Narratives of Trauma and the Question of Ethics
Bettina BannaschZero – A Gaping Mouth: The Discourse of the Camps in Herta Müller’s Atemschaukelbetween Literary Theory and Political Philosophy -115
Bettina Bannasch Zero – A Gaping Mouth: The Discourse of the Camps in Herta Müller’s Atemschaukel between Literary Theory and Political Philosophy1 I. In Atemschaukel (Breathing to and fro),2 the latest novel by the Romanian- German author Herta Müller, the first-person narrator, who is interned in a labour camp and suf fering acute hunger, leaves his body from time to time. He undergoes an exchange with objects which ‘are not living, but undead’, which is to say that, as we expect of undead creatures, they need the blood of human beings to bring them to life.3 The first-person narrator gives life to objects, and in exchange they give him the ability to endure. This exchange, in which the narrator perceives his salvation, his survival strategy, continues until ‘the worst is past’. ‘The worst’ is the zero point. 1 I am grateful to David Midgley for his sensitive and incisive translation of this arti- cle from the original German, particularly for his brilliant translation of Müller’s hitherto untranslated German texts. 2 Translator’s note: No English translation of this work has yet appeared. The title adopted for the French edition is La bascule du souf f le (2010). The German Schaukel is used to denote a swing or a rocking cradle. 3 The act of transfusion described in Atemschaukel dif fers from that in traditional vam- pire stories, however, in several respects. Firstly, it is not the desire of the undead that is directed at the living, but the...
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