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World War II in Contemporary German and Dutch Fiction: The Generation of Meta-Memory
 0367473739, 9780367473730

Table of contents :
Cover
Half Title
Series Page
Title Page
Copyright Page
Dedication
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments
The Generation of Meta-Memory: An Introduction
Part I Of Perpetrators and Victims
Chapter 1 ‘Ein verwandter Ton’: The (Im)possibility of German Victimhood in Marcel Beyer’s Flughunde (1995)
Chapter 2 ‘In Search of a More Bearable Tomb’: Narrative Integration and Heteroglossia in Erwin Mortier’s Marcel (1999)
Chapter 3 The Comfort Corner of Victimhood : Holocaust Victimhood in Arnon Grunberg’s De joodse messias (2004)
Part II Memory on the Move?
Chapter 4 The Names of the Dead in Our Communal Cemeteries : The Case for a European Collective Memory in Koen Peeters’s Grote Europese roman (2007)1
Chapter 5 Claiming Memory Citizenship in Mano Bouzamour’s De belofte van Pisa (2014)
Chapter 6 Moving in and out of the Feedback Loop: History and ‘Globital’ Memory in Peter Verhelst’s Zwerm (2005)
Part III The Play with Memory
Chapter 7 ‘Irgendwo zwischen Müllverbrennungsanlage und dem bleistiftförmigen Fallturm der Universität’ : Personal Memory and Autofiction in Per Leo’s Flut und Boden (2014)
Chapter 8 ‘Wir stören uns nicht daran’: Stylistic Refinement and the Play with Referentiality in Kevin Vennemann’s Nahe Jedenew (2005)
Chapter 9 ‘With a stretched arm. Like Superman, not like Hitler’: Irreverent Play with Memory in Astronaut van Oranje (2013) by Andy Fierens and Michaël Brijs
Afterword: A Move out of the Grip of the Past?
Index

Citation preview

World War II in Contemporary German and Dutch Fiction

World War II in Contemporary German and Dutch Fiction: The Generation of Meta-Memory offers a comparative study of the construction of World War II memory in contemporary German, Flemish, and Dutch literature. More specifcally, it investigates in what ways the large temporal distance to the historical events has impacted how literary writers from these three literatures have negotiated its meaning and form during the last decades. To that end, this book offers analyses of nine novels that demonstrate a pronounced refexivity on the conditions of contemporary remembering. Rather than a dig for historical truth or a struggle with historical trauma, these novels refect on the transmission, the narrative shapes, the formation processes, and the functions of World War II memory today, while asserting a self-conscious and often irreverent approach toward established mnemonic routines, practices, and rules. As the analyses show, this approach is equally articulated through the novels’ poetics, which are marked by a large formal diversity and a playfulness that highlight mnemonic agency, a posttraumatic positioning, and the ascendency of the literary over the historiographical. Based on these fndings, this book proposes the emergence of a new paradigm within the postwar cultural assessment of World War II: the generation of meta-memory. Jan Lensen is an affliated researcher at the Institut für Deutsche und Niederländische Philologie of the Freie Universität Berlin. He is the author of De foute oorlog: Schuld en nederlaag in het Vlaamse proza over de Tweede Wereldoorlog (2014) and has widely published about contemporary Dutch and German literature and cultural memory in international peer-reviewed journals, such as Journal of Dutch Literature, Comparative Literature, and Modern Language Review.

Routledge Studies in Comparative Literature

This series is our home for cutting-edge, upper-level scholarly studies and edited collections. Taking a comparative approach to literary studies, this series visits the relationship of literature and language alongside a variety of interdisciplinary and transnational topics. Titles are characterized by dynamic interventions into established subjects and innovative studies on emerging topics. Romantic Legacies Transnational and Transdisciplinary Contexts Shun-liang Chao and John Michael Corrigan Holocaust Narratives Trauma, Memory and Identity Across Generations Thorsten Wilhelm Translingual Francophonie and the Limits of Translation Ioanna Chatzidimitriou Beyond Collective Memory Structural Complicity and Future Freedoms in Senegalese and South African Narratives Cullen Goldblatt Children of Globalization Diasporic Coming-of-Age Novels in Germany, England, and the United States Ricardo Quintana-Vallejo World War II in Contemporary German and Dutch Fiction The Generation of Meta-Memory Jan Lensen To learn more about this series, please visit https://www.routledge.com/lite rature/series/RSCOL

World War II in Contemporary German and Dutch Fiction The Generation of Meta-Memory Jan Lensen

First published 2021 by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 and by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4RN Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2021 Taylor & Francis The right of Jan Lensen to be identifed as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identifcation and explanation without intent to infringe. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A catalog record for this title has been requested ISBN: 9780367473730 (hbk) ISBN: 9781003035169 (ebk) Typeset in Sabon by Deanta Global Publishing Services, Chennai, India

To Ilka

Contents

Acknowledgments

ix

The Generation of Meta-Memory: An Introduction

1

PART I

Of Perpetrators and Victims 1 2

3

27

‘Ein verwandter Ton’: The (Im)possibility of German Victimhood in Marcel Beyer’s Flughunde (1995)

31

‘In Search of a More Bearable Tomb’: Narrative Integration and Heteroglossia in Erwin Mortier’s Marcel (1999)

53

The Comfort Corner of Victimhood: Holocaust Victimhood in Arnon Grunberg’s De joodse messias (2004)

71

PART II

Memory on the Move? 4

5 6

The Names of the Dead in Our Communal Cemeteries: The Case for a European Collective Memory in Koen Peeters’s Grote Europese roman (2007)

91

97

Claiming Memory Citizenship in Mano Bouzamour’s De belofte van Pisa (2014)

113

Moving in and out of the Feedback Loop: History and ‘Globital’ Memory in Peter Verhelst’s Zwerm (2005)

130

viii

Contents

PART III

The Play with Memory 7

8

9

149

‘Irgendwo zwischen Müllverbrennungsanlage und dem bleistiftförmigen Fallturm der Universität’: Personal Memory and Autofction in Per Leo’s Flut und Boden (2014)

159

‘Wir stören uns nicht daran’: Stylistic Refnement and the Play with Referentiality in Kevin Vennemann’s Nahe Jedenew (2005)

184

‘With a stretched arm. Like Superman, not like Hitler’: Irreverent Play with Memory in Astronaut van Oranje (2013) by Andy Fierens and Michaël Brijs

202

Afterword: A Move out of the Grip of the Past? Index

221 232

Acknowledgments

It took a long time for this book to come into being. It started out as a small idea on a sunny Belgian beach about a decade ago, from where it took a winding road through Antwerp, Berlin, Toronto, and Leipzig, to eventually land at an editor’s desk at Routledge’s in Boca Raton in Florida. The travels it undertook were exciting, inspiring, revelatory, but at times also very troubling. Without the support of dependable and generous guides, it probably would have gotten lost somewhere along the road. My gratitude goes out, frst of all, to the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) for granting me a research fellowship for this project (LE 2927/1-1). I am grateful to the Freie Universität Berlin, in particular to Jan Konst, for hosting me at his Institut für Deutsche und Niederländische Philologie and for giving me the opportunity to teach and take part in its intellectual life. Without his welcoming spirit, his energizing persona, and his scholarly acumen, this project would not have taken off. I am equally grateful to Johanna Bundschuh-van Duikeren, Ute Bratz, Bettina Noak, Gijsbert Pols, Matthias Hüning, and Truus Dewilde, for making the Institut a warm and stimulating place to be. A number of colleagues invited me to present excerpts of my research at a series of stimulating venues. Nicolas Ostraey gave me the opportunity to speak at the German Studies Association in Denver; Hans Vandevoorde organized what turned out to be very lively exchanges at the universities of Ghent and Pennsylvania. Christina Kraenzle and Maria Mayr invited me to a wonderful conference at York University and offered valuable feedback on my work. Jessica Ortner invited me to present my research at Leeds University and at a session at the Memory Studies Association in Copenhagen. My gratitude extends to the German Department at the University of Toronto for hosting me as a visiting scholar from September 2015 to July 2016. I expressly wish to thank Markus Stock for his warm hospitality, Helena Jünger for her friendship and for navigating me smoothly through the paperwork, and John K. Noyes, Erol Boran, and Stefan Soldovieri for their intellectual and personal dedication. Toronto will always be home away from home.

x

Acknowledgments

An incomplete list of the many colleagues and friends who have enriched my work throughout this book’s journey (sometimes without knowing it) via their conversation, critical commentary, or witty interventions include (in no particular order) Astrid Erll, Marianne Hirsch, Irmela von der Lühe, Elisabeth Leijnse, Pieter Vermeulen, Michael Rothberg, Stephanie Bird, Art Redding, Bill Decker, Ralf Grüttemeier, Beatrix van Dam, Michael Boyden, Pieter Verstraeten, Bart Vervaeck, and Rebekah Vince. I am grateful to the participants of the ‘Literature and Generation’ conference, which I organized and hosted in December 2017 at the FU Berlin as part of this research project; in particular to Aleida Assmann, whose astute mind and inexorable energy remain a beacon of inspiration to us all. Many people helped me through the fnal steps of this book’s journey. I am grateful to Karen Tengbergen-Moyes for her copy-editing work and for her persistent admonishing to keep my long-winding English sentences at bay. All syntactical curlicues that surfaced after that are on me (sorry, Karen!). At Routledge, I was fortunate to fnd Jennifer Abbott, who from the start believed in my manuscript and whose enthusiasm was gratifying, and Mitchell Manners, who guided me profciently through the various stages of the production process. My thanks also go to Melissa Dinsman and the anonymous reviewers of this manuscript for providing generous and constructive feedback. My last words of gratitude go to those that mean the most. To my parents, Fernand Lensen and Karine Opsomer, who on many occasions had to (and still have to) deal with the meta-levels of our generational exchanges. They observe my wanderings through the world from afar, yet they always feel nearby. To my family, both in Belgium and in Germany, of whom I hope they will fnd something of interest here. To my inimitable twins, Anselm and Tristan, without whose diversions this book would probably have been fnished much earlier, but whose giggles and schemes are endlessly invigorating. May the progeny always keep us on our toes. And fnally, to my partner, Ilka, who was with me from the beginning of this project. She helped me carve out the road and more than once kept me on it. With a quote from Tom Waits: she knows me and loves me anyway. To her this book is dedicated.

