124/1030: a new generation of German literature 

Let’s just ignore the fact that I took a 50 day vacation and do feel guilty about it. Apparently, I also wanted to have my literature review and draft of the introduction done by March. So far, that is not happening. On the other hand, it’s not too late to make it happen.

Today, I want to write a little bit more about contemporary German literature. There is a trend, beginning in the 2010s of prominent publishing houses supporting a new generation of writers with migrant background.  I would say that writers such as Zafer Senocak, Emine Sevgi Özdamar, Feridun Zaimoglu and Yoko Tawada mark the first generation, opening the definition of German literature to those without migrant background. However, in light of the post-Soviet border crises and ethnic tensions, as well as revolutions throughout Southeast Asia and the Middle East, one could say that contemporary German literature reflects refugee paths and causes. Of course, this is distinct from the 1930s and 40s when Germany was the land of departures, not the destination. Of this new generation, one can consider Olga Grjasnowa, Abbas Khider, Saša Stanišić, and Senthuran Varatharajah as representatives of writers who produce content for a society that should open its eyes to its new members and who benefit from a society that wants to satisfy its questions and concerns. 

I make the last note  with a slightly veiled criticism that these writers are “priviledged” to represent vast numbers of asylum seekers and migrants to Germany and their stories are often taken as the truth of what the person with migrant backrogund experiences in Germany, and one must remember that these experiences on and off the page are hugely varied and individual. Still, their writings are interesting and help describe the new multicultural and multiethnic space of Germany. 

I will have to explain that last note in more detail, and hope to do so in the coming days. I just needed a way to get back on track. 

Some things I did do that were productive for my PhD since last posting: applied for another scholarship, read Vor der Zunahme der Zeichen, started reading NW, began working through Irina Rajewsky’s book on Intermediality, a book called History, Memory and Migration, and one on intercultural literarture. So, I haven’t been totally lazy, but it’s time to get back on track. 

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 2017 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.

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17/1030: Kontingentflüchtlinge in new German literature

* edited to define Kontingentflüchtling with the help of the internet. It’s one of those words that doesn’t exist in English. A Flüchtling is a refugee. However,  Kontingentflüchtlinge  are refugees who belong to pre-determined number of a persecuted group, a contingent. These are not asylum seekers. Rather, they are called to a country for humanitarian reasons when a clear and deadly threat is presented to a group within a war-zone, for example.

I didn’t think I’d have to write on of my favorite number posts in a hair dresser’s chair, but sometimes life throws you a few punches, and you just have to roll with them (as the expression goes). So I’m writing without Internet or my research, so excuse me more than usual. I guess this will be a bit of an Auerbach moment. 

I can lead up to a favorite moment in one of my recent reads by Saša Stanišić, Wie der Soldat das Grammofon repariert, by explaining the significance in relation to other new German literature. 

As political and social movements lead to the migration of groups of people, and these people settle in their new countries, often the children grow up with a bicultural identity, honoring their heritage and naturally becoming members of the community they grew up in. Of course, these children grow up to pursue various professions, not the least of these is writer. Many of these people’s first novels are autobiographical in nature, fictionalizing their personal history and often verbalizing many of the conflicts they experienced within themselves. Not all migrants are considered equal- as a recent article about the difference between refugees and migrants shows [inserted after the fact, don’t have Internet now, remember?]. Not all refugees are the same, either. Kontingentflüchtlinge make up a small proportion of refugees. 

Olga Grjasnowa, and most recently Dimitri Kapitelmann are some examples of these kinds of authors. In Grjasnowa’s Der Russe ist einer, der Birken liebt, we see a Kontingentflüchtling struggle with her experiences in Frankfurt, Germany. These struggles are not necessarily caused by her status-she tries not to identify as Azerbaijani, and she identifies even less with her a Jewish heritage, but the reason I write “not necessarily” is because one could in fact claim it is part of her problem. While her personal trauma parallels the trauma she experienced in war in war in Baku, it also parallels the trauma of her grandparents who escaped death in a concentration camp during the holocaust. To some extent, the novel supports an argument that Kontingentflüchtlinge cannot ever escape their heritage. 

Kapitelmann’s novel, from what I can tell without being able to attend the reading happening tomorrow, presents a similar sort of story.

