On April 8, 1945, several American bomber squadrons were informed that their German targets were temporarily unavailable due to cloud cover. As it was too late to turn back, the assembled ordnance of more than two hundred bombers was diverted to nearby Halberstadt. A mid-sized cathedral town of no particular industrial or strategic importance, Halberstadt was almost totally destroyed, and a then-thirteen-year-old Alexander Kluge watched his town burn to the ground.
Translated by Martin Chalmers, Kluge’s Air Raid is a touchstone event in German literature of the postwar era. Incorporating photographs, diagrams, and drawings, Kluge captures the overwhelming rapidity and totality of the organized destruction of his town from numerous perspectives, bringing to life both the strategy from above and the futility of the response on the ground. Originally published in German in 1977, this exquisite report, fragmentary and unfinished, is one of Kluge’s most personal works and one of the best examples of his literary technique.
Now available for the first time in English, Air Raid appears with additional new stories by the author and features an appreciation of the work by W. G. Sebald.
“More than a few of Kluge’s many books are essential, brilliant achievements. None are without great interest.”Susan Sontag
About the Author
Alexander Kluge is one of the major German fiction writers of the late twentieth century and an important social critic. As a filmmaker, he is credited with the launch of the New German Cinema movement.
Martin Chalmers (1948–2014) was a Berlin-based translator from Glasgow. He translated some of the best-known German-language writers, including Herta Müller, Elfriede Jelinek, and Hans Magnus Enzensberger.
Table of Contents
The Air Raid on Halberstadt on 8 April 1945
What Does ‘Really’ Mean in Retrospect? 17 More Stories About the Air War
Dragonflies of Death
Commentary on ‘Dragonflies of Death’
The Long Paths to Knowledge
What Does ‘Really’ Mean in Retrospect?
Fires Inside People
Zoo Animals in the Air Raids
What Holds Voluntary Actions Together?
Fire Brigade Commander W. Schönecke Reports
The Run-Up to the Catastrophe
Inexplicable Reactions in Sandstone Rock
How the ‘Flying Fortresses’ Disappeared in Lake Constance
The Gleam in the Enemy’s Eye
News of Star Wars
W. G. Sebald
Between History and Natural History.
On the Literary Description of Total Destruction. Remarks on Kluge