The Generation of Meta-Memory An Introduction

As we speak, the communicative memory of the Second World War is approaching its end. May 2020 marked the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II and if we accept Jan Assmann’s claim that this type of memory ‘normally reaches no farther back than eighty years, the time span of three interacting generations’ (2008, 111), then the memory of this particular historical event is increasingly less informed by those with a living connection to it, but predominantly by members of the post-witness generations. Their knowledge of the past depends on material media, such as flm, TV-series, documentaries, history books, biographies, memories, reports, monuments, museums, archives, art, and literature. This development raises questions about how the memory of this war is constructed and renegotiated today: which historical aspects continue to be relevant and why? What are the topics that continue to attract our attention, and how is that attention linked to present concerns and needs? Which media and what forms are used to represent the past, and what are the implications for our understanding of it today? Is there something like a homogenous cultural memory of World War II, or is it rather a multitude of heterogeneous versions caught up in perpetual competition? And how does the temporal distance affect our attitude towards this past? Are we still emotionally and politically involved in what happened, or have World War II and the Holocaust lost their function as ‘a timeless and de-territorialized measuring stick for good and evil’ (Levy and Sznaider 2002, 95) in favor of other incisive events before or during the postwar period? To be sure, European history is replete with such incisive events, yet 75 years after its ending, World War II still holds a frm grip on our cultural memory on a transnational scale. In their book Der Kampf um die europäische Erinnerung (2011), Claus Leggewie and Anne Lang invoke a number of such conficts from European history, such as the Gulag, the ethnic cleansing of minorities, the many other national and supranational wars, the heritage of colonialism, as well as those traumatic memories that enter(ed) Europe through immigration as pan-European traumas. They visualize the structural relations between these traumatic memories within a European collective memory in a diagram of seven concentric circles of European

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memory, in which World War II and the Holocaust are put frmly at the center. Aside from identifying the memory of these events as Europe’s ‘negativen Gründungsmythos’ (2011, 15, negative founding myth), this centrality illustrates their continuing impact and relevance for our self-understanding today. This relevance is apparent from a number of elements. First of all, the persistence and promotion of national and transnational commemorations, the conservation and treasuring of lieux de mémoire and archival material, the continued commitment to this historical period in school curricula and scholarly research, and its residual manifestation in the public sphere, for example in museums and exhibitions, illustrate this amply. The enduring presence of this memory is, however, not just a matter of remembrance, conservation, and curiosity. Its perpetuation also thrives on recalcitrant memory contests that drive the renegotiation of its meaning and its signifcance in light of present needs and concerns. The disputes about notions of guilt and shame in German society and politics, the recurring debates about collaborationism in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and many other countries, the political maneuverings around national memory narratives in Poland and Hungary, the memory contest between Russia and the European Union concerning the responsibility for the war,1 the habitual mud-throwing with allegations of Nazism during the presidential elections in the United States in 2016, and many other examples show that the memory of World War II, regardless of its binding force as a shared, transnational memory, is far from homogeneous and harmonious. Furthermore, the memory of World War II is not just a stick for moral measuring, but also one for warning, as is clear from how it is used time and again to support acts of political legitimation and resistance. The persistent referencing to Nazism and the Holocaust in alarmist responses to the surge of nationalism, populism, and right-wing conservatism in recent decades illustrate this amply. In fact, if one observes the political and socio-economic tensions on a global scale today, no other historical event seems more employed to invoke moral and political awareness. Hence, it may be clear that the events of World War II and the Holocaust do not just exemplify the ‘Jahrhundertthema’ (theme of the century, Augstein, qtd. in Rothmann 2009, 421) of the 20th century. Up to today, they continue to function as the moral measuring stick that Levy and Sznaider hint at. In culture, too, the events of World War II remain a rich source for artistic inspiration. Particularly in popular visual culture, the topic has been surging over the last decades. This is most visible in English-spoken flm productions, such as Steven Soderberg’s The Good German (2006), Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (2009), Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech (2010), George Clooney’s The Monuments Men (2014), Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour (2017), Christoph Nolan’s Dunkirk (2017), Ronald Emmerich’s Midway (2019), and Aaron Schneider’s Greyhound (2020), just to name a few. In television series too, World War II recurs time and again. Striking examples

The Generation of Meta-Memory

3

are X-Company (2017), Crisis on Earth-X (2017), The Man in the High Castle (2015–2019), and Catch-22 (2019). The fact that many of these productions are box-offce hits signals not only the inspirational force of this memory, but also the lasting interest for it among a wide audience. In productions from other countries and in other flm genres, too, World War II is more than often thematized. Think of the Dutch movie Blackbook (2006) by Paul Verhoeven, the renowned Israeli documentary The Flat (2011), Warsaw 44 (2014) by the Polish director Jan Komasa, the animated drama In this Corner of the World (2016) by the Japanese director Sunao Katabuchi, Transit (2018) by the German director Christian Petzold, or the French series Resistance (2014), the Georgian series Kerch: The Lost Heroes (2015), and the German series Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter (2015), and Das Boot (2018). Time and again, the topic of World War II is taken up, not just as the story setting but as the core of the narrative. This variety unmistakably confrms that World War II is not merely a popular subject in order to appeal to a wide audience; it indicates the pervasive presence of its memory on a transnational level. These visual productions may be the most visible manifestations of its omnipresence, yet they are only a small part of a larger cultural interest in the memory of World War II and the Holocaust. Besides flms, documentaries, and biopics, these topics are taken up in theatre productions, visual art, dance, photography, music, video games, anime, graphic novels, stand-up comedy, and – of course – literature. Throughout the postwar period, literature has served as one of the most important media where the memory of World War II has been narrated, unraveled, refracted, renegotiated, and formally (re)shaped. In turn, World War II has impacted the very nature of literature itself, instigating the emergence of new themes and worldviews, reshaping our vision upon its forms, functions, and representational potential, and fostering our refection on the use of poetic language after catastrophe. This impact has remained ubiquitous up to today. When looking back at the last two or three decades of international literature, time and again one fnds novels that engage the memory of World War II. Notable examples from English literature are Martin Amis’s Time’s Arrow (1991) and The Zone of Interest (2014), Sebastian Faulks’s Charlotte Gray (1999), Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay (2000), Rachel Seiffert’s The Dark Room (2001), Ian McEwan’s Atonement (2001), Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated (2002) and Extremely loud and Incredibly Close (2005), Nicole Krauss’s The History of Love (2005), John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2006), Sarah Waters’s The Nightwatch (2006), Heather Morris’s The Tattooist of Auschwitz (2018), Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient (1992) and Warlight (2018), or E.R. Ramzipoor The Ventriloquists (2019). In a review of the last novel in The Washington Post, Stephanie Merry noticed that one ‘can’t throw a potato peel without hitting a new bestseller about the perils of Nazi

4 The Generation of Meta-Memory Germany’ (2019). And this list contains only novels from English literature, while ignoring seminal narratives from other national literatures, such as Jonathan Littell’s Les Bienveillantes (2006), Laurent Binet’s HHhH (2010), or Rosella Postorino’s Le assaggiatrici (2018). This book focuses on a particular area within that vast feld of fctional narratives that have engaged this memory, i.e. that of contemporary prose fction from Germany, Flanders, and the Netherlands. Its inspiration lies in the hypothesis that the shared historical distance to the events of World War II, along with the profound political and economic transformations that have taken place across Europe since 1989, has prompted a variety of fresh literary takes on this past. These changes have attracted ample attention in literary studies, yet they have mostly been studied within the national confnes of these respective literatures.2 This book wants to open up that national perspective and pursue the question of how contemporary novelists from these three countries’ literatures deal with the temporal distance vis-à-vis the events of World War II from a comparative angle. My guiding questions will be: can we, regardless of the fact that the three literatures under scrutiny are each embedded in memory cultures marked by profoundly different claims on the past, fnd common features within this process of renegotiation? Are the poetics of German memory narratives, which are primarily preoccupied with reappraising the legacy of Nazi perpetration, fundamentally different from those of Dutch literature, where questions of victimhood and collaborationism stand alongside each other? Does a specifc national and/or cultural context evoke specifc approaches to memory – both with regard to form and content? And does the emergence of a European, supranational context bring these literatures closer together, or do we rather witness a greater variety that works against the creation of a transnational discursive space of mnemonic renegotiation? In this book, I argue that the renegotiation of World War II memory in contemporary literature is marked by a pronounced refexivity on the transmission, the shapes, the formations, and the functions of this memory today. This refexivity is present both at the levels of content and form. With regard to content, contemporary memory narratives express an acute awareness of the continued impact of the events of World War II on questions of contemporary identity and politics. Furthermore, these narratives engage with the changing meanings and shapes of this memory as a result of cultural and geopolitical developments during recent decades. On the level of poetics, memory is subjected to a process of repetition and revision. The notion of ‘repetition’ refers to the texts’ evocation or recycling of the prefgurative content of past events – a content that comes to us only through mediation. ‘Revision’ involves the transformative, fctional confguration or ‘remediation’ of that prefgurative content.3 My use of the term ‘revision’ signals that this confguration involves an active renegotiation of this memory through an open-ended play with formal devices and narrative artifce. This transformative confguration can serve as a purely poetic statement, yet in most

The Generation of Meta-Memory

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cases it also has an indexical function, as it aims to unsettle established mnemonic narratives and to expose the mnemonic practices that underlie them.

