Carl Amery

Writer and eco-thinker

Friday 12 July 2013 03:46

Carl Amery was one of the spiritual fathers of the German Greens and influenced the ecology movement worldwide. As early as 1974, developing his ideas from Catholic social teaching, he attacked the destruction of the environment in his Natur als Politik: die ökologische Chance des Menschen ("Nature as Politics: the ecological possibilities for mankind").

Born Christian Anton Mayer in Munich in 1922, he was the son of a Catholic university professor of history. He spent most of his childhood in the Bavarian towns of Passau and Freising, on which he drew in his later works. Like most of his generation, he was conscripted into the Nazi armed forces and, after a period in an American POW camp, returned to Munich in 1946.

He resumed his literary studies, eager to come to grips with contemporary world literature. He recalled finding one of François Mauriac's novels in a French attic during the Second World War: ". . . suddenly I became aware of the horrible effects of provincialism on our literary taste caused by the Third Reich".

His encounter with the Americans led him to the further studies at the Catholic University of America, in Washington, DC, and he used the name Chris Mayer, before becoming Carl Amery. His first novel, Der Wettbewerb ("The Competition"), appeared in 1954, and was successful enough to keep him writing. Through his novel Die grosse deutsche Tour ("The Great German Tour", 1958), he gained a reputation as a satirist.

In 1964, Amery revealed another interest with Die Kapitulation: oder deutsche Katholizismus heute. This critical work excited much interest, especially in Catholic circles, and appeared, in 1967, under the imprint of the British Catholic publisher Sheed & Ward, as Capitulation: an analysis of contemporary Catholicism. It carried a postscript by his fellow Catholic writer and Nobel Prize- winner Heinrich Böll, and was one of Amery's many political books.

Based on his religious convictions and his war experiences, Amery opposed German re-armament in the 1950s and the stationing of nuclear weapons in Germany. In 1967, he joined the Social Democrats and worked to organise support for Willy Brandt in the decisive election of 1969. He withdrew from the party, in 1974, after Helmut Schmidt replaced Brandt as German Chancellor and later helped to establish the Green Party, participating at the foundation conference in Karlsruhe in 1980.

From 1967 to 1971 Amery paused from writing to work as director of the public library service in Munich. In 1974 he caused surprise by entering the world of science fiction with Das Königsprojekt ("The Royal Project") in which, with the help of a time machine constructed by Leonardo da Vinci, a special unit of the Pope's Swiss Guard tries to change history in the Catholics' favour.

Two other works of science fiction followed, Der Untergang der Stadt Passau ("The Decline of Passau", 1975) about a grim future life after a plague has struck down most Passau inhabitants and An den Feuern der Leyermark ("To the Guerrillas of Leyermark", 1979), which, as one reviewer put it, is "really hilarious, but pretty thought-provoking too". His last book was Briefe an den Reichtum ("Letters to the Wealthy", 2005).

David Childs

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