The fascists at Frankfurt
Plus, our favorite award nominates five books worth your time
Welcome to the 122nd edition of SHuSH, the weekly newsletter of Sutherland House Books. If you’re new here, hit the button—it’s free:
The Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s largest trade show for books, dates back to the seventeenth century and, up until our pandemic, it routinely drew a quarter-million people annually. I’ve always wanted to go. I signed up this year but the delta variant scared off a lot of the publishers I most wanted to meet. I bailed and contented myself with following news about the fair, including a curious spat over the attendance of a small German publisher that goes by the name of Jungeuropa.
I learned German this week just so I could bring you this story.
Philip Stein, the goofball (dummköpfe) on the right, above, is the inhaber (owner) of Jungeuropa (Young Europe). Stein is a product of the Burschenschaft, a two-hundred-year-old student fraternity with hundreds of branches. It has a history of anti-semitism and strenuous German nationalism, and in recent years has been associated with far-right politics, support for the annexation of Austria, and internal confusion over whether or not to call a certain opponent of Adolf Hitler a “traitor.” No red flags there.
Stein is also associated with Germany’s Ein Prozent für unser Land (One Percent for Our Country) movement, with has nothing to do with the one-percenters as we know them. It is a “think” tank and media outlet that maintains one percent of the population is sufficient to bring about political change. It considers itself Germany’s “patriotic resistance” to liberal internationalism, immigration, and Islam.
If that’s not enough, Stein also hangs with Identitären Bewegung Deutschland (Identitarian Movement Germany), a curiously Germanic twist on identity politics (and to my mind, a warning to its practitioners about the company they’re keeping). The Identitarians are opposed to multiculturalism and globalization, and in favor of homogenous ethnocultural communities. They believe that ethnic origins are the sole and decisive criteria for belonging to the German people, and naturally want German citizenship restricted along biological lines. One is German, says Stein, “not because of his passport, but because of his blood.” It was attitudes like these that led Germany’s office for the protection of the constitution, an intelligence agency charged with protecting the country from anti-democratic actors, particularly neo-Nazis, to designate the Identitarians right-wing extremists. A bold call.
Stein hasn’t always been sure how to describe his politics. He admits that “right-wing radical” fits but in conversation with Die Zeit in 2017 he resisted the label because of its association with skinheads—not his favorite form of cosplay.
Fascist may fit best. The word gets thrown around a lot. These days, every moron in a MAGA hat, every sad young man at a Jordan Peterson revival, and Margaret Atwood are facists. But Stein earns the designation. In 2019, he was out marching with his Casa Pound buddies in Rome. Casa Pound is an abbreviation of “House of Ezra Pound,” an Italian neo-fascist organization that occasionally runs candidates in elections (none of whom, as far as I can tell, have ever reached 2% of the popular vote). Its members like to recite Pound’s Cantos against Marxism, capitalism, and usury. They, too, are viewed as far-right, although they leaven their xenophobia and antisemitism with support for abortion rights, the welfare state, and same-sex marriage. Their symbol is an arrowed turtle. You can’t make this shit up:
Video from the march attended by Stein shows participants raising their arms in the Roman salute, that unmistakable outstretch of the right arm known to most of us as the Hitler salute (it is banned in both Italy and Germany). If anybody snapped Stein with his arm up, they’ve yet to post the photo. However, he was reportedly spotted wearing a balaclava and beating a photographer at an event in the town of Marburg, Germany.
What kind of a verlag (publisher) is Stein? Jungeuropa is about five years old. It appears to produce four or five books (bücher) a year. The subjects are what you’d expect from a company described by its critics as “a publishing house by fascists for fascists”: how to foment revolution, why liberalism must die, the evils of political elites; how to rehabilitate nationalism. Quite literally, Jungeuropa’s books can be judged by their covers:
You have to hand it to them. Not a lot of five-year-old publishers can boast so consistent and resonant an aesthetic.
Stein, whose friends at Ein Prozent have been deplatformed by YouTube and Facebook, had no problem securing a booth at Frankfurt. My first thought was that the organizers needed him: only 70,000 people turned out this year.
The Jungeuropa gang posed for pictures with one another. That appears to be an older Stein below, in the middle, no longer in marching shape, although I wouldn’t fuck with the louts (der Rabauke) on his far flanks. For those lacking my facility in German, the tweet explains that on their podcast, the dummköpfe complained that they didn’t have a sandwich toaster at their booth. A loyal reader brought one to the fair:
Initially, no one seemed especially bothered by the presence of Jungeuropa. Perhaps they weren’t immediately recognized for what they are: they look nothing like Mike Pence or J.K. Rowling. Their booth only became controversial when German author Jasmina Kuhnke canceled her appearance at the fair for security reasons, saying that Jungeuropa and its authors were “an unmistakable danger” to her. "There's no room for Nazis next to me, which is why I won't be taking part in this year's fair," she wrote. "I don't talk to Nazis. I don't listen to Nazis. I don't read books by Nazis.”
Kuhnke (below) is a writer, comic, and activist who describes herself as “Afro-German Serbo-Croatian or Serbo-Croatian Afro-German." The boys at Jungeuropa have argued for her deportation and harrassed her family. They tweet about her using the hashtag #ShutUpJasmina.
Stein’s crew answered Kuhnke’s statement by reposting her tweet from last month suggesting that privileged German women be sterilized to save the planet. This, they suggested, was the real hate crime. A lot of jokes are lost on fascists (even when the clues are right in her twitter handle).
The general attitude of Frankfurt attendees to the controversy was expressed by a journalist who commented, “Young Europe should be beaten back into the dirty hole it crawled out of.”
To my surprise, the Frankfurt Book Fair and the German Publishers and Booksellers Association refused to beat Stein back into his hole. They produced a statement regretting Kuhnke’s decision: “voices against racism and in support of diversity” would be missed at the festival. But “freedom of expression and publication are, for us, paramount. That is why it is also clear for us that publishers who operate within the law can exhibit at the book fair, even if we do not share their views.”
And liberalism survives for another day. Prost!
Five worth reading
Regular readers will know that the Baillie Gifford Prize (formerly the Samuel Johnson Prize) is our favorite book award. Given annually to the best non-fiction book in the English language, it’s motto is “all the best stories are true.” Its nominees come from “the areas of current affairs, history, politics, science, sport, travel, biography, autobiography and the arts.” (Interestingly, no memoir.) Its short-lists always manage to find a selection of smart, important, and highly readable books. The winner gets £50,000. This year’s list, all recommended:
Our Newsletter Roll (suggestions welcome)
Benjamin Errett’s Get Wit Quick, literature and other fun stuff
Jeet Heer’s The Time of Monsters: political culture and cultural politics
Lydia Perovic’s Long Play: literature and music.
Tim Carmody’s Amazon Chronicles: an eye on the monster.
Jason Logan’s Urban Color Report: adventures in ink (sign-up at bottom of page)
Anne Trubek’s Notes from a Small Press: like SHuSH, but different
Art Canada Institute: a reliable source of Canadian arts info/opinion
Kate McKean’s Agents & Books: an interesting angle on the literary world
Rebecca Eckler’s Re:Book: unpretentious recommendations
Anna Sproul Latimer’s How to Glow in the Dark: interesting advice
John Biggs Great Reads: strong recommendations
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