Literature and World War II Memory To study the increased literary preoccupation with memory in contemporary literature, I build on existing literary theory and criticism within this subject area. Scholars of cultural memory studies and literary studies have on several occasions associated the temporal distance to the past with a distinctive change in the literary approach to World War II memory. This perception is most pronounced in the study of the German generational novel. Meike Herrmann distinguishes two main periods in post-war German literature about World War II that correspond to two primary cultural functions. The frst period, encompassing literature written between 1945 and 1989 and what she refers to as ‘Nachkriegsliteratur’ (post-war literature), is devoted to ‘Vergangenheitsbewältigung’ (literature about the efforts to deal with the war past). Here, the reconstruction of what happened as well as moral issues take up a central role. Protagonists are often second-generation characters driven by what Aleida Assmann calls a ‘historic mission’ (2006, 192), and the attitude vis-à-vis the participant generation is frequently antagonistic.4 Friederike Eigler speaks in this context of biographically motivated disputes with and distantiation from the generation of participants (‘autobiographisch motivierte Auseinandersetzungen mit bzw. Distanzierung von der Generation der Kriegsteilnehmer’ (2005, 25)). The second period in Herrmann’s literary-historical structuring of postwar German literature starts in 1989 with the German Wende and involves the reappraisal of how memory was negotiated during this frst period. For that reason, she calls it ‘Erinnerungsliteratur’ (memory literature, 2010, 118). Here, the notion of memory does not refer to processes of individual or collective remembering, but to explicit preoccupations with memory production, its transfer, its conditions, its discursive and medial nature, and its empty spaces and gaps. This shift goes hand in hand with the staging of scenarios of reconciliation. Aleida Assmann speaks of a turn from offcial procedures of dealing with and preserving the past in literature to an anamnesis of undisclosed and unresolved traumata within family history (‘eine Wende von offziellen Vergangenheitsbewältigungs– und –bewahrungstechniken zur Anamnese unbewältigter und unbesprochener Familientraumata’ (2009, 49)). For her, the genre of the family novel has become far more conscious of the status of memory and history, and it represents the family not as a locus of generational confict (‘Ort des Generationskonfikts’) but as ‘lieux de mémoire’ (2009, 49). Michael Ostheimer speaks in this regard of the emergence of a multigenerational memory literature (‘multigenerationeller Erinnerungsliteratur’), driven frst of all by an interest in the ways in which the experiences that are entangled with the history of the Holocaust and

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World War II are handled and handed down.5 This suggests that recent literature is indeed to a lesser extent driven by historically and politically motivated quests for truth, emotional investment, and moral judgment, and more by fnding ways to integrate the National Socialist legacy into the fabric of familial and cultural memory.6 Critics have often explained this change in tone by invoking the authors’ biographical belonging to the third war generation, i.e. their identity as grandchildren of the participant generation. Michael Braun calls them tertiary witnesses (‘Tertiärzeugen’, 2010, 116) who only know the events of the past from hearsay, education, and material media. I will come back to the generational aspect later on in this introduction. For now, it suffces to acknowledge that this generational identity plays a major role in the perception and defnition of the contemporary literary negotiation of World War II memory in terms of detachment. Critics argue that for many of these authors, as well as for the characters they stage, the past is no longer a mental or ‘postmemory’ burden, to use Marianne Hirsch’s crucial concept. Since the lion’s share of historical excavation has been carried out and the past simultaneously loses its traumatic impact, matters of affect and working-through move to the background. Bernhard Giesen speaks in this regard of an ‘objectifcation of the trauma’ (2004, 134), enabling a memory construction that is ‘disembodied, abstract, and detached’ (idem, 135). At the same time, matters related to the present move to the foreground and put the emotional, political, and ethical concerns in relation to World War II in perspective. This evolution has allowed for the shift in focus in recent literature from dealing with the past events of World War II to engaging the dynamics behind its mnemonic construction and transmission. In conceptualizing this shift, contemporary German fctions of memory no longer primarily function as a storage system (‘Speichersystem’, Braun 2010, 113) where cultural and historical data are collected. Instead, rather than merely being a function of the literary text, memory itself becomes an actor in the text. Through this metaphor of acting, Braun hints at the central role taken up by the refection on memory within German literary narratives – a ploy that he, like Herrmann, identifes as crucial to the new paradigm within the engagement with the events of World War II in contemporary literature. On a theoretical level, this impulse has been discussed most cogently by Astrid Erll in Kollektives Gedächtnis und Erinnerungskulturen (2005). Elaborating on the functions of literature as a medium of collective memory, she singles out the refexive mode, which encompasses the ways in which literature stages the workings of collective memory and its potential problems, and how it allows for an act of mnemonic self-observation (see 2005, 168). It can do this implicitly, for example, through the very choice of the prefgurative content it deals with, or explicitly, by thematizing critical refections on the level of plot, character, and form. Erll puts this refexive mode – which she also calls ‘Gedachtnisrefexion’ – next to ‘Gedächtnisbildung’

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(memory refection; memory construction, 2005, 165, emphasis in original) in which literature promises the reader immediate access to the past. Arguably, both functions are simultaneously at work in fctions of memory, yet their mutual relation can vary. Building on Niklas Luhmann’s system theory, Erll identifes the function of memory construction in literature as a phenomenon of the ‘frst order’ (‘erste Stufe’), which involves the observation of objects – in this case the events of the past. Mnemonic refections, by contrast, include the observation of mnemonic agents (those involved in that construction) and they traditionally are perceived as being of a ‘second order’ (‘zweite Stufe’). This hierarchy is, according to Erll, typical of realistic historical novels, while more self-refexive novels draw the reader’s attention towards strategies that express refexivity by means of poetical techniques such as autodiegetic, multi-perspectival, and unreliable narration, or through their focus on the discourses, media, institutions, and practices that shape memory in the cultures in which these fctions are embedded. I argue that the temporal and generational distance allows for the emergence of this refexive turn in contemporary fctions of memory about World War II, and this not only in German literature. Other national literatures, too, demonstrate a heightened critical awareness of the shapes and conditions of this memory, as it moves from being a second-order observation about handling the past to occupying the center of literary attention. By further exploring this shift in German literature and by expanding the discussion to Dutch literature, I aim to defne this refexive turn as a transnational phenomenon. Furthermore, I want to open up the discussion beyond the somewhat narrow focus on the generational novel proper. In dealing with the contemporary literary engagement with World War II, most critics have identifed this refexive mode in this genre on the levels of character and plot. While it may indeed be most visible here, this mode is manifest in a wider range of novelistic genres and in their literary form. For that, I will also analyze the poetics at work in the novelistic explorations of World War II memory and their ethical and mnemo-political implications.

Meta-Memory To study this phenomenon, I make use of the concept of ‘meta-memory’. The term was introduced by Birgit Neumann via the notion ‘fctions of metamemory’, by means of which she describes memory narratives that highlight a combination of ‘personally engaged memories with critically refective perspectives on the functioning of memory’ (2008, 334). Neumann’s term captures the essence of recent discussions about contemporary fctions of memory quite aptly. However, she too used ‘meta-memory’ frst and foremost in the context of ‘autobiographical retelling’ (2008, 337) that is typical of the generational novel. Hence, it remains unclear how the literary act of mnemonic refection about World War II memory manifests itself elsewhere, such as in historical novels or historiographic metafction. To render

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the concept more concrete and to clarify my use of it, I will dissect my understanding of meta-memory. ‘Meta’ stems from the Greek preposition and prefx meta- (μετά-), meaning ‘after’ or ‘beyond’. In epistemological philosophy as well as in common usage, the attribute ‘meta’ signifes the ability to observe and refect about the category it is attributed to. Metafction, for example, is self-conscious of its fctional status and openly draws attention to the fact that what is being narrated is of an imaginary nature. In my use of meta-memory, ‘meta-’ presumes the presence of a perspective upon a specifc mnemonic content – in this case that of World War II – marked primarily by a critical refection upon that memory. While meta-memory requires and can operate only from a disposition of detachment (temporal, moral, intellectual), this detachment is not to be understood in an absolute and exclusive sense. In metamemory, the act of engaging with the past (even from a distance) can be deeply involved for the protagonists, but it is always accompanied by a critical process of refection on the process of remembering. ‘Memory’, the second part of the term ‘meta-memory’, functions here as an umbrella term comprising all processes of remembering – individual and collective – and the forms by means of which the events of World War II are shaped and transmitted. It is, hence, not the subjective, ‘lived’ rival of an objective history, as has often been suggested.7 I see history rather as the study of the past and as one particular symbolic form of relating to that past alongside other forms such as religion, myth, and literature. Historiography, history’s written form, is then a particular discursive medium of collective memory by means of which the past is (re)constructed and (re)negotiated. Due to this overarching use of the concept of memory in this book, the concept of ‘meta-memory’, too, gains a wide usability as a heuristic tool to study the wide diversity of contemporary literary dealings with World War II memory. The third element in my concept of ‘meta-memory’, i.e. the dash that separates ‘meta’ from ‘memory’, has two functions. First, it serves to distinguish this term from the notion of ‘metamemory’ in the feld of psychology, where it refers to a type of metacognition that contains both the ‘knowledge of one’s own memory capabilities (and strategies that can aid memory) and the processes involved in memory self-monitoring’ (Pannu and Kaszniak 2005, 105). Second, and more relevant to my argument, is that the dash accentuates the conceptual detachment expressed by the notion of ‘meta’. Because of that, it signals a decidedly different relation towards memory than that captured by Marianne Hirsch’s concept of ‘postmemory’. The latter term – without a dash – describes ‘the relationship of the second generation to powerful, often traumatic, experiences that preceded their births but that were nevertheless transmitted to them so deeply as to seem to constitute memories in their own right’ (2012, 5). Although, as mentioned before, meta-memory does not exclude personal and emotional involvement, the past that is dealt with does not attain the status of a personal memory in the

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way suggested by Hirsch with her concept of postmemory. Due to temporal and generational detachment, the affective relation to the past is far more limited, which allows it to be approached consciously as an objectifed, discursive construct. I am convinced that this relation is highly relevant to how literature deals with World War II memory today.

The Conditions of Memory As I have already suggested above, the refexive engagement with World War II memory in fctions of meta-memory takes place on the levels of content and form. For sure, these levels cannot be strictly separated from each other, but this differentiation allows me to assess the varied nature of the meta-mnemonic focus of the novels under scrutiny here. As I will argue, this focus is perpetually marked by an indexical and a poetic dimension. The indexical dimension pertains to how these fctions, on the level of content, draw attention to specifc issues in relation to World War II memory in their respective memory cultures.8 This dimension concerns, frst of all, their topical orientation. As with many other fctions of memory before, fctions of meta-memory are occupied with memories that have been obscured or sanctioned in their respective memory cultures by prevailing narratives about the past and established mnemonic practices. These fctions do so to signal or reiterate the contemporary relevance of these memories, to revise them, or to give voice to those previously silenced. In that sense, they function as what Neumann calls an ‘imaginative countermemory’ (2008, 339), challenging the hegemonic memory culture and questioning the socially established boundaries between remembering and forgetting. Yet fctions of meta-memory do not just reveal structures of mnemonic dominance and subordination and propose alternative ways of dealing with the memory of World War II. They make visible how each construction of the past is inevitably marked by processes of selection, thereby intensely focusing on mechanisms that underlie these processes. The objective of their meta-mnemonic exegesis does not so much lie in the disclosure of previously veiled historical knowledge, but in the exploration of what causes some elements to become dominant and others to disappear over the course of time. In doing so, fctions of meta-memory scrutinize the framing and transference of memory in the private as well as in the public sphere, while critically examining matters of mnemonic mediation. The poetic dimension in fctions of meta-memory concerns the formal means implemented by literary authors today to deal with World War II memory as well as the implications of these means for our contemporary understanding of this memory. As contemporary novelists seem only interested up to a certain extent in digging up factual truths about the past, the realistic mode – which is typical in many generational accounts – increasingly makes room for more playful ways of exploring and shaping its memory. Collusions of fact and fction, experiments with narrative emplotment,

