Viktor Klemperer: Diaries, LTI

March 24, 2013

51tSCDa8uDL._AA160_I recently re-read the diaries. They are the complete antithesis to The Diary Of Anne Frank – very long, full of the minutiae of the life of a Jew under the Nazi regime, written by a middle-aged male academic who ultimately survives.  The sheer, grinding awfulness of daily life and the incremental torments inflicted on the Jews are inescapable.  Even reading the book is a test of endurance, but a necessary one: these times must not be forgotten.

An academic sidelined from his work because of his race, he nevertheless worked continuously in secret and most of his work was saved; it’s LTI (Lingua Tertii Imperii, or, The Language of the Third Reich) that I found most interesting.  He chronicles the changes and developments of the German language during the Nazi period specific to the regime and its purposes, in detail and with examples, clearly aware of how language can manipulate and be manipulated, in the same way that George Orwell wrote about English, and imagined its future in Newspeak.  This I found fascinating: it’s not possible to love literature without being caught be all sorts of details about languages, links and connections with other places and so on.

Neither work is easy going; both are important and worth the effort. At the end, I was full of admiration for his stamina and determination: he was going to document his times and his experiences to the end.

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