Entertaining Germany in the Digital Age: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in Markus Flohr’s Wo samstags immer Sonntag ist (2011)
As the recent controversy surrounding the publication of Günter Grass’s poem ‘Was gesagt werden muss’ (2012) confirms, Germany’s relationship with Israel is still an uneasy one, and one that is rarely marked by criticism.
In Markus Flohr’s 2011 travelogue Wo samstags immer Sonntag ist, which was first published as a column entitled ‘Israel Tagebuch’ in the German magazine UniSPIEGEL in 2009, the author describes his time as a student in Israel and explains the conflict to his readers. My paper examines the function of aesthetics – and the experience of reading as ‘pleasant’ and ‘entertaining’ – in relation to a topic, and a location, that is as intensely political as Israel/Palestine. I consider whether Flohr’s light-hearted tone, and the use of humour and anecdotes, contributes to the political message the author wants to convey or whether it results in diminishing the seriousness of the situation in Israel/Palestine. To this end, I analyse readers’ reactions in online forums such as the comment section of the Spiegel online, reviews on amazon.de, but also comments on Facebook and Twitter, to map the digital responses to his work. My paper also seeks to analyse its didactic and entertainment value as perceived by the online community, and more specifically the target audience of the Spiegel, which typically embraces investigative journalism.
I am interested in determining the ways in which online journalism, but also the format of the travelogue – both of which are traditionally seen as more lowbrow and entertaining than articles or ‘high’ literature – suggest alternative and imaginative political positions to readers and whether it is able to challenge the hesitations of politicians and intellectuals to criticise Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians for fear of being accused of anti-Semitism.