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unpredictable shifts in perspective, surprising choices of genre and form, provocative uses of stereotypes and humor, as well as refned poetic writing pervade the novels under discussion here. In this book, I will argue that the convergence of the indexical and the poetical dimension, which I refer to as meta-memory’s ‘double thrust’, is informed and driven by a concern for and a commitment to the conditions that determine our contemporary relation to, our assessment of, and our shaping of the past of World War II. Specifcally then, meta-memory originates in a concern for the implications of our temporal remoteness to the historical events and the mediated nature of their memory. All fctions discussed in this book share this double thrust, yet to distinguish some distinct tendencies within this meta-mnemonic commitment, I have divided this book into three parts. In the frst part, ‘Of Perpetrators and Victims’, I focus specifcally on three novels that challenge established or routine memory practices with regard to the assessment of the people that were involved in the war: Flughunde (1995) by the German author Marcel Beyer, Marcel (1999) by the Flemish writer Erwin Mortier, and De joodse messias (2004) by the Dutch novelist Arnon Grunberg. These novels are not primarily focused on the historical origin of the identities of perpetrators and victims. Their main attention lies in how these categories were constructed and defned as heuristic abstractions, how they were implemented after the war for postwar needs and concerns within their respective memory cultures, and what problems underlie these mnemonic agendas. Flughunde engages with what Aleida Assmann has referred to as ‘incompatibility of guilt and suffering’ in German cultural memory (2006, passim). More specifcally, the novel addresses the question of how to imagine German war victimhood alongside German perpetratorship – an issue that was long taboo in a national memory narrative that was habitually primarily determined by feelings of guilt and shame. Erwin Mortier’s Marcel deals with the haunting memory of Flemish Nationalist collaborationism and how it continues to generate antagonisms within the Belgian cultural memory of World War II. Arnon Grunberg confronts the ways in which Jewish Holocaust victimhood has perpetually been invoked to defne Jewish identity in general and how it has informed social and political discourses and actions after the war. All three novels reveal how the respective mnemonic practices are based on ossifed views of these identities and on entrenched and coercive mnemonic rules. In response, they offer readers normative models in which these identities are presented not as fxed and ontological, but – in Michael Rothberg’s terms – as positions occupied ‘in particular, dynamic and at times clashing structures and histories of power’ (2019). While Flughunde interweaves both categories into a mnemonic narrative that shows their proximity and moral permeability, Marcel’s use of the autodiegetic perspective produces a layered and equivocal image of his collaborationist uncle and of those around him. De joodse messias, in turn, functions as a moral

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laboratory to explore the recalcitrance of anti-Semitism while simultaneously uncovering the adverse effects of philosemitism. Furthermore, in all three novels, we also fnd a poetic, meta-mnemonic thrust. Flughunde implements an intricate intermingling of fact and fction to interweave the narratives of perpetration and suffering and to suggest the possibility of their coexistence in German cultural memory. Marcel uses the autodiegetic narrative perspective as a vehicle to produce irony to counterweight the unnuanced and inequitable views of collaborationist history in public discourse. De joodse messias implements grotesque humor and dramatic irony to provoke anti-Semitic views and to challenge ingrained visions and uses of Holocaust victimhood. Although my readings are primarily oriented toward the novels’ indexical dimension, I will touch upon their poetic dimension too. In offering these normative models for remembering, these authors do not necessarily signal a rejection of established practices of remembering, such as nostalgia, melancholia, repression, and forgetting. They rather critically dissect how sustained antagonisms or failed efforts to cope with matters of guilt and victimhood prevent the formulation of posttraumatic defnitions of self and other in relation to that past. By engaging these issues, these fctions of meta-memory reveal how the memory of the war past continues to haunt the present and impacts our understanding of individual and collective identities in negative ways, even decades after the war’s ending. Besides engaging the conditions that determine the transference of memory from the past to the present and the continuing impact of the past onto the present, literary meta-memory is also concerned with how the mnemonic conditions in and of the present affect our understanding and construction of World War II memory. I address this issue in the second part of this book, entitled ‘Memory on the Move?’, which contains analyses of three novels that deal with how we remember this past in an age of globalization, migration, and digitalization: Grote Europese roman (2007) by the Flemish author Koen Peeters, De belofte van Pisa (2013) by the Dutch writer Mano Bouzamour, and Zwerm (2005) by the Flemish novelist Peter Verhelst. In all three novels, memory is not conceived of as fxed, static, or bound to certain spatial, temporal, or cultural limits, but as a fuid, dynamic, and unbound concept. Through the wanderings of its protagonist throughout Europe, Grote Europese roman explores the supra- and transnational nature of World War II memory and its crucial role in holding the European Union together. While pointing at the cohesive power of this memory and stressing its function as a community-building tool, it also emphasizes its intrinsic heterogeneity. Through this duality, it aims to contribute to the emergence of what Klaus Eder has termed ‘a European public space, which provides an arena for communicating the past to European citizens’ (2005, 216–217). European institutions have at various points attempted to play this role, as for example during the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust

12 The Generation of Meta-Memory in 2000, yet Eder suggests that what Europe really needs most are ‘cultural techniques such as symbolically-mediated representations of what people have in common’ (2005, 205). The EU, he claims, is a supranational society in need of symbolic mediation if ever there was one, because it is structured by more interruptions of social relations than any society known and because its members do not engage in direct social relations. As I will show in my discussion, Koen Peeters’s Grote Europese roman is an outspoken example of such a symbolic mediation. Mano Bouzamour’s De belofte van Pisa challenges the notion of memory as a form of cultural and ethnic property. The novel stages a second-generation migrant who shows an avid interest for the history of World War II, thus engaging a memory that is at once his and not his. It is his because he is born in a society in which the event of the Holocaust is an inevitable part of cultural memory, yet at the same time, his ethnic belonging and his growing up in a Muslim environment suggest that his identity is also determined by other, diasporic memories. Because of this duality De belofte van Pisa opens up a number of questions about the transnational and transcultural role of memory with regard to migrant identity and the ability to inhabit a ‘new’ cultural memory or two cultural memories at the same time. It explores the tensions that arise when the perceived ethnic other actively partakes in what is commonly considered the domain of the imagined self: the Dutch and – by extension – Western cultural memory of the Holocaust. By doing so, the novel explores the act and the cultural status of remembering in a world that is marked by incisive demographic changes. Peter Verhelst’s Zwerm, the third novel in the second part, explores the impact of globalization and digitalization on the shape of World War II memory. It stages this memory – and memory in general – not as a homogeneous or linear narrative, but as a complex network of texts that links several traumatic events from recent Western history. As its title suggests, the novel presents us with a swarm of alternating and intersecting stories, persistently and unpredictably changing in subject, form, tone, typography, and narrative perspective – a bit like a swarm of birds that is constantly changing shape and direction. Like in De belofte van Pisa, memory is no longer tied to a certain group or territory but becomes unbound, and its shape is – like in the swarm – strictly determined by the micro-movements of the group’s individual entities. Rather than a clear-cut and tangible entity, the concept of memory becomes a shorthand for a dense network of interconnected, deterritorialized, and ever disseminating memorial traces that move in an extremely fast, unpredictable way. These conceptual refections are expressed in the novel’s formal characteristics too. Not only do we fnd a multitude of storylines and historical knowledge spread out throughout the novel, Zwerm also lacks a traditional, narrative trajectory from a beginning, via a middle, to an end. Here, such straightforward narrative is replaced by an amorphous compilation of stories, marked by transformation, unreliable references, and a lack of narrative

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closure. This formal articulation of the radical and playful unpredictability of mnemonic dissemination in the age of globalization and digitalization is a very apt expression of meta-memory’s second, poetic thrust.

The Play with Memory The third part of this book, entitled ‘The Play with Memory’, focuses in particular on this poetic thrust and explores the playful engagement with memory, which I recognize in fctions of meta-memory at the level of literary form. This playfulness, which I explain in more detail in the third part’s introduction, involves the search for and the expression of an autonomous way of dealing with the past. This quest for autonomy is, I will argue, tightly linked to the authors’ temporal and generational distance to the historical events, and it entails a self-conscious urge to fnd and develop a strictly personal relation to this memory. This personal relation is not a matter of psychologically working through or coming to terms with that past. It rather involves a process in which the memory of a non-experienced past is turned into one’s own, involving mechanisms of appropriation and a self-suffcient, often irreverent resignifcation, in which imaginative creation and the play with form play a major role. As I have mentioned before, this resignifcation involves a process of repetition and revision. ‘Repetition’ refers to the texts’ evocation or recycling of the prefgurative content of past events – a content that comes to us only through mediation. ‘Revision’ involves the transformative, fctional confguration or ‘re-mediatization’ of that prefgurative content, which is marked by a high degree of self-refexiveness with regard to materiality, mediality, and the principle of creative construction. My use of the term ‘revision’ signals that this confguration involves an active renegotiation of the past through an open-ended play with formal devices and narrative artifce. This transformative confguration on the formal level – which I have referred to previously as the second part of meta-memory’s ‘double thrust’ – can serve as a purely poetic statement, yet in most cases it also refects back onto the indexical dimension of these novels’ meta-mnemonic refection, as it contributes to the unsettling of established ways of dealing with the past. In the three novels under scrutiny in this third part, this act of appropriation and resignifcation takes on varying forms. In Flut und Boden (2014) by the German novelist Per Leo, we follow the story of a third-generation protagonist’s search for a way to relate to his family past. What stands out is not his quest for knowledge and historical insight, but his self-interested and irreverent treatment of his grandfather’s library with Nazi literature and his mocking of the latter’s involvement in the NS party. Rather than a historical or psychological account of coming to terms with this legacy, the novel is a tale of how the protagonist-narrator strives to construct his very own version of history from a present point of view. While relevant as an expression of the protagonist’s identity construction and emancipation

