By Russell A. Berman, TELOS
A distinctive feature of public debate in Germany involves prominent literary authors, especially novelists, expounding on current political matters in major newspapers. Thomas Brussig’s essay “Risk More Dictatorship,” translated here, belongs to this genre. Known especially for his satire of East Germany, Heroes Like Us, Brussig chose a provocative title that seems to echo and respond to Chancellor Willy Brandt’s appeal more than fifty years ago to “risk more democracy.” Brandt was speaking in 1969 at a pivotal moment in the history of West Germany, indeed of the whole world, in the face of the protests during the previous year; Brussig in contrast appeals for “more dictatorship” in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, which he depicts as a potentially similar turning moment, with an accelerated “learning process,” that calls old certainties into question. These include the “end of history” claim that liberal democracy is inevitable; Brussig suggests that the “impotence” of democracies in the face of the pandemic raises the question as to whether other forms of government might be superior. The Chinese model of dictatorship casts a shadow across the essay.