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Constructions of Melancholy in Contemporary German and Austrian Literature


Anna O'Driscoll

Melancholy has become a central theme of German literature since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The rapidly changing sociopolitical circumstances of the post-1989 period and the continued burden of the Nazi past have directly contributed to this upsurge in melancholy themes. This book traces the complex discourse of melancholy in contemporary literature in the work of Monika Maron, Christoph Hein, Arno Geiger and Alois Hotschnig. Focusing on key concepts of melancholy – time, transience, historical dislocation and posthistoire – the author’s readings reveal the close connection between the body and melancholy from ageing to our gendered relationships with history. This study also emphasizes the relevance of melancholy for current theoretical issues in German Studies, including Heimat discourse, genealogy and transgenerational memory, and postmemory.


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Chapter 2 Melancholy Subjectivity in Monika Maron’s Endmoränen and Ach Glück


Introduction This chapter will examine the works of Monika Maron, focusing on her last novel, Endmoränen (End Moraines), which was published in 2002. Monika Maron spent most of her life in the former East Berlin: she lived there until 1988, at which time she moved to the Federal Republic; she has relocated to an area in the west of the city since unification. All of her work has been formed by her experiences in the GDR. Each of her novels is a prime example of a melancholy sensibility, in particular Endmoränen. While Flugasche (Flight of Ashes), Die Überläuferin (The Defector) and Stille Zeile Sechs (Silent Close No. 6) are set in the GDR, her last three novels, Animal triste, Endmoränen and Ach Glück (Oh, Happiness), were written after reunification. The dif ficulty of life under the GDR regime forms the backdrop to her earlier narratives and motivates the melancholy of the main protago- nists; the latter novels, however, are even more melancholic, especially Endmoränen, in which an atmosphere of melancholy pervades the whole narrative. Endmoränen is related from the point of view of the main pro- tagonist, as are most of Maron’s novels, with the exception of Flugasche, in which the second half of the novel is related by a third-person narrator. The novel is set in Basekow, a village in the former East, not far from Berlin. The moraines of the title refer to the hilly landscape surrounding this village, which was...

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