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from his grandfather’s legacy, this personal account of history primarily demonstrates his ability to playfully construct his own vision of history by means of specifc literary techniques, i.e. through complex narrative emplotment, by juxtaposing the genres of hagiography and satire through irony and parody, and through stylistic refnement. Such complex emplotment and the use of poetics are at the heart of the second novel discussed in this third part, i.e. Nahe Jedenew (2005) by the German author Kevin Vennemann. This book tells the story of the killing of two Jewish veterinarians’ families by local farmers in the vicinity (‘nahe’) of the fctional village of Jedenew. Although its story and form suggest historical insight into the experience of trauma, its form displays such a high degree of literariness through the use of poetic language that the novel seems far more a literary than a referential, historically oriented construct. This characteristic is underscored by the many self-referential remarks about the fctional nature of historical tales. At some point in the novel, the protagonist talks about one of her father’s supposedly true stories, yet it might as well be concocted: ‘After we discover the story in a book in Father’s library, we’re uncertain for a long time whether Father is indeed making it up’ (Vennemann 2008, 117). The protagonist does not experience this ambiguity as a problem, but willingly accepts it as one story within a large collection of narratives of their family life: ‘that this story that he pilfers from here and there and devises as his is now, for us, his story, just as everything else around us is only a story that can just as well be an invention as Father’s’, idem, 90–91). For Vennemann’s generation, one critic once suggested, history is ‘vor allem eine Geschichte’ (frst of all a story, Diez 2006). Because of this, the need for documentation and factual accuracy, expressed by the historic mission that Aleida Assmann recognizes in so many earlier memory narratives about World War II, gives way to a primarily fctional appropriation of historical events. In Nahe Jedenew and in Leo’s Flut und Boden, the past of World War II is appropriated, self-consciously refgured into a new narrative, and framed into a playful form, exemplifying how history is explicitly turned into a literary story. Astronaut van Oranje (2013) by the Flemish authors Andy Fierens and Michaël Brijs is the last novel discussed in this book. Similar to Leo and Vennemann, these authors also approach the past as something that is available to an open-ended appropriation, but its transformation into literature follows a different path. The novel engages with the legacy of World War II collaborationism in Belgium. However, rather than tackling this topic through morally inspired negotiations of guilt and accountability (as in frstand second-generation novels) or intergenerational dealings with questions of identity (as in Mortier’s Marcel, see Chapter 2), Astronaut van Oranje approaches this history as something that can be randomly appropriated and implemented for literary purposes. This is manifest from the authors’ use of collaborationists’ names for the characters in the novel. Although the

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collaborationist history is to a certain extent evoked through this implementation, the historical personas become entirely tied up in a new, fctional universe. As I will argue in my reading, history is here frst of all appropriated for fctional purposes, which expresses a view of cultural memory not just as a collection of (hi)stories (as in Flut und Boden or Nahe Jedenew), but also as a discursive reservoir from which one can select and implement freely and without reverence to historical accuracy, political sensitivities, or mnemonic rules. This resistance against mnemonic rules, both on the indexical and on the poetic level, runs as a recurring theme through the fctions of meta-memory discussed in this book. While the authors discussed in the frst section critically reassess ingrained conceptions of the relation between historical categories and contemporary identities, those in the second section resist reifed visions of memory as bound to certain spatial and cultural markers. The authors in the third part express their mnemonic independence from a past they did not experience in person and which they make their own through the act of literary refguration. This shared interest for contemporary relevance and mnemonic autonomy reveals a self-conscious rift between past and present, between the object of the past and the remembering subject, between factual truth and fctional construction. In that sense, contemporary acts of literary remembering deliberately move away from earlier versions of World War II memory. In the following pages, I will conceptualize this move in generational terms.

‘Generation’: A New Paradigm? The title of this book ‘The Generation of Meta-Memory’ serves as an echo of Marianne Hirsch’s seminal study The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture After the Holocaust (2012). Here, Hirsch defnes ‘postmemory’ as the relationship that the ‘generation after’ bears to the personal, collective, and cultural trauma of those who came before – to experiences they ‘remember’ only by means of the stories, images, and behaviors among which they grew up. But these experiences were transmitted to them so deeply and affectively as to seem to constitute memories in their own right. (Hirsch 2012, 5) In other words, the term has frst of all been coined to defne the second generation’s relation and response to that of the survivors and therefore presupposes a measure of temporal, spatial, and social proximity to the survivors. If that relation takes place within the family, Hirsch uses the term ‘familial’ postmemory; for the broader, generational impact she reserves the term ‘affliative’ postmemory.

16 The Generation of Meta-Memory Although Hirsch does not make it explicit, this relation is determined by struggle. For her, postmemory is a consequence of growing up ‘with overwhelming inherited memories, dominated by narratives that preceded one’s birth or one’s consciousness, [and the risk of] having one’s own stories and experiences displaced, even evacuated, by our ancestors’ (2012, 5). The notions ‘overwhelming’, ‘dominant’, and ‘displaced’ suggest that the legacy of those who witnessed and survived massive historical trauma compromises the memory and identity of the ‘generation after’. The struggle of this generation is therefore one of ‘dissociation’ (2012, 6) or, as Karein Goertz aptly formulates, of the efforts to emerge ‘out of the grip (l’emprise) of an inherited past’ (1998, 34). Yet narratives about historical trauma are often absent. In many cases, the behavior of survivors is marked by silence, which, as Nadine Fresco suggests, leads to ‘the impotence of incomprehension: the past eludes and excludes them [the second generation]’, and they become caught up in ‘the compact void of the unspeakable’ (1984, 419). Many stories of secondgeneration writers and artists thematize precisely the process of dealing with this absence and the struggle to comprehend the previous generation’s traumatic experiences with the help of ‘imaginative investment, projection, and creation’ (Hirsch 2012, 5). Here, rather than dissociation, the generation of postmemory seeks proximity and association. For that reason, postmemory is inherently determined by what Hirsch terms ‘an uneasy oscillation between continuity and rupture’ (2012, 6). Hirsch coined her notion of postmemory frst of all in relation to the descendants of Holocaust victims, yet many second-generation novels thematize this oscillation in the behavior of perpetrator descendants as well. As I have indicated in the beginning of this introduction, one notices a strong dissociation from the problematic perpetrator legacy of the Vätergeneration. At the same time, however, dealing with the parents’ guilt also leads to a search for proximity, not only to unravel the exact nature of their involvement through a historic mission, but also to reveal and understand the complexity of that involvement and even seek ways of reconciliation.9 So, postmemory and dealing with Väter: in general terms, these relational structures signal the uneasy oscillation between rupture and continuity in second-generation literature about World War II. I believe that these dynamics are of equal importance in contemporary fctions of memory, albeit in a different form. Here the oscillation between rupture and continuity, between detachment from and attachment to the past, is no longer such an uneasy one. It is marked by ironic resignifcation. Authors do still relate to the past through a process of repetition, yet the confguration or remediation through play signals a far less stringent and far more autonomous stance in relation to the past and towards the media via which the past has been transferred to us. Yet, how to conceive of meta-memory from a literary-historical point of view? Are we dealing with a new paradigm in memory culture and this on

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a transnational level? Crucial to my understanding of ‘generation’ is that I do not use it in an empirical, genealogical, family-oriented sense, as is the case in the bulk of literary historiography of World War II memory. Rather than referring to the work of authors belonging to the same age group, I use the concept in reference to elements of form and content shared by an array of novels. Rather than an extra-textual characteristic that involves their authors’ biographies and their temporal relation to the events of World War II, it is something that is primarily of the text. In the case of the generation of meta-memory, the element that creates this coherence – or ‘generationality’10 in Jürgen Ruelecke’s terms – is the amplifed refection upon the forms and formations of memory, at the level of both content and form of the text.11 These approaches clearly dominate the work of authors belonging to the third (or even fourth) biological post-war generation, and their role in the development of this new approach is indeed signifcant. In that sense, I agree with Astrid Erll’s comment that all discourses on generation imply the intertwinement of generationality (what do these authors share) and genealogy (to what biological generation do they belong) (see Erll 2014, 404).12 In my defnition of the ‘generation of meta-memory’, however, I do not want to emphasize the genealogical element too much. The concept ‘third generation’, or Enkelgeneration in German, has often been used as a ‘Selbstthematisierungsformel’ (self-referential formula, Morat, qtd. in Vandevoorde 2011, 22) or ‘Kampfbegriff’ (polemical concept, Frahm 2004, xiii) by the members of this third generation, yet it tends to obliterate the intrinsic polyphony of their work as well as their affnity with that of preceding generations.13 In other words, authors belonging to the third generation do not have a monopoly on the meta-mnemonic impulse, nor is their work limited to it – even as it emerges as a predominant feature of their work. With Hans Vandevoorde, I believe that thinking of ‘generation’ in terms of a generationality located in form and subject matter is a far more productive basis for literary studies, since it allows us to account for intragenerational disjunctions as well as intergenerational overlaps.14 As I show in my analyses, a meta-mnemonic approach in literature does not preclude a continued commitment to historical reconstruction, trauma, and postmemory. These elements surely remain part of literary attention and are in close interaction with the refections on memory. Contemporary engagements with memory that I cover here under the term of meta-memory are therefore marked by a strong formal, stylistic, and thematic hybridity. The nine novels that I discuss in this book attest to that. Yet, regardless of this hybridity, it is clear that meta-mnemonic refections in literature have made a decisive move from being ‘a second-order observation’ (Erll 2008, 391) about our handling of history to the center of literary attention. It is for that reason that I term this shift, with a nod to Hirsch’s ‘generation of postmemory’ and Neumann’s notion of ‘meta-memory’, as the ‘generation of meta-memory’.

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This shift can be historicized by tracing some of the infuences that have contributed to the predominance of meta-mnemonic refections in contemporary literature. In discussing the intertwinement between generationality and genealogy, I have already touched upon the frst factor, i.e. the temporal distance of the authors discussed in this book to the historical events of World War II. They were all born in the 1960s or 1970s and came of artistic age in the 1990s and 2000s. As I have indicated above, this temporal distance is crucial to their attitude of emotional detachment and artistic vision of how to approach World War II memory. Yet meta-memory’s move to the center of literary refection is not only a consequence of the temporal distance of these works vis-à-vis the war events and the diminished focus on concerns that are associated with a proximity to these events (such as witnessing, making sense of history, archiving, coping with trauma, and, to a certain extent, postmemory). This move must also be seen in connection to recent cultural and political developments. The intensifed refexivity about war memory and the increased use of playfulness resonate with features ascribed to literary postmodernism, more specifcally with what Linda Hutcheon has termed historiographical metafction, ‘novels which are both intensely self-refexive and yet paradoxically also lay claim to historical events and personages’ (1988, 5). In this type of fction, Hutcheon argues, ‘its theoretical awareness of history and fction as human constructs […] is made the grounds for its rethinking and reworking of the forms and contents of the past’ (idem). In postmodern fction this self-refexivity often goes hand in hand with an open-ended play with formal devices and narrative artifce in order to unsettle or rupture established structures and conventions. The fact that we witness an increased playfulness as well as an often-provocative refexivity on the forms of memory in recent fctions of memory can therefore not be decoupled from literary postmodernism, the poststructuralist awareness of discursivity of our access to history, and the discursive malleability of historical facts. Important to stress, however, is that meta-memory does not coincide with Hutcheon’s concept of historiographic metafction. Admittedly, both lean strongly on poststructuralist thinking about textuality and on narrativist and constructivist theories of historiography that claim how the past is a discursive construct and which grant fction the status of a shaping force in dealing with the past. Yet, in contrast to historiographic metafction, I do not conceive of meta-memory as a literary genre. I see it as an attitude in dealing with World War II memory that results from the absence of both personal remembering and psychological affect. Authors of this generation have, as the protagonist in Vennemann’s Nahe Jedenew remark, ‘no other choice’ (2008, 91) but to deal with the past in mediated form – a condition which sparks a critical refection on the forms, formations, and meanings of these media, as well as the appropriative exploitation that is enabled by this condition for scenarios of revision and resignifcation. In that sense, one could argue that, since historiographic