Saša Stanišić’s novel, on the other hand, presents a different perspective of  Kontingentflüchtlinge, after all, he isn’t one. He does not have “einen falschen Namen” (113). (The play between richtig and falsch, each having two meanings – right and real, wrong and fake- is important for this passage). 

Rather, he observes the fates of people with different religious denomination during the Yugoslavian wars. For example, he tells of the “Dreipunktemann,” a rabbi who had been persecuted by the soldiers. Popes, or Slavic orthodox priests were also persecuted, so one knows that these soldiers were probably Bosnian=Serbian, but these (same?) soldiers persecute the Muslim inhabitants of Višegrad later.Stanišić and his narrator, Aleksandr, are both mute about the identity of the soldiers… to the narrator they are all the same- they all bring destruction and pain. 

At any rate, the only chapter without a word title is “. . .” It’s the Dreipunktemann’s chapter in which he describes what happens to him.

nichts habe ich mitgenommen, mit leeren Händen ging ich über den See und hinter mir brach das Eis in meinen Fußspuren durch […] es krachte ohrenbetäubend, als sich nun von allen Seiten neue Rissen ins Eis keilten und in der Mitte des Sees aufeinander trafen, unter dem Torahschrein, er ist als Erster verschwunden, nur Sekunden, before alles andere, nichts habe ich gerettet, in die Tiefe sank: mein Name, meine Würde, mein Atem für lange Sätze […] (101-102).

Enough breath to say long sentences is one of the things Rabbi Avram lost, but he also lost his name, honor, and ability to trust, besides. At one point, Aleksandr asks why people always listen to the silence (107), but maybe it’s a good thing… as that is precisely the very thing Rabbi Avram is threatened to get swallowed up in. Books like Birken or Grammofon help keep the stories of these persecuted people alive. 

Work cited:  Stanišić, Saša. Wie der Soldat das Grammofon repariert. Munich: Random House GmbH, 2008. Print.

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

8/1030: a little about Martynova

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. 

Day One, 1029 Days left

Alright, so that number is a tiny bit arbitrary, since I have no clue yet if I can expect to submit the bound dissertation on July 15, 2019. However, assuming I want to apply for my PhD at the end of the lecture-period of the Summer Semester of 2019, that would be the day.

Pat Thomson from patter has a “Starting the PhD” series that I’ve been following since I knew I wanted to earn a PhD- before I was even done with the MA thesis. Now, whenever she posts something, I’m even more interested in her advice. Today, I am going to follow up on her most recent piece (of advice): write and write regularly.

Now, the “Day One” at the top of this post isn’t really true. I’ve actually been working on the PhD in some form for more than a year. Development of the project already started in May 2015 and became more and more supported with research through Fall 2015 and then again in Summer 2016, while I worked to be admitted into a PhD program. Now, however, it’s time to get out of the development stage. I’ve got the abstract, working bibliography, and abstract. I’ve got a working outline and a time-plan. Now it’s time to start writing.

So today is Day One. It’s the day where I commit to one post a day about my PhD research or something strongly related. Today, I will spend more time preparing this series of blogging than actually fulfilling the goals of this objective, but I need to start somewhere and I’m someone who likes to set-up some guidelines of how to go about doing something for herself. Then I will write.

First of all, all my posts will need to be seen with a disclaimer and a copyright.

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: 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. 

With that in mind, I will try to always cite my sources so that I can claim originality with a clear conscience.

Woo. With that rather legal talk out of the way, some guidelines for the content of my posts pretty much follow what patter puts out in her blog post:

writing about something that puzzles [me], writing about how a particular reading relates to [my] topic, responding to a small quotation – writing about what it made [me] think about, exploring a particular possible idea for a research design, developing an argument about an aspect of [my] research – the choice of method for example, writing about why it is a good choice and/or why it might not be, writing about a talk that [I’ve] heard, recording a research related conversation [I’ve] had with a peer, thinking/writing about what [I] might want to talk to [my] supervisor about, experimenting with different writing ‘voices’ and styles, trying out draft paragraphs, introductions, abstracts, writing descriptive pieces, where [I] work on the ways in which [I] might provide rich detail about [my] work, practising how to incorporate dialogue into an argumentative text, writing to learn to craft anecdotes and vignettes.

