Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht is a literature professor at Stanford University, a public intellectual and a naturalized citizen of the United States. This interview took place in Berlin, three days after Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election.
Interview by Chris Fenwick and Dennis Schep.
You have written a book about the Stimmung after 1945, describing the ‘50s as a claustrophobic era. How would you see the Stimmung of today?
I feel it is a Stimmung of the end of something. It’s not quite clear what has come to an end, maybe nothing has come to an end, but if there is one motif that goes through all this confusion and the centrifugal interpretations of what is happening, there is always a claim for something ending. We have to seriously ask whether the institutional forms and rituals that emerged under certain historical conditions in the 18th century are no longer viable, whether accidents that have always been possible, like on January 30th 1933 in this city in this country, are now more frequently possible – so that we should imagine something else. Something has come to an end, but we aren’t sure what it might be. This gives us a double uncertainty, for as long as we don’t know what has come to an end, we don’t know what might come, and we cannot develop a recipe or strategy.