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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 Five


Exposing the Gaps in Memory: Forgetting and Remembering in Pawels Briefe Monika Maron’s family story Pawels Briefe, published in 1999, is a sustained ref lection on the workings of memory. As such, it testifies to the thematic con- tinuity of her writing. Stille Zeile Sechs had juxtaposed conf licting memories of life in the GDR; Beerenbaum’s hagiographic account of defining moments in GDR history contrasted sharply with Rosalind’s childhood experience. The narrator of Animal triste had retreated into the most intimate of memories; the full extent of the trauma that she attempted to repress only became clear on the final pages of the text. Memory is the central theme in Pawels Briefe as Maron attempts to probe her mother’s memory gaps and reconstruct a family story brutally ruptured by her grandfather’s execution at Nazi hands. The author herself underscores the central importance of memory and its repres- sion in her text: ‘Und mich interessierte, wie die Erinnerung auf uns kommt, durch welche Temperamente und Überlebenstechniken sie gefiltert wird und wie viel für immer dem Vergessen anheim gefallen ist.’1 In this chapter I will explore memory transmission, generational memory gaps, and the interplay of forgetting and remembering that informs Maron’s family story.2 Pawels Briefe: Eine Familiengeschichte encompasses three generations: the eponymous Pawel, his daughter Hella and his granddaughter Monika. In 1 Monika Maron, ‘Rollenwechsel: Über einen Text und seine Kritiker’, in Quer über die Gleise: Artikel, Essays, Zwischenrufe (Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer, 2000), pp. 95–116 (p. 107). ‘Rollenwechsel:...

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