In 1990, Karl-Heinz Bohrer argued in favour of unification, evoking the nation as a "geistiger Raum." Describing the culture in both particular states as characterized by a dull provincialism that he saw connected to the traditions of nine-teenth-century Kleinstaaterei, he invoked a unified nation in the name of a modern, urban consciousness. A decade and a half later, Bohrer's dream of a nation as "spiritual space" modelled on a nineteenth-century concept of nationhood has been replaced by the speed of globalization and its economic, social, and (multi)cultural manifestations. The "normalization" of Germany into the "Berlin Republic" was accompanied by a transformation of the literary landscape of preunification West and East Germany under the increasing influence of a globalized capitalist market and a postnational consumer culture (Taberner 8ff.; Wehdeking/Corbin 2).
Nevertheless, the postunification literary landscape can be described only partially as a model of global urbanity and Weltoffenheit. A considerable section of cultural production is concerned with either imaginatively resurrecting the lost provinces of East and West Germany or revising and rewriting cultural and public memory – a decisively national, not to say ethnic, and frequently regional enterprise. The articles in this special issue focus on the recent trend in contemporary German literature and film to look back at the particular German states and their cultures, a trend that has manifested itself across several generations. From members of the "Flakhelfer-Generation" to the so-called "Kriegskindergeneration" and the "78er Generation" and on to the "Generation Golf" (Illies) or "Generation Berlin" (Bude) in the West, and from the "Aufbau-Generation" to the "Hineingeborene" and on to the "Generation Wartburg" – postunification German literature is engaged in a complex act of looking back at the two Germanys, from the 1950s to the 1980s.
This transgenerational memory boom may well be related to the tremors of unification. Viewed with hindsight, the fall of the wall represents a fundamental change in socioeconomic realities and a disruption of consciousness in both parts of Germany. With unification, both German societies lost their political, cultural, and social certainties. While the people in the East experience the destruction and transformation of social and economic structures and the biographical certainties connected to them, for the West unification erodes the cosy climate of the Federal Republic's political culture, especially with respect to the image of the past. The increasing speed and ruthless nature of globalized capitalism undermining the economic, social, and cultural securities of a Cold War economic structure contribute further to the spread of a general insecurity. The phenomenon of "Ostalgie" as a reaction to the loss of a living culture in the East and an analogous stance in West German literature that has been termed "Westalgie" (Plowman) have both been attributed to the shattering of the social, cultural, and economic stabilities of the Cold War universe. Speaking of an "explosion of literary discourses about the preunification FRG since the mid 1990s" ("Was will ich denn als Westdeutscher erzählen?" 47), Andrew Plowman notes an expression of desire for the [End Page 95] "normality" of the old Federal Republic ("'Normalizing' the 'Old' Federal Republic?" 145). Paul Cooke notes that by 2004 "the GDR had become 'hip'" (vii), and Jens Bisky sees a "gesamtdeutsche Nostalgie" at work in the popularity of East German nostalgia in both East and West Germany. Remarkable, however, is that over the last decade a generation of young East and West German authors not yet thirty nostalgically and ironically evoke the cultural and consumer landscapes of their youth. For Bisky, this nostalgia is an indication of a fear of freedom in the face of globalization, resulting in a society that is obsessed with looking back, a society "die glaubt, ihre besten Tage erst einmal hinter sich zu haben" (127).
There appears to be a connection between times of crisis and the tendency towards autobiography that provides a medium of reorientation for the subject. This phenomenon is, at least as far as East Germany is concerned, clearly related to an experience of loss that is articulated in terms of colonialization (Cooke 2ff.). The delegitimation of the political system of the GDR is experienced not only as the invalidation...