Partner: A United Germany in a Unifying Europe,” April 5, 3:30 p.m., Oxford College.

In addition, Schneider’s wife, Polish-born painter Ruza Spak, will have an exhibit of her work at the Halle Institute. Spak’s paintings have been seen in U.S. galleries and on the cover of the L.A. Book Review. An opening reception is scheduled for March 20 at 6 p.m.

For a full schedule of Schneider’s visit, go to: or call 404-727-7504.