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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 Four


Love and Loss after the Wall: Animal triste The 1990s marked a pronounced inward turn in Maron’s writing.1 Her fourth novel Animal triste, published in 1996, is a story of erotic love, of a clandestine, all-consuming and ultimately fatal af fair. In a laudatory review for the Spiegel, the literary critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki situates Maron’s text within the context of the collapse of the GDR and observes that her criti- cism of that state and her relentless confrontation with communism had repressed all other motifs from her writing until 1989: ‘Für die Liebe war da kaum Platz.’2 Reich-Ranicki describes Animal triste as a study of sexual obsession. He concludes that Maron, unlike many of her contemporaries who experienced a sudden loss of purpose following the collapse of the GDR, had, in fact, found her theme: ‘sie hat mit “Animal triste”, dem Roman über der Liebe Fluch und Segen, ihr Thema gefunden.’3 Two years previously, in an interview for the Spiegel, Maron had articulated her sense of liberation following the Wende and had welcomed the attendant thematic and stylistic freedom: ‘in der Gegenwart fehlt dieser Würgegrif f des Systems, diese Bedrohung beim Schreiben. Mir hilft das sehr, eine andere Sprache mit mehr Distanz entsteht. Ich hab’ ein freies Herz.’4 When asked about those themes which interested her in a post-GDR age, she cited the 1 Commenting on the professions of Maron’s protagonists, Brigitte Rossbacher notes ‘a compelling progression or, more accurately, a regression: a movement back in time from...

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