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Playing House

Motherhood, Intimacy, and Domestic Spaces in Julia Franck’s Fiction


Alexandra M. Hill

Julia Franck, winner of the 2007 German Book Prize for Die Mittagsfrau ( The Blind Side of the Heart), puts the experience of women – and mothers – at the core of her novels and short stories. This study, the first book exclusively about Franck, addresses the various roles that women play in her œuvre: lovers, daughters, mothers, and sisters. With an eye to the way these roles are influenced by and connected to domestic space, the author examines the desire for intimacy and connection that motivates Franck’s characters. Drawing on theories of both performance and performativity, the author argues that Franck creates these identities as mutable and changeable, in effect opening up women’s roles for resignification in an age of renewed feminist inquiry.


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Chapter 2 Lovers: The Search for and Failure of Intimacy in Berlin Literature


In the late 1990s, seeking to identify the malaise of the millennium, the media and literary scholars centred their discussions of contemporary German literature on the alienation of modern life. Although anonym- ity and isolation within urban centres has long been a topic of concern, it was revived here as indicative of the party generation, the ‘scenesters’, the young Germans who seemed to have no jobs, no motivation, noth- ing to do and nothing to care about. Deemed worse than their lack of direction or political engagement was their inability to form meaning- ful relationships with their peers. Love or romance seemed beyond their limited capacity for emotion. Regardless of whether such people really existed among the twenty- and thirty-somethings of Berlin, they existed in German literature, and it is the characters such as those in Judith Hermann’s Sommerhaus, später, Tanja Dückers’ Spielzone or Franck’s Bauchlandung that were frequently mentioned as examples. Katharina Gerstenberger, in the first chapter of Writing the New Berlin, points out that in these works the city is ‘a lonely and isolating place’ and, despite the frequency of sexual encounters in texts by Franck and Hermann, ‘sex never leads to the inti- macy that the protagonists desire.’1 Literary critic Iris Radisch spoke of a millennial ‘Liebeskatastrophe’ or ‘catastrophe of love’ in German society, putting the blame on ‘das völlige Fehlen von Vorbildern gelingender Liebe in modernen Lebensverhältnissen’ [the total absence of models for love that works in modern circumstances] in both real...

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