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metafction is marked by a critical stance towards the discursive formations and representations of the past, all historiographic metafction is deeply meta-mnemonic in nature. The reverse, however, is not true. Meta-memory is not limited to the genre of historiographic metafction, since it is also present in novels that do not explicitly question the relation between historiography and fction. Some of the novels that I discuss here, such as Marcel, Grote Europese roman, and De joodse messias do not (or at least not explicitly) engage in conceptual questions about the discursive nature of the past. Their meta-mnemonic refections are primarily of an indexical nature and focus on mnemonic practices in their respective memory cultures and the role of World War II memory for contemporary individual and collective identities. Their formal features serve to trouble those practices and to propose alternative ways of dealing with that memory. A third factor that has often been invoked to historicize the shift to metamemory in literature is the occurrence of events that have stimulated either new ways of thinking about the past or an awareness of the relevance of World War II memory today. With regard to Germany, Barbara Beßlich and others have claimed that the fall of the Berlin Wall and the German Wende have initiated a ‘Wende des Erinnerens’ (an infection point in memory culture, Beßlich, Grätz, and Hildebrand 2006, 7).15 This turn, they argue, has opened up a range of new perspectives that were inconceivable before 1989, such as the focus on German victimhood of allied bombings, fight, and expulsion; the transgression of political correctness; as well as a shift from the perspective of the victim as ‘entlassende Identifkation’ (an identifcation that suggests the release from guilt, Beßlich, Grätz, and Hildebrand 2006, 7) to that of the perpetrator in order to address questions of historical responsibility in a direct and often more distanced way. Furthermore, many events during the last two decades have invoked references to the history of World War II, highlighting its status as Levy and Sznaider’s timeless and de-territorialized measuring stick for good and evil in our efforts to gauge traumatic events and crises today. In order to comprehend the atrocities of the Balkan Wars, 9/11, the war in Syria, or the rise of right-wing parties and the concomitant processes of renationalization following the 2008 economic crisis and recent mass migrations, World War II memory has time and again been adduced in public and political discourses to make sense of contemporary conficts or to amplify anxieties about them. Within this culture of remembrance, fctions of meta-memory show us the stances we can take toward this war memory, how it is constructed, transferred, and appropriated, how it is used, abused, and reshaped in the present, and how thinking about all this continues to be a useful exercise to assess our relation to this war. Investigating the many forms this exercise takes in contemporary literature will allow us to further our understanding of how World War II today, more than 70 years after it ended, continues to inform our cultural life and perpetually lends itself to vigorous

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renegotiations. This book offers a frst effort to charts these renegotiations from a transnational perspective. The nine novels discussed in this book are chosen on the basis of their mutual difference, in order to create a broad and hopefully exemplary panorama of the trends, impulses, techniques, and thematic preoccupations that I consider to be crucial for contemporary renegotiations of World War II memory in German, Dutch, and Flemish prose fction. This does not imply, however, that other forms of mnemonic renegotiation are absent, outdated, or obsolete in these novels, nor does it mean that meta-memory is limited to these texts. It is very likely that the analyses of other contemporary – and probably also earlier – fctions of memory will reveal more examples of such meta-mnemonic refection. The examples that spring to mind from the literatures under scrutiny here are the work of Jenny Erpenbeck, Klaus Modick, Reingardt Jirgl, Tanja Dückers, Andreas Maier, Ulla Hahn, Monika Maron, Kathrin Schmidt, Julia Franck, Judith Zander, Thomas Lehrs, Peggy Mädel, Johan de Boose, Paul Verhaegen, Jeroen Olyslaeghers, A.F.Th. van der Heijden, Jessica Durlacher, Marente de Moor, and many more. Beyond German, Dutch, and Flemish literature, one can think of the narratives by American authors such as Jonathan Safran Foer (Everything Is Illuminated, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), Michael Chabon (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay), Nicole Krauss (The History of Love), Jonathan Littell’s Les Bienveillantes (2006), Laurent Binet’s HHhH (2010), Rosella Postorino’s Le assaggiatrici (2018), and many more. Furthermore, it is to be expected that fctions of memory engaging with other historical traumas, such as World War I, transatlantic slavery, colonialism, the Vietnam War, or 9/11 increasingly reveal a heightened awareness of the shapes, the modes, and the functions of the traumatic memories they address. For that reason, the concept of meta-memory is not only relevant for studying fctions about the memory of World War II. I hope it will prove helpful as a tool for analyzing and understanding the work of a wide spectrum of international writers and artists dealing with historical trauma today.

Notes 1 The European Parliament resolution on the importance of European remembrance for the future of Europe (2019/2819(RSP) states that ‘80 years ago on 23 August 1939, the communist Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed a Treaty of Non-Aggression, known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and its secret protocols, dividing Europe and the territories of independent states between the two totalitarian regimes and grouping them into spheres of interest, which paved the way for the outbreak of the Second World War’ (see https://www.europarl .europa.eu/doceo/document/RC-9-2019-0097_EN.html, accessed 30 July 2020). In response to this resolution, Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin stated that the EU’s position ‘was not based on anything real’. For journalistic discussions, https:/ /www.dw.com/en/vladimir-putin-condemns-eu-stance-on-nazi-soviet-wwii-pact

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2

3 4

5 6

7 8

9

10

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/a-51636197 and https://theconversation.com/ve-day-memory-war-continues -between-europe-and-russia-even-under-lockdown-137726 (accessed 30 July 2020). In the case of Germany, the list of studies about World War II literature seems endless. Critical and useful overviews are offered by Herrmann 2010; Reidy 2013; Hook 2001; Schaumann 2008; Taberner and Berger 2009. For Flemish war literature, see, for example, Lensen 2006; 2014; H. Brems 2006. For Dutch literature, see, for example, Anbeek 1986; Wolfswinkel 1994; Van Last Galen and Wolfswinkel 1996. For a discussion of the concepts of ‘mediation’ and ‘remediation’, see Bolter and Grusin 1999; Grusin 2004; Erll and Rigney 2009. This notion of antagonism has led critics to use the term Väterliteratur, in which authors or their protagonists deal with their relation to the fgure of the father. In a narrower sense, this handling entails the confrontation with the latter’s involvement in National Socialism. For a discussion of this antagonism, see, for example, Eigler 2005 and Fuchs 2009. For a critical view of this perception of antagonism as well as an emphasis on the genre’s intrinsic heterogeneity, see Reidy 2012. ‘wie die mit dem Holocaust, Krieg und Vertreibung verknüpften Erfahrungen innerfamiliär bearbeitet und tradiert werden’ (Ostheimer 2009, 205). To a certain extent, I agree with the claim that contemporary family novels express a different attitude and tone in relation to the legacy of National Socialism than that of earlier approaches, such as in the Väterliteratur. Yet, I do not believe this difference to be as sharp and paradigmatic as assumed by Aleida Assmann, Anne Fuchs, Friederike Eigler, Michael Ostheimer, Elena Agazzi, or Hannes Kraus. As Julian Reidy has – quite eruditely and fervently – demonstrated, many of the characteristics ascribed to these contemporary ‘multigenerational novels’ can be found in the ‘Väterbücher’ as well. For this critique, see Reidy 2013, in particular pp. 21–37. For an illuminating insight into the discussion about the relation between the concepts of ‘memory’ and ‘history’, see Erll 2005, 41–45. I adopt the concept of indexicality from Charles Peirce, who conceives of indexicality as the phenomenon of a sign pointing to (or indexing) some object in the context in which it occurs. Here, the ‘sign’ is the fctional text; the ‘context’ is the memory culture into which it is embedded (its frame of reference); the ‘object’ is a particular mnemonic act or tradition within that culture. The sign pointing in the novels under discussion in this book is not only a neutral reference, but also a warning fnger, demanding the attention of its reader. See Reidy 2013 for such reconciliatory perspectives in the generational novel in German and Austrian literature, which for him also serve as an indication of the unnuanced and rather incomplete readings by Eigler, Fuchs, and Assmann of the Väterliteratur. For similar arguments with regard to Flemish, respectively Dutch, fctions of memory about generational conficts in relation to the collaboration, see Lensen 2014 and Wolfswinkel 1994. Jürgen Ruelecke’s term ‘generationality’ (or Generationalität) has a twofold meaning: On the one hand, it refers to characteristics resulting from shared experiences that either individuals or larger “generational units” collectively claim for themselves. On the other hand, it can also mean the bundle of characteristics resulting from shared experiences that are ascribed to such units from the outside, with which members of other age groups—and often also public opinion as expressed in the media—attempt, in the interest of establishing

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The Generation of Meta-Memory demarcations and reducing complexity, to identify presumed generations as well as the progression of generations. (2008, 119)

11

12

13 14

15

I use the term ‘generationality’ exclusively in the second sense formulated by Ruelecke, a sense that Astrid Erll has referred to as ‘hetero-identifcation’ (2014, 387). From that perspective, my approach is thoroughly different from that of, for example, Victoria Aarons and Alan L. Berger in Third-Generation Holocaust Representation (2017). In this book, they study mainly Jewish writers belonging to the third generation of Holocaust victims or survivors. Aarons and Berger use the concept of ‘generation’ predominantly from a biographical point of view and show that the novels by these authors are deeply marked by a postmnemonic matter of ‘flling in the gaps, of putting scraps together’ (2017, 4) and that they aim mainly for historical exegesis. Since Jewish Holocaust literature lies beyond my expertise, I have not ventured into this feld of research – with the exception of De joodse messias by the Dutch-Jewish writer Arnon Grunberg (see chapter 3). In this article, Erll argues against too strict uses of the concept of generation in terms of either genealogy or generationality and sees the entanglement between generationality and genealogy as necessary to fully grasp the complexity of the term and of how it can be used in literary history. For an example of such generational grouping, see Hage 1999. For a critical discussion of problems of the use of generational concepts in German culture, see Schaumann 2008. My concept of ‘generation’ builds in that regard on recent theoretical refections on its use in literary history. For a succinct overview, see Vandevoorde 2011. For critical discussions of the use of ‘generation’ in cultural and literary historiography, see Suleiman 2002; Erll 2014. I will not go further into this matter, since this collection of essays tackles this mnemonic turn in German literature very comprehensively. See also Herrmann 2010, 14–18.

