Prof. Dr. Angelo Bolaffi
Philosopher, political scientist, former Director of the Italian Cultural Institute in Berlin
DAAD Scholarship 1971-1972
The philosopher and political scientist Angelo Bolaffi, emeritus Professor at La Sapienza University in Rome, has been an ambassador of German culture in his home country for some 30 years. Born in 1946, Bolaffi recalls his first experience with Germany as a young DAAD scholarship holder at Freie Universität Berlin in 1971. Two years later, he received a research fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. “My studies in Germany had a decisive influence on my academic career and my intellectual development,” Bolaffi says today.
I want to present an image of Italy that is free of all prejudices and all conventional, simplistic readings.
In his early years in Berlin, he was already interested in German thinkers, particularly Ferdinand Tönnies, Carl Schmitt, Otto Kirchheimer and Ernst Cassirer. He brought them to the attention of Italian readers as an editor and translator, and soon became one of Italy’s most distinguished experts on Germany.
Later, Angelo Bolaffi shifted his perspective: from 2007 to 2011, he headed the Italian Cultural Institute in Berlin. Once the unofficial ambassador of German culture in Italy, he is now an official ambassador of Italian culture in Germany. Bolaffi’s work had a special focus, and he described his aim at the time in these terms: “The Germans’ traditional penchant for Italian Classicism and the Renaissance is well established. That’s why I now want try and draw people’s attention to aspects of Italian art and culture that are often underestimated, especially in the literature, painting and architecture of the 19th and 20th centuries.” Henceforth, visitors to the Italian Embassy in Berlin’s Tiergarten district, where the Cultural Institute is also located, were able to admire the works of poets such as Giovanni Pascoli and painters like Giovanni Fattori.
It has always been Angelo Bolaffi’s wish “to present an image of Italy that is free of all prejudices and all conventional, simplistic readings.” Bolaffi complains that Italy is often represented simplistically and superficially in the German media. “Italy is often a worse country than it’s made out to be. But more often, it’s a better one.” Angelo Bolaffi is known for his original, sometimes provocative phraseology. His book Die schrecklichen Deutschen: eine merkwürdige Liebeserklärung (The Terrible Germans: A Strange Declaration of Love), was published in 1995. And he has remained loyal to Germany. In 2014, he co-authored the book Deutsches Herz. Das Modell Deutschland und die europäische Krise (German Heart: The German Model and the European Crisis) with two German women writers.