Dangerous Intersections
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Published in: November-December 2020 issue.


The Life and Times of Hugo Marcus
by Marc David Baer
Columbia University Press. 320 pages, $30


A  WELL-RESEARCHED BIOGRAPHY by Marc David Baer, German, Jew, Muslim, Gay, tells the story of a remarkable yet little-known figure, Hugo Marcus. Born into a Jewish family in Posen, Germany (now in Poland), Marcus became an early activist in the homosexual rights movement. He later converted to Islam, taking the name Hamid, and wrote extensively for the German Muslim community. After the Nazis seized power and the name on his passport was changed to “Israel,” he fled to Switzerland, where he continued writing—including gay fiction under the penname Hans Alienus—as he did until his death in 1966. Baer explores Marcus’ diverse writings, including such essays as “Nietzsche and Islam” and “Law and Æsthetics” and the moving short story “A Pair of Shoes,” while providing background on the historical figures with whom he was connected. Baer’s book reveals the richly diverse, intellectually curious Germany that thrived before the Nazis ruined everything.

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Charles Green is a writer based in Annapolis, Maryland.