Doubters, Believers, Seekers in Literature and Film
STUART PARKES - A Clear-Cut Case? Martin Walser and the Charge of Anti-Semitism 65
STUART PARKES A Clear-Cut Case? Martin Walser and the Charge of Anti-Semitism In 1965 Michael Hamburger published a volume on twentieth-century German literature entitled From Prophecy to Exorcism.1 The last word of the title implies that the contemporary German literature of the time was ‘exorcising’ or, in the terms of the book’s final chapter, ‘de-demonizing’ the Nazi past. In particular, Hamburger writes about Günter Grass and Martin Walser, both members of the generation of writers most associated in the 1960s with the process of ‘mastering’ the past and both linked to the Gruppe 47, the body of writers widely perceived as being in the vanguard of progres- sive ideas relating both to the past and the still young Federal Republic. Set against such progressive voices were, it was claimed, the reactionary Adenauer and Erhard governments, many members of which were tainted by their role in the Third Reich and in thrall to the influence of religious conservatism, especially that of the Catholic hierarchy. Times have changed. Despite being a Nobel laureate, Günter Grass, if one leaves aside the notable exception of Im Krebsgang, has received few plaudits for his most recent literary works, whereas many writers who fought shy of the Gruppe 47, for example Arno Schmidt, have seen their reputation increase. The Group itself has been castigated for its treatment of certain writers, most particularly the Holocaust survivor Paul Celan. As for its atti- tude to the Nazi past, it has come under scrutiny for some of...
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