Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hardcore History: Stalingrad

The most innovative and creative podcast about history is Hardcore History by Dan Carlin. Carlin tries to tell history with a passion. He breathes life into the data, evokes the emotions, emphasizes the experience the contemporaries must have gone through and he also engages in questions of historiography. And sometimes he tries to do this all at once. When such enormous ambitions cannot always be met, one should not be overly surprised. One of my fascinations is to hear him try.

The current huge project is to capture the horrors of the Ostfront in World War II. So far Carlin has produced three massive podcast episodes on the subject, having spent four hours of audio and he still is not done. At the end of the last, the third chapter (Ghosts of the Ostfront III), he announced there will be a fourth. I wonder whether it should be as long and I wonder whether there could not be more and shorter chapters, if it has to be this long. There has to be some aspect at work of a researcher who takes precedent over the creative producer and pushes all the material in. Nevertheless, in style with the subject, as huge as the product is, as hard as it is to swallow, it is one impressive set of podcasts.

Carlin turns the Ostfront into Dante's Inferno with circle upon circle of ever increasing suffering. With all the evils, depravities and eternally prolonged suffering one can possibly imagine. In a harrowing retelling with poignant quotes from letters, diaries and other primary sources Carlin puts our faces with our mp3 players in the mud, the ice, the pain, the deprivation. Not only does he seem to want to make us experience and never forget the sheer scale of the history, but also drive the point home how this is so much larger than the other battles and wars we know of. The abyss of the Ostfront is larger than anything, apart, maybe, from hell itself.

More Hardcore History:
Ghosts of the Ostfront,
Dan Carlin about the East Front,
Slavery,
Gwynne Dyer Interview,
Interview with Victor Davis Hanson.
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