15/07/2013, by CLAS

German literature rediscovers Germany’s neglected colonial history

In the late 1990s, a surge of historical novels about German colonialism in Africa and its previously neglected legacies hit the German literary scene. Accelerated by the centenary in 2004 of Germany’s colonial war in South-West Africa and the genocide of the Herero, this development has continued to the present, making colonialism an established theme of literary memorialization alongside Germany’s dominant memory themes: National Socialism and the Holocaust, the former GDR and its demise, and more recently the cultural revolution of ‘1968’.

Dirk Göttsche, Professor of German Studies at the University of Nottingham, has now published the first comprehensive study of contemporary German literature’s intense engagement with German colonialism and with Germany’s wider involvement in European colonialism:

Remembering Africa. The Rediscovery of Colonialism in Contemporary German Literature. Rochester/NY: Camden House 2013. 485 pp. ISBN 978-1-57113-546-9

Building on the author’s decade of research and publication in the field, the book discusses some fifty novels by often well-known German, Swiss and Austrian writers, among them Hans Christoph Buch, Alex Capus, Christof Hamann, Lukas Hartmann, Ilona Maria Hilliges, Hermann Schulz, Gerhard Seyfried, Thomas von Steinaecker, Uwe Timm, Ilija Trojanow, and Stephan Wackwitz. It examines how the emergence of modern multiculturalism, globalisation and the reassessment of German history in the wake of German unification contributed to this literary rediscovery of colonialism, while also exploring the links to Black German and African migrants’ writing about the theme. At the same time, the book examines the conflicts between the postcolonial politics of memory and the legacy of exoticism, popular nostalgia for colonial adventure, and new fascination with cross-cultural and transcultural experience. Drawing on international postcolonial theory, the German tradition of cross-cultural literary studies, and on memory studies, it brings the hitherto neglected German case to the international debate in postcolonial literary studies.

An interview with the author on his book can be found in the publisher’s e-journal African Griot: http://www.boydellandbrewer.com/content/docs/African_Griot_VI_Spring_2013.pdf

Posted in German Studies