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Asian Fusion

New Encounters in the Asian-German Avant-Garde

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Caroline Rupprecht

This book contributes to a historically evolving conversation about immigration as a facet of globalization in the European context. Focusing on literary and artistic works from the post–World War II era, the author uses a «call-and-response» structure – as in African-American slave songs, Indian kirtans, and Jewish liturgy – to create a series of dialogues between Asian-German authors, including Yoko Tawada, Pham Thi Hoài, and Anna Kim, and an earlier generation of German-speaking authors and artists whose works engaged with «Asia,» including W. G. Sebald, Peter Weiss, and Joseph Beuys.

Considering the recent successes of the New Right, which have brought about a regression to Nazi anti-Semitic discourses grounded in the equation between Jews and «Orientals,» the author advocates a need for solidarity between Germans and Asian-Germans. Using «fusion» as a metaphor, she revises the critical paradigms of Orientalism and postcolonial studies to show how, in the aftermath of the twelve-year Nazi dictatorship, Germany has successfully transformed itself into a country of immigration – in part due to the new and pioneering Asian-German voices that have reshaped the German-speaking cultural landscape and that are now, for the first time, featured as coming together in this book.

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Chapter 3 From Auschwitz to Vietnam: Peter Weiss’s Viet Nam Diskurs and Notizen zum kulturellen Leben der Demokratischen Republik Viet Nam

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Internationally renowned playwright Peter Weiss (1916–82), in his autobiography, Fluchtpunkt (1962), refers to a fundamental sense of Ortlosigkeit [lack of place]. Born Peter Ulrich Weiss in Nowawes, near Berlin, his father, Jenö (in German: Eugen), had been born in Hungary, into a Jewish family. Jenö had worked in the textile industry and married Weiss’s mother Frieda, an actress, in Berlin, in 1915.1 She had been baptized a Protestant and although they had a Jewish wedding ceremony, Jenö’s family disapproved of their marriage: according to Jewish law, the maternal line determines the identity of a couple’s offspring, and this caused a rift between Jenö and his family. He converted to his wife’s religion and they raised their son, Peter, as Christian. Jenö Weiss only revealed his Jewish identity to his son in 1935, a year after the family had emigrated to England in escape from the Nazis. Peter Weiss then realized he would have been considered a Halbjude [half-Jew] according to the Nazis’ Nuremberg race laws – and might have been deported and murdered in an extermination camp. At the same time, he felt that, had he remained in Germany not knowing of this paternal Jewish line, he would have simply participated in anti-Semitic persecution, like all the other Germans he had grown up with.

One can only speculate to what extent these conflicting identities contributed to Weiss’s intense, life-long sense of Ortlosigkeit which, as I attempt to show, had a direct effect on his 1967 “Asian” play,...

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