您的当前位置:首页 > 英语天地 > 观点
Soft Power Of Culture Helping To Transform Attitudes Towards Ireland
2017/2/28 10:39:23 来源: 《英语文摘》

Soft Power Of Culture Helping To Transform Attitudes Towards Ireland


Cultural diplomacy can have a great reach in Germany, particularly in the wake of the bailout, writes Derek Scally.


By Derek Scally

Early on in Hugo Hamilton’s autobiographical play The Speckled People, his German mother remarks: “It’s a shame Ireland and Germany are so far apart.”


Budget airlines, weekend breaks and holiday homes have closed the gap between Ireland and many points on the Continent, but Germany seems as stubbornly distant as ever.


This cultural gap, characterised by the now notorious Boston/Berlin comparison, has come home to roost in the euro zone crisis. It has never been more important to understand and relate to this vast country now helping to keep Ireland’s lights on.


The crisis has churned up the generally positive vibe in Germany towards Ireland, with some flashes of annoyance visible in the media when the financial consequences of the bailout for Germany became clear.

Rather than back away, the Department of Foreign Affairs launched a campaign of political visits and media interviews, resulting in coverage that neutralised and even turned around the negative spin. Now the mantra in Germany, thanks in part to the efforts of Iveagh House, is: “Ireland is not Greece.”

Parallel to these political efforts the Irish Embassy in Berlin has, with a limited budget but unlimited ingenuity, worked wonders on Germany’s cultural scene. Like the sunny evening in September when guests from Berlin’s cultural and political elite packed into the Schiller Theatre for a staged reading of Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days, half a century after its European premiere there.

German actor Miriam Goldschmidt gave a passionate take on Winnie, after which I chaired a podium discussion about Beckett’s fruitful relationship with Germany and the Schiller Theatre in particular.

In his welcoming address, Berlin State Opera artistic director Jürgen Flimm described the Schiller Theatre (now temporary home to his company) as a “Beckett stronghold” and recalled spotting the dramatist once in a Stuttgart cafe.

“I was a very young student and I didn’t dare go over to tell him, ‘You’re my idol’,” said Flimm, clearly enjoying the memory, “though I’m sure he would have been very nice to me.”

The Happy Days anniversary was more than just a nice evening out: it was a chance to shift the narrative away from the gloom and send home an influential audience in a good mood towards Ireland.

The tough times have seen Irish business rediscover Germany as an important trade partner. But just as every decent supermarket here stocks Kerrygold butter, every well-run German bookshop offers its customers translated John Banville and Colm Tóibín. It is a given here to have access to and interest in Irish culture, thus cultural diplomacy can have a great reach.

On his book tour through Germany last year, Tóibín encountered frustration over the Irish bailout. The refrain at almost every reading was: “We Germans don’t want to pay for Ireland’s party.”

“That Irish people had been working hard in the previous years and that banks and politicians had caused the crisis — that was the first time these people had heard that version,” he says. “I could have stayed on the road for a month but only had a week. We need to keep this going: not just one reading or one show but a critical mass. Culture is the soft power.”

The opportunities for Irish artists in Germany are immense. From film-makers to choreographers, playwrights to opera singers, Irish artists have found a welcoming home from home here — far from the smirking “big in Germany” cliche.

Irish artists pop up in Germany in the most unlikely places: the striking images of painter Sean Scully are used regularly to accompany essays in the influential Frankfurter Allgemeine daily. Enda Walsh scored a huge success with his play Penelope at the Ruhr 2010 festival.

“Culture is the forerunner for everything else. It’s more powerful than economic facts and figures,” says journalist and dramatist Christine Madden, who has worked with Rough Magic and the Abbey and recently relocated full time to Germany.

Ireland is prized in Germany as a literary and musical place, she says, but less is known about contemporary Irish theatre or dance. The language barrier is a reality, she concedes, but curiosity about Ireland is greater.

The curiosity is increasingly mutual. With its Beckett productions, the Gate Theatre has been a cornerstone of the “Imagine Ireland” campaign in the US. For artistic director Michael Colgan, Beckett’s huge popularity in Germany is a draw.

“I would have a really strong interest because I’ve brought shows to New York, Washington, Australia and France but I don’t think we’ve ever brought a show to Germany,” he says. “We would love to do that but, as my grand-mother used to say, it’s manners to wait until you’re asked.”

So, will anyone be asking, or has Imagine Ireland exhausted the cultural budget? Culture Ireland chief executive Eugene Downes says a cultural push in Germany would make sense if it was part of a longer-term commitment by Ireland’s artistic community to the region.

“There is real evidence that this is territory which, while largely untapped, has an immense amount to offer for the Irish cultural community,” he says.
As Ireland’s cultural chief, he sees a need to give Germans a sense of Ireland’s contemporary cultural landscape, particularly as the debate over the future of Europe draws us closer together.

“Opening up the cultural networks between Ireland and Germany is hugely timely, and Ireland’s EU presidency in 2013 offers an important opportunity for keynote events,” says Downes.

For Hugo Hamilton such an initiative might even reflect back to Ireland that Germany’s view of us is much more sophisticated than one might think. Though far too polite to suggest it himself he has, with The Speckled People, written the perfect calling card for Irish culture in Germany.

“There’s still an open door for the Irish in Germany,” says Hamilton. “We don’t need to bang on it. They’re ready to listen.”

Tomorrow: When Enda Kenny arrives in Germany, he will learn that Ireland has become the poster boy, in Angela Merkel’s eyes, for what the bailout programmes can achieve.

(沈丹琳  译自The Irish Times Nov. 15, 2011)


中华人民共和国外交部 主管