- Emerging German-Language Novelists of the Twenty-First Century ed. by Lyn Marven and Stuart Taberner
By assembling fifteen essays about and two sample translations of German-language authors whose work was published between 2002 and 2009, Marven and Taberner intend to introduce a group of “emerging” “ultracontemporary” writers which includes names that are well known internationally as well as “a larger number of lesser-known authors and texts” (2). Each contributor analyzes one novel in the context of the author’s complete œuvre and broader literary, cultural, and theoretical frameworks. While together the selected novels “highlight the productive variety of writing in the early twenty-first century” (12), in her introduction to the volume Lyn Marven has identified a number of “contemporary currents” and common themes that are reflected in these texts: they are “globalized hypertexts” or “glocal” as they employ “transnational [End Page 341] and intermedial intertextuality” (2), feature “minority” voices (6)—both authors and characters—and “tend towards city settings” (8). They are frequently presented as first-person narratives, thus continuing the “new readability” that started in the 1990s, while at the same time “wear[ing] their learning on their sleeves” through their “intertextual references and engagement with critical theories” (4). The quality of the essays is generally high as they present close textual readings embedded within broader cultural contexts and situated in the German or European literary scene. Since the aim of the volume is to introduce these authors, especially the newcomers, to their audience, each contributor also provides a short biographical sketch, an overview/summary of other works, and an account and assessment of the author’s rise to fame, including their literary prizes (interestingly many of them recipients of the Chamisso prize given to authors for whom German is not their mother tongue).
While the essays are simply presented in chronological order of the novels’ publication dates, most can be grouped around a number of topics typically addressed by three or more of the contributors. Marven, Preece, and Klocke all investigate the body. Marven demonstrates how Ulrike Draesner in her novel Mitgift artfully uses metaphors, narrative symbolism, myth, art history, postmodern critical discourse on the body, and poetic and grammatical play with language in order to represent her themes of androgyny, cultural connotations of beauty, sexuality, and ways of seeing. Preece traces how Ilija Trojanow in his novel Der Weltensammler employs the body of his protagonist Burton and the bodies of characters from the native cultures he interacts with in order to show how intercultural encounters ultimately lead to failure—a view that opposes the “apparent celebration of postcolonial hybridity and cross-cultural osmosis” also present in the novel and focused on by most other critics (120). Writing about Kathrin Schmidt’s novel Du stirbst nicht, Klocke reads the novel’s protagonist Helene, who has had an aneurysm and gone through coma, as an illustration of “the link between the body, memory and language in the protagonist’s attempt to regain agency and positionality” (239). The largest group of essays (Taberner, Biendarra, Haines, Jeremiah, Mennel, Roy)—this is no surprise— explores the transnational experience, issues of globalization, and mobility. Taberner situates his topic of “performing Jewishness” in Vladimir Vertlib’s novel Das besondere Gedächtnis der Rosa Masur in the wider discussion of “old-new cliches” (34), stereotypes, German guilt, and political correctness as he discusses his author’s “exploration of Jewishness in relation to current debates on integration, multiculturalism, Europeanism, and transnationnalism” (42–43). On a background of theories from diaspora studies and anthropology, Biendarra demonstrates how Terézia Mora’s protagonist Abel in Alle Tage embodies many transnational traumas, is “a cipher for the immigrant per se” (49), becomes depersonalized and remains “suspended ‘in between’” (53), which is also reflected in Mora’s literary style of fluctuating perspectives, frequent change of linguistic registers, techniques of montage, and a dialogical mode of speech.
In contrast to Abel’s descent into disability, aphasia, and amnesia (the novel’s pessimistic and dystopian ending), Sa...