- Anxious Journeys: Twenty-First-Century Travel Writing in German ed. by Karin Baumgartner and Monika Shafi
The fourteen articles presented in the volume go back to a seminar "German Travel Writing: New Directions," part of the 2016 meeting of the German Studies Association (GSA) in San Diego. Starting from travel and tourism as key features of globalized economy and media culture but also a key challenge for today's world, the volume intends to investigate the correlation between "places, travelers and local people around the world" (2) and critical questions posed by that correlation. More specifically, the editors explore how contemporary German-speaking authors have engaged with travel and travel writing as a topos and genre since reunification. The essays focus on literary texts but also graphic novels and a film issued between 2002 and 2016.
Much has been written about travel writing over the last years, including numerous volumes mentioned by the editors such as The Routledge Companion to Travel Writing (2016) or Reiseliteratur der Moderne und Postmoderne (2017). Nevertheless, the articles in Baumgartner and Shafi's edited volume make an important contribution to this rich interdisciplinary research field. The volume is part of an effort to find a new language for conceptualizing travel, tourism, and travelogues from the perspective of current political, economic, and cultural challenges. It is very up to date and [End Page 178] takes into consideration significant discussions of travel and tourism of recent years, anti-tourism demonstrations in Barcelona or Venice in 2017, refugee 'crises' and the rise of nationalist governments around the world. One of the book's strengths is the way in which it situates current travel writing in the political context of economic, sociocultural, racial, and gender inequalities and privileged mobility in the neoliberal world order. Thanks to this, the editors have successfully avoided the trap of taking discourse out of context and extended the range of research topics.
Another achievement of this volume is its recourse to current interdisciplinary research and the latest works of contemporary literature. It offers an excellent overview of the main tendencies in German-speaking travelogues. The volume consists of five sections, each dedicated to a different aspect of recent German-language travelogues. The first part, entitled "Migration and Refugees," includes essays about migrant and refugee travel. Anke S. Biendarra links the discourse of mobility in the works of writers of the "eastern turn" (21), such as Julya Rabinowich and Terézia Mora, to neoliberalism and investigates the fictional portrayal of the correlation between deterritorialization, capitalism, and mental illness among female economic migrants. Magda Tarnawska Senel reads Navid Kermani's Einbruch der Wirklichkeit: Auf dem Flüchtlingstreck durch Europa as a "special kind of travelogue" (47) that in comparison with more traditional ones "makes a familiar world strange" to the reader. She shows how Kermani, writing about refugees, raises questions about the concept of Europe and develops a pessimistic perspective on humanitarian crises.
The second part of the volume, "Travelers and Tourists," is dedicated to the tension between the figures of traveler and tourist. In one of the most theoretically persuasive articles of the volume, Monika Shafi offers a new perspective on the novel Atlas eines ängstlichen Mannes by Christoph Ransmayr, showing how the author uses the strategies of "camouflage and self-effacement" (70) along with Romantic tropes (specific figures, landscapes, histories, modes of transportation) in order to construct a perspective on travel seemingly freed from privilege and Western supremacy. Nicole Coleman investigates representations of dark tourism and ethical issues of writing a travel book on a post-conflict country through the example of Juli Zeh's travel book Die Stille ist ein Geräusch. Heather Merle Benbow links travelogues by Turkish German women writers to colonialist discourse and reads the genre of 'chick travel' as a destabilization of the conventional representations of Otherness. A renegotiation of the genre of travel writing is also central for Karin Baumgartner's essay. She reads Sybille Berg's Wunderbare Jahre: Als wir noch die Welt...