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Rereading Monika Maron

Text, Counter-Text and Context


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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Chapter Two


Transgressing in Style: Das Mißverständnis and Die Überläuferin as Counter-Texts In his essay ‘Für eine andere Wahrnehmung der DDR-Literatur: Neue Kontexte, neue Paradigmen, ein neuer Kanon’, published in 1992, the liter- ary historian Wolfang Emmerich called for a fresh approach to GDR litera- ture. By focusing on aesthetic elements, this type of literary criticism had the potential to liberate texts from the constraints of the sociopolitical approach, the ‘umfassende und allseitige Politisierung’ (Literaturgeschichte, p. 17) that had dominated literary criticism up to 1989 and that Emmerich later described as ‘der vielleicht entscheidende Pferdefuß der DDR-Literatur-Forschung’ (Literaturgeschichte, p. 17). For Emmerich, stylistic breaches in the form of disruption to the linear narrative, intertextuality, polyphony, multiple narra- tive perspectives, and, in particular, the unleashing of imaginative impulses all contribute to literature’s role as counter-text: ‘Die bessere DDR-Literatur löst sich vom Of fizialdiskurs und entwirft Literatur als “Gegentext”, als Subversion des Leitdiskurses’ (‘Für eine andere Wahrnehmung’, p. 17). This chapter will explore how Maron provides in Das Mißverständnis, published in 1982, and in her 1986 novel Die Überläuferin powerful counter-texts to the scripted existence of life in the GDR. As demonstrated in the previous chapter, the protagonist of Maron’s debut novel Flugasche wrote herself out of the prevailing discourse system. The journalist Josefa Nadler renounced participation in her society and its stif ling language by withdrawing from her professional milieu and retreating into the imaginative realm. Maron takes this concept of withdrawal further still...

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