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Who was Cassandra?


  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.

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September 29, 2005

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This is a beautiful commentary on the German woman writer, Beth! What struck me too, is the sense of understanding for the trials of the German people after the war, instead of the name-calling (Nazis) and hatred still perpetrated by many people, even 60 years later. In any country and any war, the ordinary people aren't guilty, but are innocent victims of bad leaders. I wish people would forget the past wars and move on and improve the lives of those who still suffer from war. (Sorry, Beth, I've gone off the topic again here... this obviously touched something in me.)

No apologies necessary, M-L -- I'm always glad for your thoughtful comments!

You probably also want to read the article right before this one - it indirectly refers to it. Needless to say, reading the first one (which talks about more general aspects of guilt, shame, punishment etc. in Europe) in the end does not help at all because what you realize is that you cannot disentangle every aspect of how to deal with, say, the Germans after World War II. They did kill millions of Jews, and millions of them suffered horrible deaths themselves - and even this seemingly innocent description will probably make everybody fly into some rage: Why "they"? Were all Germans killers? If not, how do you make a distinction? If you want to make a distinction how do you want to do it? And if you do make a distinction doesn't that belittle the suffering of others? Etc. etc.

Everything related to this subject is almost a hopeless mess, because it's almost impossible to separate issues. I personally am glad that stories like these are now being re-published. After all, I think what people will have to realize is that there is no simple explanation for pieces of history like this one. You cannot try to "reconcile" the murder of the Jews with the bombing of German cities. I think you have to just take them as what they are, and if you can arrive at a state where you feel sorry for anybody who lost his life, then maybe you've come to the only conclusion (of sorts) which ends up having a hint of humanity in it. In any case, the standard black-and-white thinking that people seem to prefer when dealing with this epoch doesn't get you anywhere.

It's interesting to know that the book wasn't published in Germany until a few years ago. The first German edition was published in Switzerland, I think in the 1950s, and it was basically completely ignored in Germany. You'd imagine that if would be different; but it appears that only recentlyhave Germans become aware of those parts of their history, while, at the same time, digging ever deeper into their Nazi past. It is quite fascinating to watch.

I have been trying to bring myself to read this book, as I have followed articles about it. Yule, on her blog:

http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/yulelog/

wrote about this (though I don't have time right now to research the link to the actual post!) and included links to lots of German resources and articles 9she herself had lived in germany before), and like Joerg, pointed to the ways in which this book was not and could not be published in Germany for years.

I kept thinking about how women during war are in such an impossible position. If they don't fraternize, they starve, are raped, killed. If they do, and survive, they are excoriated after the war (as in France, where female "collaborators" were mobbed and had their hair shaved off. ) Treated as spoils, as in Algieria (?) and then rejected by their families because they are not virgins. Scapegoats and victims and monsters all in one.

I'm going to go read the Fortean Times, at least that is not supposed to make logical sense.

Joerg, thanks for your long, thoughtful comment (as always!). I'm going to read the other article tonight - thanks for pointing it out as a sort of companion piece.

Maria - I do want to read it; I'll look at what Yule has been saying about it too.

and Zhoen - you're totally right. In this book the woman's fiance returns from the war and is disgusted by the women and says so; he leaves and she doesn't care. I didn't make that comment about The Trojan Women lightly - Euripedes' play, written so very long ago, speaks about the very same tragedy and the same powerlessness. And of course, Cassandra was one of them.

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