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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 4 Translating Silences: Pham Thi Hoài’s Die Kristallbotin and Sonntagsmenü

Extract

In my previous chapter, on Peter Weiss, I have discussed his references to the traditional Vietnamese allegorical female figure, Kieu – a “prostitute with a heart of gold” from Nguyen Dû’s nineteenth-century prose poem, The Tale of Kieu – in his 1968 play, Discourse on Vietnam. My point was that, due to Weiss’s preoccupation with the Shoah as an author of Jewish-German background, his history of the Vietnam War, in Discourse on Vietnam, became limited to a mere analogy of German history. Instead of portraying Vietnam on its own terms, and engaging it figuratively, Weiss treated the universal themes of war and genocide in terms of the absence of real human beings on stage, in what he called the Dantesque hell of Auschwitz. His actors performed stylized movements on a brightly lit, near-empty stage; and his audiences, consequently, found productions of Discourse on Vietnam disappointing and esthetically sterile. Compared to Weiss’s other, internationally renowned plays, Discourse on Vietnam was considered a failure. As I have argued, Weiss seemed unable to relate to Vietnam because of his own historical experience as a German with a Jewish father: his family had to flee the Nazis to Sweden. Thus, in spite of the extensive research Weiss conducted on Vietnam, along with his travels there, which included meeting Ho Chi Minh, he remained caught within a Eurocentric framework. And, although Weiss wanted to support the plight of the Vietnamese people, his depiction of Vietnam on stage seems limited to its abstract status as victim of...

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