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Religion and Identity in Germany Today

Doubters, Believers, Seekers in Literature and Film


Edited By 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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ROBERT GILLETT - Snatching a Brand from the Burning: Possibilities of Transcendence in Thomas Rosenlöcher’s Flockenkarussell 117


ROBERT GILLETT Snatching a Brand from the Burning: Possibilities of Transcendence in Thomas Rosenlöcher’s Flockenkarussell1 In the afterword to his 2007 collection of ‘Blüten- Engel-Schneegedichte’, Thomas Rosenlöcher recounts an elaborate anecdote about the transplanta- tion of a tree.2 It is a German-German tale of dispossession: the move became necessary when the poet lost his home near Dresden to one of the invading capitalists from the West. It is also an inner-German tale about the reactions of different groups of former GDR citizens, mainly ‘Elbtalbewohner’, to events surrounding 1989. In it, the changing times are symbolised by substitutions. A group of friends and a privileged brother are replaced by a commercial under- taking with a title and a telephone number. And instead of the once prized East German ‘Sekt’, the drink of choice, by the end of the story, is mineral water. Along the way, repeated reference is made to issues of property and ownership. At one level, then, the fable implicates history and is eminently political. Yet it also features a self-deprecating eccentric who, assisted by a set of loyal but not always approving friends, succeeds in carrying out a plan which most right-minded people would regard as crazy. The plan is essentially a private one, centred on the existential importance of a particular tree in the life and work of an individual poet. This in turn invokes and helps to conjure the complicated spectre of contemporary ‘nature poetry’. Moreover the title of the piece, itself taken...

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