Sunday, 1 March 2015

WHEN DIPLOMATS historical novels, that is.

It’s 1904, and the Germans are frustrated. Their fondest hopes of starting a war have been ruined by the entente cordiale, an alliance between England and France.

They did it again, those unbearable Englishmen! The entente cordiale has destroyed all our plans. ..We thought we could roll Luxembourg into the North German League and finally have a good reason to go to war, but those Englishmen, a nation of grocers…those bookkeepers have destroyed all our hopes. But we shall have revenge…and if I’m not mistaken it is brewing already. 

We know that something is brewing because old Chancellor Bismarck gave a dinner the other day,in which he revealed his love of nature. He spoke in the most enthusiastic terms of his desire for a quiet life in the country, to which he would soon retire; and such words, as you well know, always leave a political after-taste in the mouth. Whenever Bismarck retires to the countryside or suffers from rheumatism, it means there is something in the air.

How romantic, you say. I know him as a rather sarcastic man. Here is what I overheard him say at that dinner:

  • A Bavarian is something between an Austrian and a human being.
  • An Austrian could be very intelligent if he wasn’t so fundamentally stupid. His blood is a mixture of Italian, Spanish, and Dutch, a strange brew. Sometimes the phlegmatic temperament of the Dutch bobs to the surface; at other time it’s the Spanish spitefulness.
  • And those treacherous Italians: God made man in his image and the Italian in the image of Judas.
  • And one more thing: French diplomats never speak the language of the country to which they have been posted.
Source: Luise Mühlbach’s historical novel Von Königsgrätz bis Chiselhurst (Stuttgart, 1874) – my translation.

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