I think that these suggestions give me a lot of possibilities to fill the next 1000+ days. Because I am doing my PhD under individual sponsorship- no program, I will need as many routines and structures I can build for myself to get through this. From experience, 1000 days seem like a lot, but they really aren’t for a large-scale research project. Deadlines will still arrive too quickly. At the same time, I could probably get most of my writing done in six months. The issue will be to stay committed to writing about the research and the thinking so that I can practice writing and be able to write something in six months.

Savvy? Good.

Die Ratten- Gerhart Hauptmann

Oh geez. I am really bad at updating this blog. But I guess it’s because it’s the most challenging one since I try to post more than just observations, I have to try and put some analysis in these posts…

Sigh.

At any rate, I’m trying to take advantage of the UniFreiKarte while I can, so I went out on a weeknight and saw Gerhart Hauptmann’s Die Ratten. Again, this was in the Deutsches Schauspielhaus and again, this was a brilliant performance.

The obligatory picture of a rat taken off deathandtaz]xes.com

It was very different than Wassa Schelesnowa or any other play I’ve ever seen. It was just as much entertainment as it was a commentary on theater theory. I struggled to keep up with the events showing on stage while trying to understand what Hauptmann (and the director, Karin Henkel) was telling me about early twentieth century life, the naturalist literary movement, and the role of theater in our lives.

This literary commentary was perhaps given special significance because of the hasty stepping in of one of the roles. Due to an injury one of the actors (who played a double-role) experienced during rehearsals the morning of the performance, two roles were left unplayed, with little time to find a replacement. Yet, the Schauspielhaus managed to find a volunteer actor who had played one of the roles before, but had little experience with the other one. But the show went on, even though the actor played on book, that is, he had the script in his hand. The audience was asked by Frau Henkel to excuse this, and of course I think all of us were relieved to have the show go on. In fact, the young actor who stepped in was from the Thalia theater in Hamburg, and many theater-goers seemed to recognize him and cheered him on.

I initially thought it would annoy me that there was an actor on book, but when the play was in progress and I realized that there was play-within-a-play going on, and even scenes during which the character had the script on hand, I learned to go with it. The acting overall was superb, and they all worked really well together.

I could write a lot about this play, but I’m going to restrict myself to one observation and analysis: the use of Macbeth versus Schiller’s The Bride of Messina. In the third act of the 5 act tragedy (the play followed the traditional Aristotelian model in many ways, while breaking the rules in many others [working class protagonists and breaking of walls, for starters]), the director of the theater (in the play) is training a few pupils on how to act, and they are rehearsing The Bride of Messina. However, in the Henkel inzinierung, the actors in the first act refer to Macbeth and the reference is continued through Acts 3, 4 and 5. I was especially surprised by the use of English throughout the play and wonder why an English Elizabethan play was preferred over a German Weimar Classic one. My limited conclusion has to do with the subtle commentary on gender and power within gender. Much of the play has to do with the fatal “flaw” of the protagonist, her desire for a child. This desire is the Trieb that drives her actions, but her actions don’t really make sense in a traditionally Christian moral world and that may have to do with the fact that this moral world doesn’t really exist. I think Macbeth works in a similar way and perhaps that’s why it was chosen. It may also be more recognized by contemporary audiences. I personally only recently learned about Schiller’s Braut von Messina and it’s two quarreling brothers, and maybe the stuff happening in the play (an attempt to combine antique and modern drama) was not the angle Henkel wanted her audience to focus on.

At any rate, again the stage design was impressive. But really, really impressive was the acting. It included actors fluent in the spitting Berliner dialect that took a while to get used to and a lead actress willing to slap herself (hard) in the face over an over. It was shocking in authenticity and violence. I  am getting spoiled by being able to attend these plays for free! I don’t know how I’m going to feed my drama hunger (which has grown since I’m taking a course on Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy and actually understand some of the literary work being done) once my FreiKarte expires…

The Hauptbahnhof by night. Maybe one of the reasons I like the Deutsche Schauspielhaus so much is because it's so easy to get to! Right across the street from Hamburg's main station.

The Hauptbahnhof by night. Maybe one of the reasons I like the Deutsche Schauspielhaus so much is because it’s so easy to get to! Right across the street from Hamburg’s main station.