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Heimat, Space, Narrative

Heimat, Space, Narrative: Toward a Transnational Approach to Flight and Expulsion

Friederike Eigler
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 220
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  • Book Info
    Heimat, Space, Narrative
    Book Description:

    At the end of the Second World War, millions of Germans and Poles fled or were expelled from the border regions of what had been their countries. This monograph examines how, in cold war and post-cold war Europe since the 1970s, writers have responded to memories or postmemories of this traumatic displacement. Friederike Eigler engages with important currents in scholarship -- on "Heimat," the much-debated German concept of "homeland"; on the spatial turn in literary studies; and on German-Polish relations -- arguing for a transnational approach to the legacies of flight and expulsion and for a spatial approach to Heimat. She explores notions of belonging in selected postwar and contemporary German novels, with a comparative look at a Polish novel, Olga Tokarczuk's House of Day, House of Night (1998). Eigler finds dynamic manifestations of place in Tokarczuk's novel, in Horst Bienek's 1972-1982 Gleiwitz tetralogy about the historical border region of Upper Silesia, and in contemporary novels by Reinhard Jirgl, Christoph Hein, Kathrin Schmidt, Tanja Dückers, Olaf Müller, and Sabrina Janesch. In a decisive departure from earlier approaches, Eigler explores how these novels foster an awareness of the regions' multiethnic and multinational histories, unsettling traditional notions of Heimat without altogether abandoning place-based notions of belonging. Friederike Eigler is Professor of German at Georgetown University.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-892-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: Geocritical Approaches to Place-Bound Belonging
    (pp. 1-10)

    Flight, expulsion, and forced relocation of different ethnic groups make up an intricate part of European history in the first half of the twentieth century. While the circumstances and consequences varied in each case, these phenomena taken together throw into relief the precarious state of the notion of a stable and secure home, homeland—or Heimat. Some of the most extreme examples of forced relocation in the twentieth century occurred as part of the “westward shift” of Poland at the end of the Second World War, which involved redrawing the borders of the Soviet Union, Poland, and Germany (as decided...

  5. Part I: Reassessing the Study of Heimat, Space, and Postwar Expulsion

    • 1: Heimat and the Spatial Turn
      (pp. 13-30)

      The German concept of Heimat carries a rich set of cultural and ideological connotations that usually combine notions of belonging and identity with affective attachment to a specific place or region. Traditional notions of Heimat emerged in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century and linked ethnic and cultural identity to a place of origin. Early representations of Heimat were not aligned with conservative political ideologies, but over the course of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries the term was often appropriated for national or nationalistic causes—appropriations that brought to the fore static and exclusionary manifestations...

    • 2: Narrative and Space
      (pp. 31-50)

      My point of departure for chapter 1 was the lack of attention to issues of place and space in the study of Heimat. In the present chapter I examine the role of space in the study of narrative. A cursory glance at established narrative theories (see Genette or Stanzel) illustrates that “time” receives far more attention than “space.” One explanation for this imbalance is the association of space—presumed to be permanent—with descriptive rather than narrative texts.¹ There are two problematic assumptions at play here: the idea that narrative and descriptive elements can be neatly separated, and the assumption...

    • 3: Flight and Expulsion
      (pp. 51-70)

      Twentieth-century European history was marked by changing borders and the flight and forced relocation of a staggering number of people from many ethnic groups. An estimated 60–80 million people (approximately 10 percent of all Europeans) were affected by involuntary population movements over the course of the twentieth century.¹ These massive movements of people—and the human, social, and political ramifications—are intertwined not only with the ideology and politics of National Socialism but also, more broadly, with the history of European nationalism since the nineteenth century. The legacy of the forced relocation of more than twelve million Germans from...

  6. Part II: Horst Bienek’s Novels on Upper Silesia (1975–82)

    • Introduction: Contextualizing Flight and Expulsion in Bienek’s Upper Silesia
      (pp. 71-76)

      In response to geopolitical upheaval, geographical regions assume special significance in literature and other cultural texts. One prominent example is Horst Bienek’s tetralogy, which focuses on the formerly German city of Gleiwitz in Upper Silesia (today Gliwice, Poland). The four novels, published between 1975 and 1982, areDie erste Polka(The First Polka),Septemberlicht(September Light),Zeit ohne Glocken(Time without Bells), undErde und Feuer(Earth and Fire). These Gleiwitz novels create a literary topography of a German-Polish border region that was at the center of twentieth-century political and military conflicts, epitomized in multiple border changes following the First...

