Although during its life it enjoyed fame and prestige comparable to those of writers of its time like Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway or Faulkner – who said hello to him as if he was probably the writer with the most talent of that generation – in whose celebrity the passing of time has hardly left a mark, what’s true is that for a few decades, despite a growing appreciation on behalf of the specialized critics that the increase that its work had on authors like Kerouac, Bradbury or Philip Roth, that the long ambitious books of Thomas Wolfe, dead prematurely before the age of 38 due to brain tuberculosis, have stopped being known outside certain select circles of exquisite palates.
As its reflected in his posthumous novel You Can’t Go Home Again, Wolfe passed most of the 30s in Berlin, a city that he adored, specifically until he found unbearable the growing persecution of the Jewish people by Nazi authorities, a policy that he reported in 1937 in the story I Have a Thing to Tell You, which won him the prohibition of his books in Germany, whose territory didn’t allow him entry from then on – he died a year later haunted by the memories of the place where he had managed to foresee happiness.
One of the most famous landscapes of You Can’t Go Home Again, idiomatic phrase that has become part of American language, was that in which he described the Olympic Games celebrated in the German capital in the summer of 1936, immortalized by the filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl in his extraordinary and monumental film Olympia, in whose over four hours of duration they anticipate and prefigure a large part of the defining characteristics of the following television broadcasts of the Olympics.
Specifically, what’s striking is the way in which Wolfe refers to the impressive Olympic Stadium, or Olympiastadion, (http://www.olympiastadion-berlin.de) designed for the occasion by the architect Werner March, which faced by the contemplation of the narrator of the novel one has the imposing and majestic feeling of the unfolding of flags and Nazi symbols, of finding himself in front of the battle tent of a great emperor. Wolfe clearly perceived, despite that to avoid the boycott of the United States and other countries, the Nazi authorities eliminated the antisemitic signs from the media (they even included two athletes of partially hebrew blood in the men’s team) and they hid the expulsion of all the gypsies in Berlin, that what was going on there was far from just the games.
A reliable proof of that is the construction of the stadium and the colossal sporting complex, the Reichsportfeld or Reich’s Sports Fields, where one signed up, which you access it through two giant tower of 36 metres each, which today still hold the Olympic arches.