Germany is Europe's pre-eminent and unrivalled power, its largest economy and the Continent's most potent political force. These political facts are clear, but culturally things are more confused.
More than twenty years after German unity in 1990, defining how the country sees itself and understanding what it is to be German today are far harder to pin down than the facts of its economic success and predominance in the European Union. So what are the reasons for this paradox? And how should we in Britain, profoundly affected by Germany and the country's ideas of itself, understand the nation today?
Anne McElvoy closely observed the old communist East Germany at first hand in the 1980s when she studied at East Berlin's Humboldt University, with its Stasi teaching corps and 7.00am lectures in Marxist-Leninism. In the 1990s, when she covered Germany as a Berlin correspondent, she followed and wrote about the evolution of the new Germany formed from two very different antecedent countries.
Now, in this Sunday Feature, Anne McElvoy re-visits Berlin to gauge for herself what ideas of Germany are emerging. She talks to eminent writers, artists and figures in the performing arts as well as those who observe the broader cultural and political scene to see how those active in Germany's cultural world see their homeland. She reveals what this tells us about how contemporary Germans see their history, their present and their future.