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Religion and Identity in Germany Today

Doubters, Believers, Seekers in Literature and Film

Series:

Julian Ernest Preece, Frank Finlay and Sinéad Crowe

In German-speaking Europe, as in other parts of the western world, questions of religious identity have been discussed with sudden urgency since the attacks of ‘9/11’. Nowhere was this clearer than in the heated controversy over the building of a mosque in the city of Cologne, which is the subject of Michael Hofmann’s contribution to this volume. Turkish Germans have also found themselves defined by the religious background of their parents. For different reasons German Jews have faced pressure to reconnect with a religion that their forbears cast off sometimes more than a century ago. At the same time religious belief among the nominally Christian majority has been in retreat. These changes have generated poetry, drama, and fiction as well as a number of films by both well-known and emerging authors and filmmakers. Their works sometimes reflect but more often challenge debates taking place in politics and the media. The essays in this volume explore a range of genres which engage with religion in contemporary Germany and Austria. They show that literature and film express nuances of feeling and attitude that are eclipsed in other, more immediately influential discourses. Discussion of these works is thus essential for an understanding of the role of religion in forming identity in contemporary multicultural German-speaking societies. This volume contains eight chapters in English and six in German.

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STUART PARKES - A Clear-Cut Case? Martin Walser and the Charge of Anti-Semitism 65

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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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