Germany Literature

By | January 24, 2022

In a political and cultural framework radically transformed by the reunification of two long-separated communities, a growing consideration for the ‘German pain’ has imposed itself on the united consciousness, and therefore greater attention to the biographical events of family members involved as victims or executioners in tragic events of National Socialism. A second line of interest concerns the micro and macro-history events that took place in the shadow of the Wall. The authors linked in various ways to multiculturalism are moving in a third direction. A fourth and younger trend is marked by issues related to social and customs changes, and is aimed at transmitting an image of Germany ‘freed’ from the Wall, from division, from history.

German pain. – Among the exponents of the older generation of writers, a prominent role belongs to Günter Grass (1927-2015), who in a famous interview in 2006 revealed his militancy in the 10th Armored Division of the Waffen-SS to the whole world. A painful and courageous confession, a few weeks after his autobiography, Beim Häuten der Zwiebel (2007; trans. It. Peeling the onion, 2007), while in 2002 she left the novella Im Krebsgang (trad. It. The pitch del gambero, 2002), on the conflict between Germans and Poles. In recent years he has published the semi- autobiographical text Agfa Box in Germany(2008), the diary of the months of the turning point (Wende), Unterwegs von Deutschland nach DeutschlandTagebuch 1990 (2009; trad. It. From one Germany to another. Diary 1990, 2012) and Grimms Wörter (2010). Originally from East Germany was the writer, also recently deceased, Siegfried Lenz (1926-2014). A constant theme of his work was a critical examination of the problems of German current affairs, still mortgaged by the recent Nazi past, up to that necessary ‘minute of silence’ that gave the title to his latest novel, Schweigeminute (2008; trans. It. A minute of silence, 2009).

In the younger generations the dramatic motif of Nazism is often intertwined (and renewed) with more topical themes. In addition to the novel Gerron (2011; trans. It. A gift from the Führer, 2014) by the Swiss writer Charles Lewinsky (b. 1946), the best seller of the German journalist and writer Timur Vermes (b. 1967), Er ist wieder da (2012; trans. it. He is back, 2013), which recounts the inexplicable awakening of the Führer in Germany in 2011. Still on the theme of the Third Reich, albeit from a totally different perspective, the controversial novel by Thor Kunkel (b.1963), Endstufe (2004; trad. it. Pornonazi, 2006). The work of the German writer (but born in Rome in 1943) Christian Delius has always moved around the convergence between historical events and the German conscience of the twentieth century, who was awarded the prestigious Büchner prize in 2011.

Around the Wall. – From the same generation as Grass is the writer Christa Wolf (1929-2011). The theme of the impossible but necessary leave from the GDR was the leitmotif of his writing, up to Stadt der Engel (2010; trad. It. The city of angels, 2011), on his American experience between 1992 and 1993. Also freelance playwright and storyteller Cristoph Hein (b.1944) is originally from East Germany and author of successful novels such as Landnahme (2004; trans. it. Land of conquest, 2005), In seiner frühen Kindheit ein Garten (2005; trans. it. In his childhood, a garden, 2007) on the events of German terrorism, e Frau Paula Trousseau (2007; trans. It. A woman without dreams, 2009). Among the older generation of writers committed to the issue of reunification, have to remember Martin Walser (no. 1927) and Hans Magnus Enzensberger (n. 1929), the first author of Der Augenblick der Liebe (2004; trans. It. The instant dell’amore, 2005) and Ein liebender Mann(2008; trans. it. A man who loves, 2009), dedicated to Goethe; the second, as well as poetic collections, by Schauderhafte Wunderkinder (2006; trans. it. Gruesome stories of child prodigies, 2007) and his autobiography, Tumult (2014), collage of travel notes from the years 1963-66.