References Aarons, Victoria, and Alan L. Berger. 2017. Third-Generation Holocaust Representation. Evanston: Northwestern University Press. Anbeek, Ton. 1986. Na de oorlog: de Nederlandse roman 1945–1960. Amsterdam: Arbeiderspers. Assmann, Aleida. 2006. ‘On the (In)Compatibility of Guilt and Suffering in German Memory’. German Life and Letters 59 (2): 187–200. ———. 2009. ‘Unbewältigte Erbschaften: Fakten und Fiktionen im zeitgenössischen Generationenroman’. In Generationen: Erfahrung - Erzählung - Identität, edited by Andreas Kraft and Mark Weißhaupt, 49–69. Konstanz: UVK. Assmann, Jan. 2008. ‘Communicative and Cultural Memory’. In A Companion to Cultural Memory Studies, edited by Astrid Erll and Ansgar Nünning, 109–118. Berlin/New York: De Gruyter. Beßlich, Barbara, Katharina Grätz, and Olaf Hildebrand. 2006. ‘Wende des Erinnerns?: Geschichtskonstruktionen in der deutschen Literatur nach 1989’. In Wende des Erinnerns?: Geschichtskonstruktionen in der deutschen Literatur

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nach 1989, edited by Barbara Beßlich, Katharina Grätz, and Olaf Hildebrand, 7–18. Berlin: Erich Schmidt. Bolter, Jay David, and Richard Grusin. 1999. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge: MIT Press. Braun, Michael. 2010. Die deutsche Gegenwartsliteratur. Köln: UTB. Brems, Hugo. 2006. Altijd weer vogels die nesten beginnen: geschiedenis van de Nederlandse literatuur, 1945–2005. Amsterdam: Bert Bakker. Diez, Georg. 2006. ‘Die schönste traurige Geschichte’. Die Zeit Online, January 12, 2006. www.zeit.de/2006/03/L-Vennemann/seite-2. Eder, Klaus. 2005. ‘Remembering National Memories Together: The Formation of a Transnational Identity in Europe’. In Collective Memory and European Identity: The Effects of Integration and Enlargement, edited by Willfried Spohn and Klaus Eder, 197–220. Aldershot: Ashgate. Eigler, Friederike. 2005. Gedächtnis und Geschichte in Generationenromanen seit der Wende. Berlin: Erich Schmidt Verlag. Erll, Astrid. 2005. Kollektives Gedächtnis und Erinnerungskulturen: eine Einführung. Stuttgart/Weimar: J.B. Metzler. ———. 2008. ‘Literature, Film, and the Mediality of Cultural Memory’. In A Companion to Cultural Memory Studies, edited by Astrid Erll and Ansgar Nünning, 389–398. Berlin/New York: De Gruyter. ———. 2014. ‘Generation in Literary History: Three Constellations of Generationality, Genealogy, and Memory’. New Literary History 45 (3): 385–409. Erll, Astrid, and Ann Rigney. 2009. ‘Introduction: Cultural Memory and Its Dynamics’. In Mediation, Remediation, and the Dynamics of Cultural Memory, edited by Astrid Erll and Ann Rigney, 1–11. New York: Walter de Gruyter. Frahm, Ole. 2004. ‘Statt Eines Vorworts: Refexionen Des Unbehagens in Der “Dritten Generation”’. In Das Unbehagen in Der ‘Dritten Generation’: Refexionen Des Holocaust, Antisemitismus Und Nationalsozialismus, edited by Klaus Holz and Sven Wende, iv–xix. Münster: LIT. Fresco, Nadine. 1984. ‘Remembering the Unknown’. International Journal/Review of Psycho-Analysis 11: 417–427. Fuchs, Anne. 2009. ‘Landschaftserinnerung und Heimatdiskurs: Tradition und Erbschaft in Thomas Medicus’ In den Augen meines Großvaters und Stephan Wackwitz’s Ein unsichtbares Land’. In Generationen. Erfahrung – Erzählung – Identität, edited by Andreas Kraft and Mark Weißhaupt, 71–92. Konstanz: UVK. Giesen, Bernhard. 2004. ‘The Trauma of Perpetrators: The Holocaust as the Traumatic Reference of German National Identity’. In Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity, edited by Bernhard Giesen, Jeffrey C. Alexander, Ron Eyerman, Neil J. Smelser, and Piotr Sztomka, 112–154. Berkeley: California UP. Goertz, Karein. 1998. ‘Transgenerational Representations of the Holocaust: From Memory to “Post-Memory”’. World Literature Today 72 (1): 33–38. Grusin, Richard. 2004. ‘Premediation’. Criticism 46 (1): 17–39. Hage, Volker. 1999. ‘Die Enkel Kommen’. Der Spiegel, October 11, 1999. http:// www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-14906942.html. Herrmann, Meike. 2010. Vergangenwart: Erzählen vom Nationalsozialismus in der deutschen Literatur seit den neunziger Jahren. Würzburg: Königshausen u. Neumann.

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Hirsch, Marianne. 2012. The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture after the Holocaust. New York: Columbia UP. Hook, Elizabeth Snyder. 2001. Family Secrets and the Contemporary German Novel: Literary Explorations in the Aftermath of the Third Reich. Rochester: Boydell & Brewer. Hutcheon, Linda. 1988. A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction. New York: Routledge. Leggewie, Claus, and Anne Lang. 2011. Der Kampf um die europäische Erinnerung: Ein Schlachtfeld wird besichtigt. Munich: C.H.Beck. Lensen, Jan. 2006. Al die kleine oorlogen. De nawerking van de Tweede Wereldoorlog in het Vlaamse proza, 1945–2000. Leuven: KU Leuven. ———. 2014. De foute oorlog: Schuld en nederlaag in het Vlaamse proza over de Tweede Wereldoorlog. Antwerp: Garant. Levy, Daniel, and Natan Sznaider. 2002. ‘Memory Unbound: The Holocaust and the Formation of Cosmopolitan Memory’. European Journal of Social Theory 5 (1): 87–106. Merry, Stephanie. 2019. ‘Readers Can’t Get Enough World War II Fiction, and Authors Are Happy to Keep the Books Coming’. The Washington Post. May 24, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/readers-cant-get -enough-world-war-ii-fction-and-authors-are-happy-to-keep-the-books-coming /2019/05/23/12c52d92-7d7d-11e9-8ede-f4abf521ef17_story.html. Neumann, Birgit. 2008. ‘The Literary Representation of Memory’. In A Companion to Cultural Memory Studies, edited by Astrid Erll and Ansgar Nünning, 333– 344. Berlin/New York: De Gruyter. Ostheimer, Michael. 2009. ‘Die Sprachlosigkeit der Kriegskinder: Zur Symptomatik der traumatischen Geschichtserfahrung in der zeitgenössischen Erinnerungsliteratur’. In Generation als Erzählung: Neue Perspectiven auf ein kulturelles Deutungsmuster, edited by Björn Bohnenkamp, Till Manning, and Eva-Maria Silies, 203–225. Göttingen: Wallstein. Pannu, Jasmeet K., and Alfred W. Kaszniak. 2005. ‘Metamemory Experiments in Neurological Populations: A Review’. Neuropsychology Review 15 (3): 105–130. Reidy, Julian. 2012. Vergessen, was Eltern sind: Relektüre und literaturgeschichtliche Neusituierung der sogenannten Väterliteratur. Göttingen: V & R unipress. ———. 2013. Rekonstruktion und Entheroisierung: Paradigmen des ‘Generationenromans’ in der deutschsprachigen Gegenwartsliteratur. Bielefeld: Aisthesis. Rothberg, Michael. 2019. The Implicated Subject: Beyond Victims and Perpetrators. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Rothmann, Kurt. 2009. Kleine Geschichte der deutschen Literatur. Stuttgart: Reclam. Ruelecke, Jürgen. 2008. ‘Generation/Generationality, Generativity, and Memory’. In A Companion to Cultural Memory Studies, edited by Astrid Erll and Ansgar Nünning, 119–126. Berlin: De Gruyter. Schaumann, Caroline. 2008. Memory Matters: Generational Responses to Germany’s Nazi Past in Recent Women’s Literature. Berlin/New York: De Gruyter. Suleiman, Susan Rubin. 2002. ‘The 1.5 Generation: Thinking about Child Survivors and the Holocaust’. American Imago 59 (3): 277–295.

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Taberner, Stuart, and Karina Berger. 2009. ‘Introduction’. In Germans as Victims in the Literary Fiction of the Berlin Republic, edited by Stuart Taberner and Karina Berger, 1–14. Rochester: Camden House. Van Last Galen, Dick, and Rolf Wolfswinkel, eds. 1996. Anne Frank and After: Dutch Holocaust Literature in a Historical Perspective. Amsterdam: Amsterdam UP. Vandevoorde, Hans. 2011. ‘Over “Generaties” in de literatuurgeschiedenis: Een revisie’. In Breuken en bruggen: Moderne Nederlandse literatuur/Hedendaagse perspectieven, edited by Lars Bernaerts, Carl De Strycker, and Bart Vervaeck, 15–29. Ghent: Academia Press. Vennemann, Kevin. 2008. Close to Jedenew. Translated by Ross Benjamin. Brooklyn/New York: Melville House. Wolfswinkel, Rolf. 1994. Tussen landverraad en vaderlandsliefde: De collaboratie in naoorlogs proza. Amsterdam: AUP.

