Christoph Fischer talks about his latest book The Black Eagle Inn, which is the last book in his trilogy; The Three Nations.
Why I wrote THE BLACK EAGLE INN
Early feedback to my third book in the Three Nations Trilogy stated that it would probably be of most interest for people with a German heritage. As author I had to ask myself: could this novel bear relevance and interest for other people and non-German readers? The answer is yes.
I was born 25 years after the end of the war. Our history lessons at school ended with the year 1945. One of the most urgent and important questions remained unanswered for me: How did a country with so much shame and horror in its past recover and move forward? How could it? I don’t think anything can ever make up for what has happened and nobody can forgive or atone for the collective guilt. But can the new generation ever deservedly rid itself of the stigma the previous generation has brought to the country?
Apart from the actual family story in my book I hope a great point of interest will be the way different characters carry on with their life and develop their philosophies, outlooks and politics. De-nazification, restructuring of a political landscape and implementation of new state leaders are issues the book touches upon. Only ten years after the end of the war a wave of Italian and Turkish Immigrants filled the hole in the German employment market, but how did the Nation respond to those foreigners (named Gastarbeiter)? Ten years after that a new right wing party formed and threatened to tip the political balance and bring new shame to the nation.
The Sixties brought the Bader Meinhoff Complex, student revolts and many family conflicts instigated by the generation born after WWII. Many of those were disillusioned with politics and turned violent. It took a new generation of politicians to instigate a modernisation of German society.
The year of my birth Chancellor Willy Brand famously fell on his knees in Warsaw, humbly honouring a monument for the victims Warsaw Uprising. An important symbolic gesture after previous governments tried too hastily to move on from the dark past. My book covers a lot of ground about post war Germany and should be interesting for those whose knowledge of Germany also ends with 1945. We know about the Nuremberg Trials and the Nazi’s on the run in South America, but what about the little man, guilty or not? What does he do with this broken country?
What is your personal experience with the issues in the book?
I grew up with the first generation of children of mixed marriages and Gastarbeiter families and I experienced them being treated badly by some but also very welcoming by others. I grew up in times of a United Europe, exchange students and pop music from Italy, France, Britain and America. For me other nations and cultures were never anything but an exciting cultural enrichment and I adored the people in my generation who had a similar vision and worked hard to make such a mentality part of a modern Germany.
Of the three books THE BLACK EAGLE INN is the one that is closest to my own life experience although I was born around the time the story ends. While all three books deal with family sagas vaguely similar to some of my ancestors, this story takes place in an environment and times that I know almost first hand. Yet, there were an awful lot of facts that I only learnt about while researching the foundations for the book. I hope it helps to understand more about the path of the German people from its past to the current state.
A New Germany?
Can a leopard ever change its spots and can a Nation ever change? Is Germany trying to take over the European Union in militant fashion as some people claim? Are Germans always rigid, organised and pushy? Did Mussolini’s fascism stem from a reminiscent ‘Roman’ megalomania? Is there something inherently unchangeable in the makeup of a Nation?
Confronted with often harsh stereotypes of Nazi-esque Germans in film, television and conversations abroad it seems that a certain image sticks to us Germans in the view of other Nations. I left the country 20 years ago and often see the Germans from the outside perspective with similar eyes and cringe at some innocent remarks by my compatriots and their sometimes only misunderstood behaviours. Yet some of these stereotypes can reinforce undifferentiated ideas about German mentality and politics.
My book is by no means a glorification of the German nation. As much as I love my place of origin I am happy where I live now. By having written a somewhat political book about post-war Germany I hope to paint a more balanced and more complex picture about its past and its people. Like every country in the world Germany should remain a work in progress of continuous development and improvement.
Religion in THE BLACK EAGLE INN
Most of my characters in this book are Catholics and some of them are not portrayed favourably even though other Catholics are written with more differentiation. I would like to point out however in any case that by no means do I intend to condemn religion or Catholicism as a whole.
Implied criticism of those devout Catholic characters is directed at the dogmatism of some, which also shows in their political and other beliefs and behaviours. Certain outdated beliefs and practices are part of the historically accurate portrayal of the times and places. Misuse of religion and Bible quotes for personal gain or political goals are as old as religion itself and are not limited to Catholicism.
I would like you to know that I have the most profound respect for any responsible religious person who uses their respective belief system to become a better person and to better the world with love and tolerance of others.
Politics in THE BLACK EAGLE INN
To write about any Nation and its generational renewal party politics are difficult to avoid, even more so in the case of Germany where for 12 years one party dictated world history. In one plotline of the book I have gone deep into the rivalry between the two main parties in post-war Germany, which exists to this day.
I must apologise for any perceived bias and any offensive remarks against either of the parties portrayed. Party politics at the time were more differentiated than I could afford to showcase them in this book. The fictional party affiliation of some of my characters in the book was determined by certain ideas they stand for and which of the actual parties at the time would have fitted their profile the most.
In my view politicians of every party can be corrupt as they can be idealists. By no means would I like to imply that I favour the politicians of one party of another. My book is not a manifesto for political ideas per se but for humanitarian ideas that should be the foundation for any type of politics.
Politics can also be a frustrating and hard business and I applaud all of the idealists who go into politics and struggle hard for their visions and beliefs. I do not have the endurance for it myself and would like to thank those who have done so and who selflessly help to form and shape Germany into a modern state that has learnt from its past.
If you are interested in The Three Nations Trilogy check out my blog post about it here.
The Black Eagle Inn was released on October 15.
Click here for my review.