Herausgegeben von Carsten Rohde und Hans Georg Schmidt-Bergmann. Bielefeld: Aisthesis, 2013. 387 Seiten. €34,80.
Co-edited by Carsten Rohde and Hans Georg Schmidt-Bergmann, the essay collection Die Unendlichkeit des Erzählens. Der Roman in der deutschsprachigen Gegenwartsliteratur seit 1989 results from the conference “Die Unendlichkeit des Erzählens” that took place in the Museum für Literatur am Oberrhein in March 2012. From a genre-specific perspective the volume interrogates new meanings and trends in recent literary history, focusing in particular on the contemporary state of the novel and its particularities and possibilities since 1989. The three critical sections on “Poetik und Ästhetik,” “Gattungen, Themen, Motive,” and “Autoren” comprise fourteen chapters. Framed by a comprehensive introduction by Rohde and the transcript of the “Diskussion” between the co-editors and Thomas Lehr, Peter Stamm, and Sibylle Lewitscharoff, three contemporary German-language writers, the volume charts a history of the novel since 1989 and offers a substantial theoretical overview of the genre as a whole. The book contains a register of authors and other persons mentioned in the individual contributions yet does not include an index of topics and secondary sources, which would have been useful considering the magnitude of the project.
As Rohde states in his introduction, the year 1989 and subsequent German reunification constitute a watershed moment in recent German-language literary history. [End Page 162] Unendlichkeit is therefore only one of many attempts to make sense of the latest historical and literary developments. In the last decade, Moritz Baßler’s Der deutsche Pop-Roman. Die Neuen Archivisten (2002), Digitalität und Literalität. Zur Zukunft der Literatur (2005) edited by Harro Segeberg and Simone Winko, or Metafiktion. Analysen zur deutschsprachigen Gegenwartsliteratur (2010) edited by J. Alexander Bareis and Frank Thomas Grub similarly theorized new trends in contemporary writing, most importantly the influence of pop culture, digital media, and metafiction—topics that also pervade Rohde and Schmidt-Bergmann’s volume. Recent studies from the Anglo-American context include but are not limited to Stuart Taberner’s German Literature of the 1990s and Beyond (2005), his edited volumes on Contemporary German Fiction: Writing in the Berlin Republic (2007) [ed. note: see review in Monatshefte 102.1, Spring 2010, 124–126] and The Novel in German since 1990 (2011), and German Literature in a New Century: Trends, Traditions, Transitions, Transformations (2008) edited by Katharina Gerstenberger and Patricia Herminghouse [ed. note: see review in Monatshefte 101.4, Winter 2009, 612–614], all of which cast a more pronounced historical trajectory of contemporary writing in German and focus on a broader range of themes such as globalization, transnationalism, sexuality, or identity.
Among the plethora of such recent studies, the volume under review stands out in that it focuses on the novel as the “literarische Königsdisziplin in der Zeit der Jahrtausendwende” (11) and explores its current forms and styles especially in relation to postmodernism. As Rohde points out in his well-organized introduction, in which he also gives an excellent overview of the goals and scope of the volume, one of the central questions of the book is whether the movement and genre that has been theorized as postmodernism is still apt to adequately describe and situate the contemporary novel in a post-Wall and millennial context. Following in the footsteps of Nikolaus Förster’s Die Wiederkehr des Erzählens. Deutschsprachige Prosa der 80er und 90er Jahre (1999), Rohde similarly acknowledges the importance of narrative for the present-day novel, yet cautions that narrative styles today are characterized by a heterogeneity of forms and themes, in addition to continuing self-conscious reflections on the conditions and possibilities of storytelling, and the prevailing tensions between fiction and reality. Current modes of writing confirm a continuity of postmodern elements vis- à-vis the interlacing of tradition and innovation, while at the same time questioning such known frameworks by claiming connections to new global and local, social and cultural trends, and aesthetic codes. Interdependent with such phenomena is the rise of new media, which is another point of focus of the book. The cover suggests the...