It’s getting late, and I have to make sure I do some writing for my PhD today, so I am going to respond to a recent interview with Olga Martynova in the German news source: Die Welt.
I came across Martynova when I was looking for a book to translate for my BA Thesis. It had to be a book that had not been translated yet and was good literature (that sounds presumptuous, but there was a vague criteria in place to determine this). Mostly, it had to be demanding literature that would be interesting to translate. Martynova had just won the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize at the Festival of German-Language Literature of 2012, so I decided her book Sogar Papageien überleben uns would be the thing to translate. I still haven’t finished that translation (though working on it), but the author took a strong hold in my heart. I thought about her through my MA work, and when the time came to figure out books to explore for my PhD topic, Papageien seemed a likely candidate.
This is what I wrote as an overview for one of the drafts of my expose: Olga Martynova’s Sogar Papageien überleben uns (2010)- A German philologist from Russia falls in love with a German, is on her way through Germany on an academic conference tour, and reflects on Russian and German history, literature, and her life along the way. This novel includes many literary references and a few intermedial references (for example, the 2006 soccer World Cup) and will be used to show the difference in effectiveness of literary versus intermedial reference.
Basically, I wanted to address this book as one in which more intertextuality than intermediality occurs, and use it to show the difference between the two phenomena.
Of course, Martynova has continued writing since Papageien, and I know I need to be up-to-date with all the works of the authors, not just the ones I want to work with. So, this interview about Martynova brings me up to speed on her latest work.
Something all sources about Martynova like to emphasize, is that her poems are written exclusively in Russian, and her novels exclusively in German. It’s as if her creative work is split between the languages. Maybe there’s something to be said with German being her bilingual tongue, the tongue that makes her many-voiced, and therefore evokes a kinship with the many-voiced Bakhtinian novel (Martynova, after all, is the one who introduced me to Bakhtin). There’s even a reference to this by Martynova in her interview.
“In Romanen kann man viele Meinungen beschreiben, Aengste und Hoffnungen. Aber nichts bleibt so, wie es ist.”
“There are many opinion described in a novel, fears and hopes. But nothing stays the same.” I wonder whether Martynova would agree with Olga Gjasnova that things repeat themselves, but she does believe that the world is constantly changing and despite that, we need literature to keep us busy.
Still, her novels are also extremely poetic, and I bet there’s a lot of prose in her poems.
This new novel of Martynova, Der Engelherd, is the continuation of an episode from Moerikes Schluesselbein, another novel she’s written since Papageien. One of the characters from Schluesselbein dies, and another character thinks about this death in Engelherd. In the novel, the angels are ambassadors between the worlds. Of course, this is right in line with translation and interpretation- transnationalism, et al. But what interests me is that Martynova’s angels are based on the angels of Paul Klee… and there is of course some intermedial reference to these works.
The novel itself, though is mostly in deference to the euthenasia the Nazis committed during their reign in the Third Reich. It’s a reminder of parts of German history most German readers feel uncomfortable with and guilty about. The minorities of this novel are not migrants or people of different heritage, but rather those handicapped or people with sickness or defects. During the Third Reich, it was shameful to be sick. I would say there are still certain stigma associated with people not totally healthy. For Martynova, art is meant to break taboos, and perhaps that’s what happens with her novel.
I like her lines about the difference for art between democracies and dictatorships. Martynova says that even if art is censored in a dictatorship, it is still given value and respect, perhaps because of its ability to express ideas that go against this dictatorship. Alternatively, “in der Demokratie entsteht der Eindruck, vom Fussball bis zur Mode waere alles wichtiger als die Kunst.” In a democracy where everything is free, expression is more about what’s entertaining rather than breaking through boundaries.
Martynova is a Russian-German writer. She states that she sees both languages as being her own, and that the difference in her poetry and prose languages has to do with the type of images needed for both, not the language.
I continue to find Martynova fascinating for being able to grasp what is German, and what is Russian, without posing these differences in terms of cliches. I haven’t decided whether I will use her latest book in my PhD, but I will certainly look into it.
Work Cited: Heidemann, Britta. “In Yad Vashem Sagte Sie ‘German.'” Die Welt. Die Welt, 11 Sept. 2016. Web. 11 Sept. 2016.
Disclaimer: this series is a collection of brainstorms and free-writes that are a part of my planning for actual text in my dissertation. Therefore, I am giving myself the liberty to make mistakes, make assumptions (call me out on offensive ones, though!), not tie up loose ends, and generally not make any sense.
Copyright 2016 Dorothea Trotter: because these writings are planning for actual text in my dissertation, some of this will appear in my dissertation. I hold the right to the words in this post and require that interested parties ask for permission before copying the words or ideas too closely. Obviously, the date of posting is the date of copyright and I reserve the right to challenge suspected plagiarism in my future dissertation submission using these blogs as proof of originality.