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Edited by Deirdre Byrnes, Jean E Conacher and Gisela Holfter

Since the tumultuous events of 1989/1990, writers, cultural practitioners and academics have responded to, reconstructed and reflected upon the process and enduring impact of German reunification. This bilingual volume provides a nuanced understanding of the literature and culture of the GDR and its legacy today. It explores a broad range of genres, combines perspectives on both lesser-known and more established writers, and juxtaposes academic articles with the personal reflections of those who directly experienced and engaged with the GDR from within or beyond its borders. Whether creative practitioners or academics, contributors consider the broader literary and intellectual contexts and traditions shaping GDR literature and culture in a way that enriches our understanding of reunification and its legacy.

Contributors are: Deirdre Byrnes, Anna Chiarloni, Jean E. Conacher, Sabine Egger, Robert Gillett, Frank Thomas Grub, Jochen Hennig, Nick Hodgin, Frank Hörnigk, Therese Hörnigk, Gisela Holfter, Jeannine Jud, Astrid Köhler, Marieke Krajenbrink, Hannes Krauss, Reinhard Kuhnert, Katja Lange-Müller, Corina Löwe, Hugh Ridley, Kathrin Schmidt.

World War II in Andreï Makine’s Historiographic Metafiction

‘No One Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Forgotten’


Helena Duffy

Can it be ever possible to write about war in a work of fiction? asks a protagonist of one of Makine’s strongly metafictional and intensely historical novels. Helena Duffy’s World War II in Andreï Makine’s Historiographic Metafiction redirects this question at the Franco-Russian author’s fiction itself by investigating its portrayal of Soviet involvement in the struggle against Hitler. To write back into the history of the Great Fatherland War its unmourned victims — invalids, Jews, POWs, women or starving Leningraders — is the self-acknowledged ambition of a novelist committed to the postmodern empowerment of those hitherto silenced by dominant historiographies. Whether Makine succeeds at giving voice to those whose suffering jarred with the triumphalist narrative of the war concocted by Soviet authorities is the central concern of Duffy’s book.


Jean E. Conacher


Arguably one of those to engage most intensely and personally with the events of autumn 1989 was the GDR mathematician and writer, Helga Königsdorf (1938–2014), not least in 1989 oder Ein Moment Schönheit, her collage of letters, poems and texts published in 1990, where she seeks to represent, and engage critically and honestly with, the myriad of thoughts, emotions and experiences generated by the Wende, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the ultimate move towards the dissolution of the GDR. In the foreword to her collection, the author argues for an appreciation of the uniqueness of the mo­­ment, of the human experience and the creativity it fosters; all these, she recognises, will inevitably be lost in future renderings of events: “Die nach uns kommen, werden die Ereignisse historisch betrachten. Sie werden ihn suchen, den roten Faden durch das Geäst der Zeit. Aber was sie finden, wird nicht das Eigentliche sein” (p. 5). Within this chapter, I explore how Königsdorf configures her collage and some of the themes she raises therein: self-expression and creativity, artistic freedom and responsibility, celebration and mourning, human dignity and reason – and I argue that, in its conscious juxtaposition of text-types and themes, the very genre of “collage” both challenges the normative historiography of events Königsdorf predicts and simultaneously represents in itself a creative historiography predicated on individual experience.