Germany and the Unfolding Tragedy in Gaza

by Andrea Scrima

In November 2023, in an essay for the German national newspaper die taz, I wrote that Germany’s Jews were once again afraid for their lives. It was—and is—a shameful state of affairs, considering that the country has invested heavily in coming to terms with its fascist past and has made anti-antisemitism and the unconditional support of Israel part of its “Staatsräson,” or national interest—or, as others have come to define it, the reason for the country’s very existence. The Jews I’m referring to here, however, were not reacting to a widely deplored lack of empathy following the brutal attacks of October 7. In an open letter initiated by award-winning American journalist Ben Mauk and others, more than 100 Jewish writers, journalists, scientists, and artists living in Germany described a political climate where any form of compassion with Palestinian civilians was (and continues to be) equated with support for Hamas and criminalized. Assaults on the democratic right to dissent in peaceful demonstrations; cancellations of publications, fellowships, professorships, and awards; police brutality against the country’s immigrant population, liberal-minded Jews, and other protesting citizens—the effects have been widely documented, but what matters most now is now: the fact that the German press is still, four months later, nearly monovocal in its support of Israel and that over 28,000 civilians, two-thirds of them women and children, have died. Read more »

“The Writer’s Heart”: A Conversation between Liesl Schillinger and Andrea Scrima

Liesl Schillinger and Andrea Scrima are two of the authors in Strange Attractors, an anthology that’s just come out with University of Massachusetts Press, edited by Edie Meidav and Emmalie Dropkin. The thirty-five pieces in the collection explore unsettling experiences of magnetism and unanticipated encounter irresistible enough to change or derail the course of a life. In chaos theory, “strange attractor” is the term given to the fractal variety of attractor that arises out of a dynamic system; its defining unpredictability makes this mathematical concept an apt metaphor for the twists of fate that send us reeling, but can sometimes feel oddly inevitable in hindsight. In her piece for the anthology, “Children and All That Jazz,” Liesl Schillinger weaves the music and heartache of Joan Baez into the lives and longings of a family in the American Midwest in the 1970s; in Andrea Scrima’s excerpt “all about love, nearly,” the narrator explores the dimensions of a world transfigured, and then dissembled, by passion.

A.S.: Liesl, I love the part in your story where a pack of kids is playing “Murder in the Dark” and the young narrator’s crush, who plays the part of the killer, draws near her in the dark yard: “I didn’t try to back away, I thought maybe he was going to kiss me, but then he killed me which was so predictable.”

L.S.: It’s funny, as a child, my belief in the importance of love—fed by the nineteenth-century novels I devoured—from Louisa May Alcott to Dickens and Austen and Stendhal—was unshakeable. I was always waiting for the coup de foudre. But that was paired with an instinctive pessimism, or maybe resignation. My mother gave me a reading list, I was expected to read a book a week, and didn’t consider not doing that. But I also read the twentieth-century novels on my parents’ bedroom shelves. John Irving, Shirley Hazzard, V.S. Naipaul, and Graham Greene did a lot to temper my romantic idealism. Or maybe to undermine it. I hoped for love to work out, but didn’t expect it to; and was somehow always relieved, I think (eventually), when one of my castles in the air collapsed, and I was back on solid ground.

A.S.: I guess my piece in the anthology covers the other, unhealthier side of things: when love makes you lose your footing and even your hold on reality: “my crazy, exalted, euphoric collusion in my own demise.”

L.S.: There’s a conversation between (Shakespeare’s) Antony and Cleopatra that I’ve never forgotten, though this is a paraphrase—Cleopatra says something to the effect of: “I will not have love as my master.” Antony responds, “Then you will not have love.” I’ve had a long and occasionally turbulent romantic history, and Antony and Cleopatra’s exchange reflects my experience. Read more »