According to MEDICINELEARNERS, the Wende question is at the center of the work of two successful East German writers: Thomas Brussig (b. 1964) and Ingo Schulze (b. 1962). The latter, in addition to the epistolary novel Neue Leben. Die Jugend Enrico Türmersin Briefen und Prosa(2005; trad. It. New lives, 2007), has published the minimalist text Handy. Dreizehn Geschichtein alter Manier (2007; trans. It. Berlin Bolero, 2008) and then Adam und Evelyn (2008; trans. It. Adam and Evelyn, 2009), in which the theme of the crisis of the German Democratic Republic returns. Besides Schulze, a possible author of the work of reunification is Uwe Timm (b. 1940), author of a Berlin trilogy which ended in 2008 with Halbschatten (transl. Penombra, 2011). The work of Volker Braun (b. 1939), German writer and poet of internal dissent, also continues to assert itself in Italy. Close to Braun’s poetics is the East German writer Jens Sparschuh (b.1955), who published the novel Im Kasten (2012) and Putz- und Flickstunde. Zwei Kalte Krieger erinnern sich (2009), co-written with Sten Nadolny (b. 1942), recalling their respective military experiences during the Cold War. Another name that is fully included in the roster of reunification writers is Uwe Tellkamp (b. 1968), author of Der Turm (2008; trans. It. La torre, 2010), a novel in which much of modern literature flows. Contending him for the role of writer of the work of reunification is Eugen Ruge (b. 1954), author of a successful novel released in 2011 with the title In Zeiten des abnehmenden Lichts. Roman einer Familie (trad. It. In times of declining light, 2013), in which the memory of the DDR is revived. The latest novel by the writer and playwright Botho Strauss (b.1944) entitled Herkunft (2014; Origine, 2015) follows the family model. In 2009, the anthology Die Nacht in der die Mauer fiel was published by Renatus Deckert, a candidate for the role of opera of reunification . Schriftsteller erzählen vom 9November 1989 (trad. It. The night the wall fell. Tales about the night of November 9, 1989, 2009). Both Tellkamp and Durs Grünbein (b.1962) took part in this collective and polyphonic work. The latter is considered

– together with the 2014 Büchner Prize winner, Jürgen Becker – one of the foremost poets and essayists of post-unification Germany.

One of the writers of the new generation directly confronted with Wende is Jana Hensel (b. 1976) who in 2009 published Achtung Zone. Warum wir Ostdeutschenanders bleiben sollten, where Zone is the name by which the Wessis, those of the West, called the GDR. The novel by the writer and already established German poet Lutz Seiler (b.1953Kruso (2014; trans. It. 2015) – winner of the 2014 Buch preis – deals with the story of a friendship in the years of reunification. The same award was received in 2007 by the Berlin Julia Franck (n. 1970), for his novel Die Mittagsfrau (trad. It. The midday witch, 2008), on the tragic story of a mother in 1945. Monika Maron (b. 1941), author of Ach Glück (2007) and Zwei Brüder, moves along the eastern Berlin metropolitan furrow . Gedanken zur Einheit 1989-2009 (2010), in which he does not spare acute and pungent comments on German reunification.

Local and global. – The profound changes in the geopolitical, cultural and mental topographies triggered by the fall of the Wall have brought to light all the problematic aspects of a ‘Westernist’ vision of culture. The work of the writer Martin Mosebach (b.1951), winner of the Büchner prize in 2007. A careful observer of oriental culture, to whom he dedicated Das Beben in 2005 and in 2008 Stadt der wilden Hunde: Nachrichten, testifies to this shift in axis. aus dem alltäglichen Indien, in 2014 he published the novel Das Blutbuchenfest, which deals with the theme of the war in the Balkans.

Globalization and the passage of time to the new millennium have finally accentuated in the German literary field those traits of multiculturalism, which had already emerged with the end of the Cold War. Between geography and literature there is one of the most popular novels of the last ten years: Die Vermessung der Welt (2005; trans. It. The measure of the world, 2006), by the Austro-German writer Daniel Kehlmann (b. 1975), a work set in Berlin by Carl Friedrich Gauss and the explorer Alexander von Humboldt. And Berlin itself has become the adopted city of the writer from the Romanian Banat, Herta Müller, Nobel Prize for literature in 2009. Author of essays and lectures on poetics, editorials, autobiographical texts and political novels, Müller reported to the attention to that daily and private dimension which as such is also political.

