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Arnon Grunberg - Blog

The day-to-day life of Arnon Grunberg



Wed, 24 May 2017 00:29:11 +0200



Der Spiegel ( Mathieu von Rohr) on Trump

'The anecdotes are revealing. The employees at the National Security Council, who brief the president about military and intelligence issues, have reportedly begun to put the word "Trump" into as many paragraphs as possible in their briefings because he keeps reading when his name appears. Trump is 70 years old, his attention span is famously short. And he continues to use cable news rather than dry intelligence briefings as his main source of information.

Many White House aides and Republicans are concerned about the degree to which the president still obsesses about the past, including about his election victory, instead of concentrating on his legislative agenda. Trump is so enchanted with his win that he has had an oversized map hung in the West Wing, according to the New York Times, dark red, showing electoral results not by state, but by electoral district. He gives visitors copies of the map, he has a whole pile. And he likes to brag about it not only in public, but in meetings with other heads of state.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the only goal of Trump's candidacy was the victory itself - demonstrating that he could win - rather than living up to his promises to his voters regarding health care reform or job creation. This is why Trump is obsessed with the critics he sees as trying to diminish his victory by reminding him that he didn't win a majority of the votes. This is why the investigation of Russian influence in the election makes Trump so angry. He sees it as an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of his triumph, something for which he believes he is not being praised enough.'

Read the article here.

Isn't this the goal of most politicians? Victory itself. Trump may be unique, but not because his goal was victory and nothing but victory.



Tue, 23 May 2017 00:08:39 +0200



The taxi driver mumbled: "Are you here for work?"
"Yes," I answered.
"What taxi service do you use mostly in Ghent?"
I explained him that I used mostly an app.
Five minutes later he asked: "Are you here for work?"
"Yes," I said hesitantly.
Didn't he like my first answer? "What taxi service do you use in this city?"
Did the taxi driver have a problem with his short-term memory? Or was he slightly drunk?
Anyhow, he helped my with my luggage, and even managed to whisper: "Take care."



Mon, 22 May 2017 01:37:25 +0200



A public conversation with Deborah Feldman in Amsterdam.
She told me that she will become a German citizen in a few weeks.
It's my dream to be a German as well. But according to Deborah I look like a yeshiva bochur.



Sat, 20 May 2017 20:50:57 +0200



24 hours with about 40 readers, the 24 hour book club. The large bedroom, a gymnasium, resembled an emergency shelter.
The last three hours were hard, I felt a bit like a false messiah, but altogether it was an experience that restored my hope. I know, hope is a dirty word, but sometimes we need the dirtiness.
In 2019, the Rhine cruise.



Fri, 19 May 2017 10:58:23 +0200



Der Spiegel (By Peter Müller, Ralf Neukirch, René Pfister, Michael Sauga and Christoph Schult) on coincidence and Macron

By Peter Müller, Ralf Neukirch, René Pfister, Michael Sauga and Christoph Schult

Emmanuel Macron's victory in France has galvanized Germany's Social Democrats. But Merkel, too, is hopeful that the new French president will mark an improvement in Berlin-Paris relations. There are, however, plenty of potential conflicts looming.

History sometimes takes strange twists and turns. Three years ago, on a sweltering day in summer 2014, the telephone of German economist Henrik Enderlein rang. Enderlein is a professor at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin and on the other end of the line was Jean Pisani-Ferry, an economist in Paris.

The caller wanted to know if Enderlein's university had a visiting professor spot for a young government adviser named Emmanuel Macron. Pisani-Ferry related to his German colleague that Macron had had a falling out with his boss, French President François Hollande, and was currently looking for a job.

Even then, Enderlein knew Macron well. He had exchanged several papers with Macron, a former banker, and had also spoken with him in Élysée Palace in Paris about the troubled relationship between France and Germany. Both Enderlein and Pisani-Ferry were certain that Macron had a bright future ahead.

Would European history have taken a different turn had Macron come to Berlin that summer?

Immersing oneself in such hypotheticals is always a fraught undertaking: Would Marine Le Pen have won the French presidential election? Or would François Fillon have managed to eke out a victory despite the many scandals associated with his candidacy?

But it is nevertheless an interesting discussion to have. In any case, Macron managed to patch up his relationship with Hollande before he could agree to a position in Berlin -- and an astounding political career took off.'

Well, what if is excellent material for novelist. Marcron as visiting professor in Berlin could be an excellent novella. Berlin, the city where Macron's astounding cheer in academia took off.

This is how the article in Der Spiegel ends:

'Most of all, however -- and this is perhaps his greatest difference from Angela Merkel -- he wants to move away from the trivialities of European crisis management. In his Humboldt University speech, Macron quoted the legendary European Commission President Jacques Delors. He once said that Europe needs both a vision and a screwdriver. "Unfortunately, we currently have a lot of screwdrivers," said Macron. "But we are still lacking a vision."'

