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Re-forming the Nation in Literature and Film - Entwürfe zur Nation in Literatur und Film

The Patriotic Idea in Contemporary German-Language Culture- Die patriotische Idee in der deutschsprachigen Kultur der Gegenwart

Series:

Julian Ernest Preece

In the year that Europe commemorates the centenary of the outbreak of World War I and the European Union faces a crisis of legitimacy, the national question is once again being posed across the Continent. This volume assesses how contemporary German-language writers and filmmakers have approached this troubled question over the last decade. It addresses whether the collective entity known as Germany should more properly be conflated with the Federal Republic, with its successful sixty-five-year history (‘the best Germany we have ever had’), rather than the ‘nation’ with all its tainted connotations and corrupted concepts such as ‘Vaterland’. Contemporary Germany is a product not only of its history up to 1945 but also of the process of understanding that history and acting upon that understanding since the defeat of National Socialism. Each of the sixteen essays collected here illuminates a different segment of a bigger picture, whose shape and shades are themselves evolving. Presented as a whole their purpose is to provoke further discussion among observers of the contemporary German-speaking scene.
In dem Jahr, in dem Europa den 100. Jahrestag des Ausbruchs des Ersten Weltkriegs begeht, und die Europäische Union eine Legitimitätskrise durchmacht, stellt sich in ganz Europa wieder einmal die ‘nationale Frage’. Dieser Band zeigt Antworten von deutschsprachigen Autoren und Filmemachern aus den letzten zehn Jahren. Es wird gefragt, ob es nicht passender wäre, das unter dem Namen ‘Deutschland’ firmierende Kollektiv als ‘Bundesrepublik’ zu erfassen, und somit die Idee der ‘Nation’ mit all seinen Brüchen – bis hin zum verpönten ‘Vaterland’ – zu verabschieden. ‘Das beste Deutschland, das es je gegeben hat’ zeichnet immerhin eine Erfolgsgeschichte seit 65 Jahren. Das heutige Deutschland ist ohne Zweifel ein Produkt seiner Geschichte bis 1945, aber auch von Prozessen des Verstehens und der Verständigung über diese Geschichte seit dem Ende des Nationalsozialismus. Jeder der sechzehn Beiträge in diesem Band beleuchtet ein Fragment eines größeren Bilds, das selbst ständig im Umbruch ist. Als Ganzes sollen diese Beiträge die Debatte unter Beobachtern der heutigen deutschsprachigen Welt anregen.

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JULIAN PREECE The Soothing Pleasures of Literary Tradition

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: Christian Kracht’s Imperium as an Allegory of a Redeemed Germany1 Imperium, Christian Kracht’s fourth major work of fiction, published in February 2012, is a postmodernist historical novel set mostly in the German Pacific colonies in the run up to World War I. It has attracted popular and critical attention, won its author a major prize, and is his first work to be commissioned for translation into English.2 The novel combines comic archness with erudition and, like Kracht’s first novel Faserland (1995), is rich in allusions to other works from both high and popular culture, some of which it advertises more than others. Through allegory and myth it also of fers an alternative, counterfactual version of twentieth-century German history which is ultimately redemptive.3 This chapter argues that the politi- cal tendency of Imperium can be understood as reactionary only if we take the novel completely seriously, but precisely that is the last thing that the novel’s narrative voice leads us to do. The pleasure that we as readers derive from recognising the allusions, as well as from the irony, humour and exotic descriptions, makes us complicit in its apparently dubious nationalist poli- tics. Kracht invites his readers to recognise themselves in this history of ‘our 1 This is an expanded version of a paper given at Leeds University on 21 November 2012 at a symposium on his work which Christian Kracht himself attended. I am grateful to my colleagues Tom Cheesman and Duncan Large for their comments on it. 2 The...

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