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Rereading Monika Maron

Text, Counter-Text and Context

Series:

Deidre Byrnes

This book provides a comprehensive analysis of the writing of Monika Maron. Her biography charts a complex relationship with the GDR state, from initial ideological identification to sustained, radical rejection. Situating its reflections on her work against the backdrop of a changing critical landscape, this analysis takes account of the re-contextualisation of her writing necessitated by the collapse of the GDR.
The author charts the development of a number of seminal themes in Maron’s œuvre. The search for an authentic form of expression in her earliest texts gave way to a focus on the writing and the rewriting of history. The demise of the political system in 1989 led to an exploration in her work of more intimate themes. Maron’s post- Wende writing makes an important East German contribution to debates on memory transmission and generational forgetting. Her most recent novels are concerned with the rupture and the ultimate refashioning of biographies in a post-GDR age.
Rereading her texts in a post- Wende light, the author explores the complexity of Maron’s relationship with the state from which she emerged and demonstrates how this complexity manifests itself in her writing before and after 1989. This study offers new perspectives on Maron’s work and illuminates the significance of her contribution to contemporary German literature.

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Introduction 1

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1 was to articulate public opinion and, more importantly, the discontent that could not find expression in the of ficial press and media. It was precisely the writer’s oppositional role in the creation of a substitute public arena that Maron recalled in her 1990 essay ‘Das neue Elend der Intellektuellen’: Und wie fast jede lebenserhaltende Symbiose in diesem Land durch den Mangel gestiftet war, so auch die zwischen Lesern und Schreibern. In einem Staat, der den Mangel an bürgerlichen Freiheiten zur Doktrin erhebt, sammelt sich die verbotene Öf fentlich- keit in den verbleibenden Rinnsalen der Kommunikation: in privaten Zirkeln, in den Kirchen, in der Kunst. Der konspirative Diskurs wird zu einer Form des Widerstands. (Begreifungskraft, p. 85) Maron described the privileged status of writers in the GDR: ‘Diese leidvol- len Bedingungen bescherten den Schriftstellern und Künstlern der DDR ihre exklusive Bedeutung. Wie selbstverständlich wuchs ihnen das Recht, sogar die Pf licht zu, im Namen der zum Schweigen gezwungenen Mehrheit zu sprechen’ (Begreifungskraft, p. 85). In an interview published in February 1990, Maron once again foregrounded the very specific function accorded to writers in the GDR. In what she termed the symbiotic relationship between writers and their readers, the former quickly emerged as figureheads: Sie waren mehr als nur Autoren, sie waren selbst für Leute, die mit Literatur noch nie viel anfangen konnten, Galionsfiguren. Das hatte etwas Rührendes. Es konnte vorkom- men, dass die Briefträgerin oder der Wäschemann einem gratulierte – wozu eigentlich? Zum Mut,...

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