(Read the complete article here,

Often a screwdriver without a vision is preferable to a screwdriver with a vision. And a vision without a screwdriver is a toothless fox.



Fri, 19 May 2017 00:41:25 +0200



Dinner in Otium Cucina Italia. The pasta was excellent, the waiter spoke Italian but happened to be from Albania.
"Are you brothers?" he wanted to know and het pointed at the journalist at the other side of the table.
"We are not," I answered.
"Are you brothers?" I asked and I pointed at the barkeeper.
"How do you know? We are half-brothers."



Thu, 18 May 2017 01:08:46 +0200



Yossi Alpher on Israel, Trump and Machiavelli in the NYT:

"One complication is all the attention on the investigation in Washington into possible collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and the Kremlin. Mr. Trump’s decision to fire the F.B.I. director, James Comey, has only intensified the concerns and suspicions. One of the concerns for Israel and the United States is whether the president’s disclosure of top-secret information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador should be interpreted as a continuing connivance with Moscow.

A second complication concerns relations between Russia and Israel. Mindful of the potential hazards created by the civil war in Syria, the two countries already maintain close contact and consult on tactical issues of mutual interest. Indeed, for all we know, it is possible that Israel had already shared the intelligence leaked by Mr. Trump directly with the Russians.

However, Israel and Russia do not by any means agree on all Syria-related issues, and here, Israel may soon need Mr. Trump’s good offices in Moscow. Russia, in alliance with Iran, has rescued the Assad regime from likely defeat at the hands of a variety of Syrian rebels. One outcome of this may well be the establishment of not only Russian but possibly also Iranian bases in Syria. Iran is an existential enemy of Israel."


"Mr. Trump’s visit to Jerusalem next week provides Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, with an opportunity to seek American backing on this issue. Mr. Netanyahu will want to recruit Mr. Trump to persuade Russia to keep Iranian militias far from the Golan border. In this context, the president’s intelligence leak introduces an element of doubt and mistrust that can make the Israeli prime minister’s task only more complex and delicate.

But he may also discover an upside. Viewed through a Machiavellian prism, American embarrassment over the leak provides Mr. Netanyahu with a little extra leverage in his dealings with Mr. Trump next week. In the wake of Mr. Trump’s recent meeting with the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and meetings with other Arab leaders, there is a strong sense here that Mr. Trump is likely to spring a surprise on Israel involving an effort to restart the peace process. The anxiety for Mr. Netanyahu is that he might find himself under pressure to make concessions — on settlements in the West Bank, for example — that his own Likud Party and its coalition partners would reject.

No question, Mr. Trump has caused totally unnecessary damage. But does that mean he now owes Israel a favor that Mr. Netanyahu can call in?"

Read the article here.

That's the big question, POTUS owes favors to whom exactly?



Wed, 17 May 2017 00:33:45 +0200



The public notary who was advising me about my will told me about a client in the UK. This person wrote in his will: "Nothing for my kids, I hated them anyhow. Give the money to my boarding school. As far as my wine cellar is concerned, my friends from the sailing club can empty the bottles, if there's anything left."

I have a few bottles of wine and vodka in my apartment in NY. This may not have legal standing yet, but my dearest readers may empty the bottles. Find out more soon how to become a dearest reader.



Tue, 16 May 2017 00:55:43 +0200


A year

Der Spiegel (Annett Meiritz) on the Green Party in Germany:

"After Sunday's outcome in North Rhine-Westphalia, Özdemir spoke of the need for the party to sharpen its profile and for a new beginning. The party is now considering what that might look like. It's possible the Green Party might place a greater emphasis on two of its political stars -- Winfried Kretschmann, the governor of the state of Baden-Württemberg, and Robert Habeck, who is lieutenant governor of Schleswig-Holstein -- and focus more on its door-to-door campaign.

Only a year ago, the party had been dreaming of a double-digit outcome in this year's national election, but now the focus has shifted to disaster prevention. If all goes well, so goes the calculation, the party could perhaps escape the opposition as part of a three-party coalition government at the national level. That is the best-case scenario. After the election in North Rhine-Westphalia, though, it has become much less likely."

Read the article here.

I would say that the difference between Merkel's CDU and the Green Party is for the average German voter almost non-existent.

That't the sad irony of successful radicalism.


A white car

Mon, 15 May 2017 00:10:04 +0200


Too warm

Hotel Onderbergen in Ghent doesn't have a front desk, or to be more precise, the front desk appears to be permanently closed, but there was a charming young man who was willing to carry my suitcase to the third floor.
There I said: "I need to go to restaurant Osteria Delicati, could you give me directions?"
"No," he said. "I'm from Rotterdam."
Then he looked at my girlfriend and he said: "You don't need to wear a jacket. Its too warm for that."
"One last question," I said. "Where do you serve breakfast?"
He sighed. "That's almost impossible to explain."
"If I follow you downstairs you could show it to me."
I followed him downstairs to something that could be called a courtyard or an alley.
He said: "It's behind that car."