Minority Book Report.

This essay in the Graun is both bizarro and amazeballs. The history of a German Defence Ministry project to predict the future through... the applied study of literature.

Sounds a bit whack, but stay with me. The literary prof behind it, a guy called Wertheimer, realised that if you read the literature of failed states and foreign shitholes for a couple of years before they exploded into blood and madness, you often found the coming conflicts predicted in the culture’s novels. And not the sort I write, either. But actual thinky, Big L literary novels.

I’m not going to do the research and results justice here, so if you’re interested you can check out the essay. It’s a long read. Maybe ten minutes or so, but worth it.

The funny little program was cancelled by COVID budget constraints, but it proved itself more accurate in predicting geo-political shitstorms than multibillion dollar data crunching competitors.

Just before they were shut down, the literary boffins forecast the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war, which is a quiet fave of future war buffs because of the role played by armed drones and information warfare.

In one of his last reports to the defence ministry, towards the end of 2019, Wertheimer had drawn attention to an interesting development in the Caucasus. The culture ministry of Azerbaijan had recently supplied libraries in Georgia with books carrying explicit anti-Armenian messages, such as the works of poet Khalil Rza Uluturk. There were signs, he warned, that Azerbaijan was ramping up propaganda efforts in the brewing territorial conflict with its neighbouring former Soviet republic.

War broke out a year later: 6,000 soldiers and civilians died in a six-week battle over Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave of Azerbaijan populated by ethnic Armenians. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan used the war to bolster his strongman image, hailing Armenia’s defeat in December as a “glorious victory”. Russia, traditionally allied with Armenia, successfully leveraged the conflict to consolidate its influence in the region. Germany and the EU, meanwhile, looked on and stayed silent: being able to predict the future is one thing, knowing what to do with the information is another.