Karl Krolow and the Poetics of Amnesia in Postwar Germany

September 2002
297 pages
9x6 in
Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture
ISBN: 9781571132512
Format: Hardback
Camden House
BISAC LIT004173, BIO007000

Karl Krolow and the Poetics of Amnesia in Postwar Germany

Neil H. Donahue

New view of the prominent German poet, with new research on his activities during the Nazi period and his pre-1945 poetry.
Karl Krolow (1915-1999) was one of the most prominent German poets of the second half of the twentieth century. The sharply distinct phases of Krolow's work reflect the phases of German postwar poetry in general, giving his work a representative stature for the period; and his production as one of Germany's leading poetry critics is almost as impressive. Yet his poetry, despite its prominence, its stylistic facility, and his prolific output, has surprisingly not received sustained critical attention. This study locates for the first time the hidden thread that runs through Krolow's work: his uneasy relationship to the recent German past. During the entire period of Germany's gradual and often painful "coming to terms" with the Nazi regime, the war, and the Holocaust, Krolow engaged his technical virtuosity as a poet in a stunning avoidance of historical content, both Germany's and his own. He never addressed publicly his own activities in the Third Reich and during the war: this study fills in that gap and examines for the first time, with new historical research and documentation, his life during the Nazi period and his literary production before 1945, a body of work that has never before received any critical evaluation or even acknowledgment. With this new foundation, Neil Donahue presents Krolow's career from a wholly new perspective and provides a new foundation for future consideration of his work and of postwar German poetry in general. In so doing, Donahue presents in sum, but overturns, decades of Krolow criticism which, begun on a false footing, missed the real historical depth in his poems: the depth of avoidance.

Neil H. Donahue is professor of German and Comparative Literature at Hofstra University.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Karl Krolow's Relation to the Past-- The Poetics of Amnesia
The Early Career (1940-1943): The Writer and the Regime
Blüte und Boden: Inner Emigration in the Uncollected Poems (1940-1945)
Cornerstone of a Career: Hochgelobtes, Gutes Leben! (1943)
The Postwar Period: Trials and Tribulations
A New Start (The Late Forties)
Modernism in a New Key (The Fifties)
Professions of an Apolitical Man (The Sixties)
The Vanishing Point in History (The Seventies)
Comparative Contexts
Works Cited


Donahue provides important biographical information for the period up to Krolow's "de-Nazification." His interpretations of the early works is convincing. LITERATURKRITIK.DE

Donahue not only constructs a solid basis for understanding [Krolow's] poetry and poetics, but also affords fascinating insights into one variation on the literature of inner emigration. GERMAN STUDIES REVIEW

The great strength of Donahue's work is its careful attention to poetic language, its wealth of close readings, and absence of tendentious jargon. This will certainly be one of the definitive works on its particular subject. GERMAN QUARTERLY

Using numerous, in part newly discovered documents Donahue shows lucidly to what extent "amnesia" can be considered a poetological principle with Krolow. He traces through exact, exemplary analyses of his poetry the manifold ways in which the historic trauma of National Socialism was repressed.... ARBITRIUM

Donahue's study is convincing not only because of its well-thought-through thesis but also by virtue of the extraordinary precision with which he has compiled his findings. MONATSHEFTE

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