Words from Abroad
Trauma and Displacement in Postwar German Jewish Writers
Publication Year: 2005
Published by: Wayne State University Press
Title Page, Copyright
Introduction: Trauma and Displacement
This study examines the responses of German Jewish writers to the geographical and cultural displacement that is one of the lasting consequences of the Holocaust, or Shoah.1 The project sprang from my observation of a curious discrepancy: several authors who after 1945 lived outside of Germany but continued to write in German paradoxically experienced their favorable reception in West Germany after 1960...
1. The Inability to Return: German Jewish Intellectuals after the Holocaust
Theodor W. Adorno has figured quite prominently in recent discussions on exile and diaspora. Building on texts from Adorno’s exile in Los Angeles, Edward Said has established him as a paradigm of the émigré intellectual whose critical acumen derives from a sense of separateness from his place of residence, a condition that enables the emigrant...
2. Peter Weiss’s Skeptical Cosmopolitanism
Written in 1961, these sentences capture a crucial moment in Peter Weiss’s literary career, the moment when he became a German-language author.1 Weiss had, in fact, written in German before, but it was only after the publication of Der Schatten des Körpers des Kutschers [The Shadow of the Coachman’s Body] in 19602 that he gained that public recognition as a “German-language author,” a label to which he refers...
3. Nelly Sachs and the Myth of the “German-Jewish Symbiosis”
Of the authors discussed in this study, Nelly Sachs is the one who most explicitly and unequivocally drew on Jewish religious concepts as an interpretative frame of her own dislocation. Coming from an assimilated German Jewish background, Sachs was suddenly forced to confront a Jewish label as a result of Nazi persecution. After her last-minute...
4. Paul Celan’s Revisiting of Eastern Europe
When in 1960 Claire Goll, the widow of the French Jewish poet Yvan Goll, charged Celan in an open letter with plagiarizing her late husband’s poetry, the ensuing debate in West Germany about the validity of this accusation cast Celan into a major crisis during the course of which he was temporarily hospitalized in a psychiatric clinic. Goll’s...
Conclusion: Toward the Possibility of a Diasporic Community
In my readings I have shown that postwar German Jewish writers experienced their favorable reception in West Germany after 1960 as a return of the historical events of genocide and mass displacement. Yet however traumatic these crises were, bringing back painful memories of exile and expulsion, they did not silence these authors. Rather, the figures...