Jutta Bechstein-Mainhagu recounts 40 years of Franco-German cultural commitment at the Goethe-Institut in Bordeaux

Born in 1947 in Kronach, Bavaria, the girl quickly fell in love with French culture. He then became a bookseller, looked after by Pagnol, Radiguet, Beauvoir, Camus, Anouilh, he applied to the Goethe-Institut in…

Born in 1947 in Kronach, Bavaria, the young woman quickly fell in love with French culture. He was then a bookseller, raised by Pagnol, Radiguet, Beauvoir, Camus, Anouilh, he applied to the Goethe-Institut in Paris in 1970. He was recruited in 1972 to build the library fund of the new Bordeaux institute under the direction of Fred Mensdorf. “He is beautiful in his big Basque beret which already marks his taste for his future adopted land. It is the second in France after Paris, created a year before the signing of the Franco-German friendship treaty, on January 22, 1963, which sealed the reconciliation and opened an era of cooperation between the two countries.

“Absolute Freedom”

“At the Goethe-Instituts, Germany chose the difficult path, the memory, mourning, introspection, self-criticism. Revealing what happened in Germany in particular during Nazism, and even examining the country today, is part of its promise,” writes Jutta Bechstein-Mainhagu. “I would say that my work is part of a long reconciliation process. I have 1,500 Germanists in my constituency, which is quite a lot. I have a wonderful employer who has given me complete freedom to live, to do people to love and learn about German culture, I have to court. And I have always worked with local and institutional partners,” he explained with a smile.

Later, from 1997, he would run a literary liaison office and present his favorite favorites in newsletters. “’Did you buy the last Schnitzler?’, I asked. “What are these non-Germanist people reading?” he asked. Especially the classics: Ernst Jünger, Stefan Zweig, Hermann Hesse, Patrick Süskind for the famous “Perfume” too.

“My work is part of the long process of Franco-German reconciliation”

“I had the opportunity to witness the apotheosis of German culture in France with public enthusiasm for major exhibitions such as ”Paris-Berlin 1900-1933” at the Center Pompidou and ”Vienna: end of century” at the Grand Palais in the 1970s. There was also cinema with Herzog, Fassbinder and Schlöndorff. I would say that German romanticism, philosophy and psychoanalysis also appealed to the French. Then came the time after the fall of the Berlin Wall. »

“not again”

Jutta Bechstein-Mainhagu remained marked by her exchange with the library public. “There is a large number of former French prisoners, resistance fighters, deportees. They are the most sincere architects of Franco-German friendship, they have a real knowledge of the country. We have carried within us a constant illness, the poverty of being German after the Shoah, the shame of Nazism. These meetings shocked me. »

He immediately admits that Germany has moved, even at the level of literature, “new historians from the generation of Berlin, after the fall of the wall, have arrived. A smiling generation that once again tells simple stories for the general public” , he explained at a forum in “Sud Ouest” in 2001, on the occasion of the Paris Book Fair, whose guest of honor was Germanic literature. . She insists: “This desire for rapprochement with Europe is our only chance. “And to conclude with emotion by evoking the recent mass acceptance of migrants in her country of origin:” This is the only reality of society civil, I think that the foundation of this volunteerism is our ancient shame. »

The Goethe-Institut today

The Goethe-Institut de Bordeaux, at 35, cours de Verdun, is the cultural institution of the Federal Republic of Germany. He represents the country under the supervision of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany. Its mission has always been to inform the public about current aspects of cultural, social and political life in Germany. He is involved in cultural programming, giving language lessons, helping with translation and opening the doors to his library, which now focuses on design, photography and architecture. Since 2018, the director and head of cultural programming is Luise Holke.

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