Thilo Sarrazin is a former Berlin politician now on the board of the Bundesbank. He's also well known for voicing opinions on poverty, integration and immigration that don't sit well with his membership of the Social Democratic Party - in fact, the right-wing populist Pro Deutschland movement recently extended him an invitation to join and the NPD has also praised his ideas.
He caused a furore last year with his comments along the lines of Muslims or Turkish people in Berlin being only good as greengrocers - as I recall, and I'm loath to research this nasty business properly, so you'll have to bear with me - and before that by comparing benefit claimants to rats. Now Sarrazin has written a whole book. And you know what? I'm not going to link to it. It's called Deutschland schafft sich ab - Wie wir unser Land aufs Spiel setzen, and it's published by Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt. Which, incidentally, is part of the Bertelsmann empire that has been subject to political scrutiny and headlines of its own too, as Publishing Perspectives reports.
Sarrazin's book comes out at the end of this month, but has been previewed in the BILD tabloid and Spiegel magazine. Upon which even the CDU's Angela Merkel and Wolfgang Schäuble distanced themselves from the writer's remarks (see the Bloomberg piece - Spiegel Online has one too, but the intricacies of translation mean it presents at least one of Sarrazin's theses as fact). Today's papers are full of debates on whether what he says is actually racist or not. I haven't read the book and I don't intend to do so, but I think at least in Britain, there would be no problem labelling his ideas racist.
Now until today I'd been ignoring Sarrazin on my blog, unwilling to grant him even the very limited extra publicity it would give him. But now I'm delighted to report that someone's standing up to him!
Yesterday, Berlin's House of World Cultures issued a statement on an event planned there as part of the Berlin International Literature Festival. They write (my translation):
Thilo Sarrazin's polemical theses are completely contrary to the House's basic stand. Unfortunately, such excluding positions are often voiced in society. For this reason, we consider critical debate necessary, particularly on our own premises. The festival director Ulrich Schreiber informed us yesterday that the publishers and Thilo Sarrazin reject a critical dialogue partner on the podium.
So, they say, they're not going to host the event unless he changes his mind. Which is about the best thing I've heard all week.