Berlin is also the city where Russendisko (2000; trans. It. 2004) is located, the work of the Russian Wladimir Kaminer (b. 1967) who paved the way for the phenomenon of writers of another mother tongue, trained in a different culture and which have become an integral part of German-language literature. Among these is the German naturalized Turkish writer Emine Sevgi Özdamar (b. 1946), who has attracted the attention of critics especially with her trilogy on Berlin, in which the issue of gender overlaps the theme of emigration. The German naturalized Japanese author Tawada Yōko (b.1960), who made a name for herself with the book Sprachpolizei und Spielpolyglotte, lingers on the aesthetic potential of cultural difference and its estrangement. (2007). From Bulgaria comes the writer Sibylle Lewitscharoff (b.1954), who was awarded the Georg Büchner-Preis in 2013 with the novel Blumenberg (2011; trans. It. 2013), but who was already known for Apostoloff (2009; trans. it. 2012). In this new scenario in full cultural ferment, prominent names – in addition to that of the Iraqi Scherko Fatah (b. 1964) – are those of Navid Kermani, Terézia Mora, Feridun Zaimoglu and Rafik Schami. The latter, born in Damascus in 1946 and in exile in Germany since 1971, has written award-winning novels translated into twenty-one languages, such as Die dunkle Seite der Liebe (2004; trans. It. The dark side of love, 2006). Navid Kermani (b.1967), Iranian naturalized German writer, playwright and orientalist – author of Dein Name (2011) and Grosse Liebe (2014) – in his works he looks at the integration of the Muslim community on German soil, as in the novel Kurzmitteilung ( 2007). And so too was Feridun Zaimoglu (b. 1964), born in Anatolia and the main exponent of Turkish-German literature. After his debut with Kanak Sprak (1995), he has written many novels in the last ten years, among which the short story Leyla stands out. (2006; trans. It. 2007), which narrates the odyssey of a young Turkish woman traveling from Anatolia to the West. This same reality also includes the Serbian Marica Bodrožić (b.1973), the Bosnian Saša Stanišić (b.1978) and, above all, the Hungarian Terézia Mora (b.1971), transplanted to Berlin in 1990 and established herself in 2004. with the opera Alle Tage (trad. it. Everyday, 2009) and winner in 2013 of the Deutscher Buchpreis for the novel Das Ungeheuer.

Gender issues and the critique of society. – The German-language literature of the last ten years is also characterized by an increasingly dense presence of female voices. Among the most important names is Birgit Vanderbecke (b.1956) – born in the Democratic Republic and raised in the Federal Republic – long since translated and read also in Italy, and author, among many volumes, of Sweet sixteen (2005; trans. 2008), the crime mystery Die sonderbare Karriere der Frau Choi (2007; trans. it. The extraordinary career of Mrs. Choi, 2011) and Das lässt sich ändern (2011; trans. it. It can be done, 2013). The writer Felicitas Hoppe (b.1960) recently made a name for herself, and in 2012 she obtained the Büchner-Preis also for her latest works: Johanna (2006; trans. It. 2014) and Hoppe (2012), which falls into the genre some fictitious autobiographies. Already known for the novel Sommerhaus, später (1998; it. Summer house, later, 2001), Judith Hermann (b. 1970) is the author of the collection of minimalist tales Alice (2009; it. 2011), a circle of stories centered on the mystery of life and death. Berliner, but New Yorker by adoption, is the writer, poet and translator Uljana Wolf (b.1979), who has published (among many works) Falsche Freunde (2009). Finally, from East Germany comes Angelika Klüssendorf (b. 1958) – writer with crude prose and a dry style – author of the novel Das Mädchen (2011; trad. It. The girl, 2013) and its ideal continuation April (2014).

Germany Literature