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  • Der Umgang mit Geschichte im historischen Roman der Gegenwart. Am Beispiel von Uwe Timms ,,Halbschatten“, Daniel Kehlmanns ,,Vermessung der Welt“ und Christian Krachts ,,Imperium“ by Max Doll
  • Emily Sieg Barthold
Der Umgang mit Geschichte im historischen Roman der Gegenwart. Am Beispiel von Uwe Timms ,,Halbschatten“, Daniel Kehlmanns ,,Vermessung der Welt“ und Christian Krachts ,,Imperium“.
Von Max Doll. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2017. 579 Seiten + 17 s/w und farbige Abbildungen. €98,65 gebunden, €98,70 eBook.

Max Doll’s thought-provoking and informative monograph couples conventional discourse analysis with a literary mode of Quellenkritik in order to parse fact from fiction in contemporary German historical fiction and to reflect on the constructed, narrative nature of history. The monograph opens with a critique of the critics who assessed Daniel Kehlmann’s Die Vermessung der Welt (2006) according to the aspects of history that this piece of historical fiction ‘got wrong.’ As Doll eloquently elucidates, historical fiction is not about a Ranke-esque attempt to portray history as it ‘really’ was, but about producing a subjective narrative of history (9–10). Obligatory references to Hayden White and Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose as well as Georg Lukács and other literary scholars of the historical novel provide a solid framework for Doll’s research, but—as can happen with a monograph based on a dissertation—the lengthy literature review demonstrates a solid knowledge of the relevant literature at the expense of the author’s own voice. While it is clear that Doll is an expert in the literature, the strict division of his research goals (16–20) and surveyed theory (21–66) into two separate chapters leaves significant questions about his methodology unanswered. The most pressing of those questions, for this reviewer, relates to how Doll theoretically conceives of the chapter segments titled “Umgang mit Geschichte,” which give the monograph its title and seek to compare historical fiction and historical record. [End Page 760]

For each of the three novels analyzed, Doll first performs an insightful hermeneutic analysis of the text and then continues with a source analysis, wherein he explicitly compares text passages and event descriptions as well as the occasional scene or direct quotation within the novels to relevant histories and primary sources such as correspondence, diaries, photos, and other archival material. Rather than just serve as an addition to the hermeneutic analysis, the discussion of each novel’s interaction with the historical record accounts for over half of each of the analytic chapters and represents Doll’s major contribution to the research of the historical novel. Doll implements each source analysis differently, beginning with a very detailed and direct comparison between novel and historical record in the case of Timm, a shorter and more limited comparison in the case of Kehlmann, and a broad-ranging historical contextualization in the case of Kracht.

Unlike the literature critics that he calls out on the first page of his monograph, Doll does not perform these comparative historical analyses to identify what the novels ‘got wrong,’ but rather to precisely identify where the authors drew from, amended, and flouted the historical record so as to comment on the historical record itself. Doll’s assertion that source analyses can help ascertain the intention (“Aussageabsicht,” 19) of the author vis-à-vis the historical record comes across as a bit presumptive, but nonetheless the analyses do provide an added value in terms of conceptualizing the numerous ways in which the genre of historical fiction can reinvent and position itself alongside the historical record. The excellently researched analyses impress with their clarity of structure and breadth of sources, and could surely prove useful references to other scholars wishing to further probe the intertextuality of these novels. Additionally, the significant variation in how each source analysis is conducted suggests that the method is flexible, if however difficult to delimit.

Nevertheless, while Doll’s thorough source analyses of the novels are praiseworthy, because they must proceed from the angle of what is in the historical record, they are perhaps less suited to explain what is not in the historical record. Phrased differently, the constant need to maintain a position defined by the historical...


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pp. 760-762
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