    • 4: Writing, Attachment to Place, and Jewish Expulsion in Bienek’s Tetralogy
      (pp. 77-102)

      Horst Bienek’s life and work were shaped by traumatic experiences in the “age of extremes,” as Eric Hobsbawm has called the short twentieth century.¹ In 1946, at the age of sixteen, Bienek was expelled from his hometown of Gleiwitz in Upper Silesia, because of the redrawing of the German-Polish borders. In 1951, as a student of Bertolt Brecht at the Berliner Ensemble, he was accused of anti-Soviet activities and sentenced to twenty years of forced labor in Workuta (which was part of the Gulag, the extensive Soviet prison system).² After his early release in 1955, he settled down in West...

    • 5: Spatial Practices in Bienek’s Tetralogy
      (pp. 103-124)

      Adopting a geocritical approach, in the previous chapter I have examined the textual creation of Upper Silesia and the ways in which the author references, incorporates, and transforms existing textual sources—both fictional and non-fictional. Building on this broad geocritical analysis, this chapter focuses on the novels’ geopoetics, understood here as the mutually constitutive relationship of space and narrative.

      In “Spatial Practices,” de Certeau considers the role of narration for the creation of space, as well as the reverse constellation: “Where stories are disappearing . . . , there is a loss of space” (123). De Certeau’s observation rings true...

  7. Part III: Contemporary Novels

    • Introduction: Remembering Lost Places of Belonging, Imagining New Ones
      (pp. 125-128)

      Discourses on the contested issues of German wartime suffering in general and on flight and expulsion in particular have undergone major changes over the past two decades. As discussed in chapter 3, a new generation of scholars has critically engaged with representations of German victims of the Second World War, an engagement that has been largely absent from pre-1990 scholarship. While my in-depth analysis of Bienek’s tetralogy in part II has benefited from this recent scholarship, it has also illustrated the extent to which this comprehensive literary account of Upper Silesia predates nuanced scholarly approaches to flight and expulsion and...

    • 6: Writing (beyond) Memories of Loss: Novels by Christoph Hein, Reinhard Jirgl, Kathrin Schmidt, and Tanja Dückers
      (pp. 129-150)

      The post-unification period has witnessed a renewed interest in twentieth-century German and European history. This interest is no longer shaped by the ideological struggles of the Cold War, yet it is still fraught with conflict. This memory boom, as some have termed it, is marked by a generational shift away from the first generation of witnesses, perpetrators, and victims and toward the second and third generations, the latter of whom are removed from any immediate exposure to the Second World War and its aftermath. The controversial attention to German wartime suffering is part of this preoccupation with twentieth-century German and...

    • 7: New Approaches to Flight and Expulsion: Border Regions in Novels by Sabrina Janesch and Olga Tokarczuk
      (pp. 151-176)

      As part of the dramatic social, cultural, and geopolitical transformation of these regions since the end of the Cold War, authors in East Central Europe are referencing and rewriting topographies of the Polish-Ukrainian border region (“Kresy”) and of Central Europe (“Mitteleuropa”).¹ Authors such as Andrezej Stasiuk or Jurij Andruchovyc have examined the real and figurative location of regions within Europe, while others, such as Stefan Chwin and Olga Tokarczuk, have revisited the fraught personal and collective histories tied to German-Polish border regions or to formerly German cities such as Gdansk (Danzig).² A few contemporary authors, including Olaf Müller, Tanja Dückers,...

  8. Conclusion: “Lived Spaces” in Literary Narratives
    (pp. 177-180)

    To conclude, I will offer a few final comments on this study’s overarching question regarding literary engagements with Heimat in the context of flight and expulsion and in the context of contemporary German-Polish border regions. By selecting narratives from authors of different generations who revisit the human and social effects of forced relocation in the context of the Second World War, I have focused on different literary responses to the loss of Heimat and on narrative efforts to establish new ones. Horst Bienek’s tetralogy from the 1970s and early 1980s exemplifies the critical engagement with lost territories by an author...

  9. Filmography
    (pp. 181-182)
  10. Works Cited
    (pp. 183-200)
  11. Index
    (pp. 201-212)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 213-213)