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Reviewed by:
  • Hubert Fichte—Texte und Kontexte
  • Thomas Freeman
Hubert Fichte—Texte und Kontexte. Herausgegeben von Jan-Friedrik Bandel und Robert Gillett. Hamburg: Männerschwarm, 2008. 272 Seiten. €20,00.

The papers in this volume were presented at a conference in 2006 at the University of London. In his introduction editor Robert Gillett explains that the purpose of the conference was to position Fichte in literary, aesthetic, and ethnographic contexts. The title of the book and the conference theme are so broad that they could encompass almost any topic. Gillett effectively narrows the focus and brings some order to the volume by explaining that the papers set out to deal with themes and texts by Fichte that have previously been marginalized and neglected. He skillfully groups the essays into those dealing with "die Gestalt" (7) of selected Fichte texts and others dealing with aesthetics, the reception of texts, and ethnography. Gillett briefly refers to each essay and points out how some themes and conclusions overlap. He also mentions that the two opening essays deal with Fichte's earliest writing and the final two essays with his last work. Unfortunately Gillett did not carry over his grouping of the papers outlined in the introduction into the volume itself. Dividing the book into sections with headings would have benefited what otherwise seems a random sequencing of essays.

In the opening contribution Peter Brown discusses the influence of the journal Akzente on Fichte in the late 1950s. Brown discusses Fichte's "self-modernization" when Fichte's conventional style became increasingly fragmented and complex. Brown's essay, based on his extensive knowledge, contains new insights on the evolution of Fichte's texts.

Gillett's own brilliant contribution to the volume analyzes the theme of gossip in Fichte's earliest published story: "Klatsch" (1961). In his paper Gillett includes the original longer text of the story taken from the manuscript. His analysis shows how gossip is a key to understanding Fichte's biography. Fichte mobilized gossip to resist and destabilize the power structure of hetero-patriarchal society.

Debbie Pinfold examines children's perspectives in Fichte's narratives. She argues that Fichte deserves more attention as a writer who deals with issues of German guilt over the Nazi past. Fichte's "half-Jewish" homosexual protagonist is a potential victim of Nazi persecution, but shows the enthusiasm for the Hitler Youth of a potential perpetrator. [End Page 116]

Ole Frahm is interested in how photo-film features made by Fichte and his photographer companion, Leonore Mau, portray the proletarian experience in unexpressed material behind film and photo images. Frahm contrasts these images of the proletarian body with Nazi images of the Aryan body. He analyzes passages from Eine Glückliche Liebe where Fichte expresses his desire to write everything down and capture everything like a wide-angle camera lens. Fichte contrasts this to the focus on details provided by a telephoto lens. Ideally the two perspectives are complementary.

Dirk Linck contends that in the 1960s Fichte deliberately produced "pop" art, celebrating "das Außerordentliche des Alltäglichen" (91). This does not mean Fichte wrote about everything. Instead he focused on particular social agendas such as resistance to the marginalizing of gay subcultures. Fichte's greatest innovation was his removal of classical rhetorical devices from literary texts. (Linck's point is illustrated by Fichte's advice to the author of this review that he imitate Fichte's style by removing all adjectives from his biography of Jahnn, published in 1986).

Ernest Schonfield's essay, written with refreshing clarity, surveys the content and significance of Fichte's ethnological research on ritual behavior in voodoo. Schon-field points out that Fichte interprets voodoo as a strategic resistance of slaves to their abduction and oppression. He saw voodoo as a source of therapeutic catharsis on a par with Greek tragedy or the theater of Artaud. Fichte was ahead of his time when in the 1970s he took into account the role of the observer in influencing what he or she is observing or recording.

David Clark's essay deals with the fear of death that dominates Fichte's early works. This reflects dangers facing homosexuals in post-war German society, but...


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