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Herausgegeben von Martina Wagner-Egelhaaf. Bielefeld: Aisthesis, 2013. 377 Seiten. €38,00.
Writing for the Feuilleton of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in 2011, Maxim Biller dubbed the current literary era the “Ichzeit.” Similarly, Juli Zeh’s 2004 essay “Sag nicht er zu mir” explains how an ever-present “ICH” has led to a widespread “Verschwinden des Erzählers im Autor.” In both of these pieces, high-profile authors remark not only the dominance of the “Icherzähler” in contemporary German-language literature but also the close relationship between these narrators and their creators.
The fourteen articles in the volume edited by Martina Wagner-Egelhaaf examine a literary category characterized largely by such a proximity of narrator and [End Page 147] author: “Autofiktion.” Tracing the evolution of the term from its appearance in the work of Serge Doubrovsky to its more recent and systematic development by Frank Zipfel (“Autofiktion. Zwischen den Grenzen von Faktualität, Fiktionalität und Literarität?”), Wagner-Egelhaaf explains that all usages refer to works that combine common features of fiction with those of autobiography (8). Zipfel’s typology stipulates three forms of autofiction: autobiographies that foreground their own construction; texts that bear a fictional genre designation but feature a protagonist synonymous with the author; and texts that fluctuate between offering a fictional and an autobiographical reading experience without resolving toward either mode.
While all three types are discussed in the essays presented here, texts of the third type claim by far the most attention; not surprisingly, texts that self-reflexively play with the relationship between fact and fiction, author and narrator, literary world and extraliterary reality exert a particular draw on scholars interested in autofiction. Correspondingly, the strong majority of the contributions focus on texts of the postmodern era, and seven examine works written since 2000. Contributions on Edward Gibbons, Bertolt Brecht, and the role of referentiality in demarcating fact and fiction round out the volume. None of the studies take the approach that the works have so often invited in the press and the courts: inspecting and debating how closely they adhere to the facts of the biographical authors’ lives. Rather, as the volume’s title suggests, they explicate the ways in which the literary texts stage and construct authorship, the figure of the author, and the mutually articulating entities of text and writing subject.
This volume will be of interest primarily to scholars of literature written from the 1970s to the present. It is also useful for scholars of autobiography, but its central interest is not so much the fluid boundary between autobiography and fiction per se as it is the exploration and exploitation of that boundary in works written since the late 1970s. This strong center of gravity in recent and contemporary literature permits a broad survey of important issues and stylistic trends in this time period. Contributions examine how autofictional strategies are used to navigate multicultural or hybrid identity, the boundaries of public and private in the internet age, and to reckon with a troubled past. They also deal with texts that range from the hyperrealist to the surreal—or, sometimes, that combine both modes. As a result, the volume offers quite a differentiated picture of the possibilities of autofiction and makes its centrality to key developments of our historical moment visible. In many cases, two or more articles address the same issue, permitting multiple perspectives on or approaches to the same topic. Studies of Elfriede Jelinek, Alban Nicolai Herbst, and Thomas Glavinic, for instance, focus on self-fashioning on the Internet and in an age of media saturation; pieces on Abbas Khider and Ilija Trojanow on “migrant literature” or “interculturality”; examinations of Jelinek, Uwe Johnson, Walter Kempowski, and W.G. Sebald (two) on the relationship to the German past; and analyses of Gerhard Roth, Sebald, and Herbst on the interplay of image and word. Many touch on the figure of the author in the contemporary public sphere and literary marketplace. The volume amplifies the value of these thematic overlaps by organizing the articles such that pieces with related topics follow and complement each other. The essay quality is...