Heimat, Space, Narrative

June 2014
224 pages
9x6 in
Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture
ISBN: 9781571139030
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Camden House
BISAC LIT004170, HIS014000, LIT004110

Heimat, Space, Narrative

Toward a Transnational Approach to Flight and Expulsion

Friederike Eigler

Explores how contemporary novels dealing with flight and expulsion after the Second World War unsettle traditional notions of Heimat without abandoning place-based notions of belonging.
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 1972-82 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.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Geocritical Approaches to Place-Bound Belonging
Heimat and the Spatial Turn
Narrative and Space
Flight and Expulsion
Writing, Attachment to Place, and Jewish Expulsion in Bienek's Tetralogy
Spatial Practices in Bienek's Tetralogy
Writing (beyond) Memories of Loss: Novels by Christoph Hein, Reinhard Jirgl, Kathrin Schmidt, and Tanja Dückers
New Approaches to Flight and Expulsion: Border Regions in Novels by Sabrina Janesch and Olga Tokarczuk
Conclusion: "Lived Spaces" in Literary Narratives
Works Cited


Eigler's book is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in the complex histories of German ?ight from Eastern Europe as rendered in contemporary literature. The author's detailed and nuanced interpretations, and especially the comparative perspective . . . provide much fodder for thought. They gesture toward a comparative, transnational approach to reading literature that can serve as an example for other scholars of German Studies in a broader European framework. MONATSHEFTE

Against the background of a continent's transition that continues to hang in the balance, Eigler's transitional study . . . does well to draw our attention to European literature's contributions to imagining place and belonging anew. SYMPOSIUM

This elegant book provides useful historical and political background to help the literary scholar find a path to understanding. . . . Highly recommended. CHOICE

Question[s] assumptions . . . and present[s] a much more nuanced picture. . . . [T]horoughly recommended. And, true to the standards set by Camden House as perhaps the leading publisher of innovative scholarship on modern German culture, [the book] is beautifully produced. JOURNAL OF EUROPEAN STUDIES [Joachim Whaley]

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