Part I

Of Perpetrators and Victims

One of the central tenets in the postwar literary engagement with the memory of World War II is the engagement with the collective identities of perpetrators and victims of this war. More than often, literary authors have focused specifcally on these identities in order to probe the nature of violence and suffering and to demonstrate their extreme but also often complex dimensions. Famous examples from German literature are, for example, Anna Seghers’s Das Ende (1945) and Der Mann und sein Name (1952), Wolfgang Koeppen’s Der Tod in Rom (1954), Gert Ledig’s Der Stalinorgel (1955), and the work of Walter Kempowski, Uwe Johnson, Edgar Hilsenrath, Günter Grass, and many others. In the Netherlands, these identities were scrutinized by Harry Mulisch in Het stenen bruidsbed (1959), by Willem Frederik Hermans in De donkere kamer van Damocles (1958) and De tranen der acacia’s (1966), and by Armando in het gevecht (1976). In Flemish literature, the critical engagement with these identities can be found in works by Gerard Walschap (Zwart en wit, 1948), Louis Paul Boon (Mijn kleine oorlog, 1950), and Hugo Claus (De verwondering (1962) and Het verdriet van België (1983). Through this commitment, these novelists have offered normative models for readers to gauge the nature of perpetration and victimhood, their inherent complexity, as well as their mutual relation. The tension between perpetration and victimhood is of crucial importance in recent fctions of memory too – even beyond the literatures under discussion in this book. Prominent examples are Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day (1989), Martin Amis’s Time’s Arrow (1991) and The Zone of Interest (2014), Bernhard Schlink’s Der Vorleser (1995), Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated (2002), Rachel Seiffert’s The Dark Room (2001), Jonathan Littell’s Les Bienveillantes (2006), John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2006), Laurent Binet’s HHhH (2010), and Judi Picoult’s The storyteller (2013) – just to name a few. In these novels, questions of historical understanding remain important, yet they also focus intently on the construction and renegotiation of the identities of perpetrator and victim over the course of the postwar period. In light of the many judicial procedures, the profuse amount of historical research, and the critical debates about these identities as well as about the complexity of their

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relation, this shift of attention should not come as a surprise. Once most of the historical facts have been unearthed and discussed, the questions of who did what to whom and why is gradually replaced by concerns about the motivations behind these questions and what blind spots they may have caused. In the frst part of this study, I focus on three novels from German and Dutch literature that engage these mnemonic dynamics in the construction of the identities of perpetrators and victims: the German novel Flughunde (1995) by Marcel Beyer, Marcel (1999) by the Flemish novelist Erwin Mortier, and De joodse messias (2004) by the Dutch-Jewish author Arnon Grunberg. I have chosen these three novels specifcally because they attentively challenge ingrained memory practices in relation to these identities and reveal the negative social and political impact of these practices on their respective memory communities in the present. Flughunde challenges routine defnitions of perpetrators and victims in two ways. Firstly, the novel tackles a highly controversial topic in the German Vergangenheitsbearbeitung, i.e. what Aleida Assmann has referred to as the ‘incompatibility of guilt and suffering in German memory’ (2006, passim). More specifcally it addresses the question of how to imagine the German war victim and how it can be thought of alongside German perpetratorship. In my analysis, I focus on how Beyer engages with German victimhood through the fctional rendering of Helga Goebbels, the eldest daughter of the Reich’s Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels. Previous readings of the novel acknowledge this preoccupation with victimhood, yet they disregard the particular kind of victimhood Beyer addresses as well as the complexity of the protagonist’s victim identity. Helga – in contrast to other German victims in contemporary fctions of memory – is not victim to intrusions from outside of Germany (such as the allied bombings and expulsion at the end of the war) – a topic discussed in Günter Grass’s Im Krebsgang (2002) or Julia Franck’s Die Mittagsfrau (2007) – but to her parents and to Hermann Karnau, guard of Hitler’s bunker and the second protagonist in the novel. In doing so, Beyer seeks to engage how Germans who were affliated with National Socialism could indeed become victims of Nazi rule. Secondly, rather than being an icon of pure victimhood, Helga Goebbels’s identity, the novel demonstrates, is thoroughly impacted by this spatial and familial affliation. Through patterns of mimetic behavior and language use, she, too, becomes implicated in NS-perpetration, and Flughunde offers a sophisticated exploration of this implication. The novel, in other words, shows the possibility of victimhood at the core of German perpetration, yet it also demonstrates that this identity remains highly ambiguous. In my second analysis in this section, I will explore the literary renegotiation of perpetration and victimhood in quite a different historical and cultural context. The novel Marcel (1999) by the Flemish author Erwin Mortier engages the legacy of Flemish nationalist collaborationism during World War II and how it continues to impact Flemish nationalist aspirations

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today. More particularly, the novel critically engages with the continued stigmatization of collaborationism in terms of perpetratorship as well as with the persistent self-imagining of ex-collaborationists in terms of victimhood in Flanders during the sixties. Identifying suppression and melancholia as unproductive mnemonic practices within this community, the novel argues on behalf of an intergenerational dialogue about this history – one that requires the resolve of those involved in collaborationism to face and work through this past as well as their descendants’ need for a more objective assessment of the historical circumstances and for what Lewis Ward calls ‘transgenerational empathy’ (see Ward 2008). This appeal suggests that such a dialogue is necessary to stop this memory from haunting the collective memory of World War II in Flanders. While presenting these refections at the level of content, the novel gives shape to this empathy through the use of autodiegetic narration and irony. As I show in my analysis, both devices present a counterweight to the gravity of public and private discourses about the past in Belgium and refect a mnemonic attitude that continually questions its own position and refrains from unilateral judgments. The third novel in this section, De joodse messias (2004) by the DutchJewish author Arnon Grunberg, confronts the sacredness of Jewish victimhood of the Holocaust and the way it determines contemporary visions of Jewishness. It does this through a satirical rendering of the Jewish-Orthodox community, which the novel depicts as no longer invested in the trauma of World War II, as well as of the community of perpetrator descendants, which is determined by a treacherous mix of anti-Semitic revisionism and philosemitic phantasies. The novel’s protagonist, Xavier Radek, believes that his life task is to comfort the Jewish people for their sufferings, yet his philosemitic idealism is pervaded by the latent legacy of National Socialist anti-Semitism of his grandfather, a former SS-offcer, whom Xavier’s parents continue to depict as a war hero. The result is a highly suspicious idealism that will turn out to be as threatening to the Jewish people as the Holocaust. Grunberg offers an allegory of the negative consequences of the perception and presentation of the Jewish community as perpetual victims. The novel is, however, not just relevant for its concerns about identity politics in the context of World War II memory. In sketching a satire about the Jewish-Orthodox community, it not only debunks the sacral nature of the latter’s identity as a result of its historical victimhood; it also provokes the sacred character of Holocaust victimhood by means of its form. Through its use of irony, absurd humor, hyperbole, elements from the grotesque, and a fantastical plot, De joodse messias aims to undermine the seriousness of discourses about the Holocaust and therefore fts in with a larger tendency in contemporary Jewish literature that Matthew Boswell has termed ‘Holocaust impiety’. With this term, he refers to works that resist the notion of ‘Holocaust piety’, a concept coined by Gillian Rose in reference to ‘particularly sentimental or sanctimonious approaches to the genocide’ (Gillian Rose, quoted in Boswell 2012, 1). In my analysis, I will argue that

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De joodse messias challenges such approaches toward Holocaust memory in an attempt to loosen rigid defnitions in which Jewish identity is inextricably linked to Holocaust victimhood. By means of these three analyses, I argue that the contemporary literary engagement with the identities of perpetrators and victims in relation to World War II no longer exclusively serves the purpose of historical clarifcation but aims at disputing their reifed conceptions as well as renegotiating their juxtaposition in cultural memory. They engage in a process of questioning these identities that collapses distinctions between what Elizabeth Snyder Hook describes as three traditional opposites: ‘guilt and innocence, victimization and participation, prosecution and defense’ (2001, 10). In doing so, Beyer, Mortier, and Grunberg represent a more general trend – in literature and beyond – in which the past is approached from the perspective of what Bernhard Giesen has called ‘a third party’, ready to engage both ‘the positions of perpetrators and victims’ (2004, 139). The historical distance allows for such a detached position in which discussions and representations of the past are to a lesser extent driven by questions of historical and moral rectifcation and do no longer serve ‘as proxies for […] disputes regarding ownership of the political present’, as Karina Berger and Stuart Taberner argue (2009, 2). By engaging questions of identity, these authors rather express concerns about the continuing function of war memory as a haunting legacy, as one that continuously impacts the formation and formulation of our contemporary identities, perpetuates ideological rifts, and that may stand in the way of open and nuanced debates about the history of World War II.

References Assmann, Aleida. 2006 ‘On the (In)Compatibility of Guilt and Suffering in German Memory‘. German Life and Letters 59 (2): 187–200. Boswell, Matthew. 2012. Holocaust Impiety in Literature, Popular Music and Film. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Giesen, Bernhard. 2004. ‘The Trauma of Perpetrators: The Holocaust as the Traumatic Reference of German National Identity’. In Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity, edited by Bernhard Giesen, Jeffrey C. Alexander, Ron Eyerman, Neil J. Smelser, and Piotr Sztomka, 112–154. Berkeley: California UP. Hook, Elizabeth Snyder. 2001. Family Secrets and the Contemporary German Novel: Literary Explorations in the Aftermath of the Third Reich. Rochester: Boydell & Brewer. Taberner, Stuart, and Karina Berger. 2009. ‘Introduction’. In Germans as Victims in the Literary Fiction of the Berlin Republic, edited by Stuart Taberner and Karina Berger, 1–14. Rochester: Camden House. Ward, Lewis Henry. 2008. ‘Holocaust Memory in Contemporary Narratives: Towards a Theory of Transgenerational Empathy’. Dissertation, Exeter: University of Exeter. https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10036/47273.

1

‘Ein verwandter Ton’ The (Im)possibility of German Victimhood in Marcel Beyer’s Flughunde (1995)

One of the defning characteristics of what Barbara Beßlich and others have called the ‘Wende des Erinnerns’ (2006) in German literature about World War II is the critical reassessment of the categories of ‘perpetrators’ and ‘victims’. Literary critics have explained this reassessment as driven by presentday concerns about the persistent defnition of German collective identity in terms of collective guilt for the war atrocities. While most authors insistently scrutinize the involvement in the war by German soldiers and citizens, many of them have argued for more nuanced and less manicheistic views of this identity. This pursuit for nuance often concerns characters involved in the war events, but it pertains to present-day subjects, too: do young German citizens, connected to the historical events only through national belonging, need to share the burden of the past? Before going into this argument, we need to sketch out its historical and social roots. The process of working through the past of World War II in Germany, commonly referred to as Vergangenheitsbewältigung or Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung, has often been divided into distinct phases that overlap and often coincide with generational turnovers. In his seminal study ‘The Trauma of Perpetrators: The Holocaust as the Traumatic Reference of German National Identity’ (2004), the sociologist Bernhard Giesen describes the frst phase – situated in the frst two decades after the war – as one of collective silence. He diagnoses this silence as a symptom of ‘the trauma of perpetrators’ (2004, passim) – a trauma that was not just caused by ‘ruin and rape, death and defeat, but also by the sudden loss of self-respect and moral integrity’ (2004, 115). Because of this loss, this trauma did not engender a broad public movement of mourning or public rituals, but a denial. This denial has been caught in phrases such as ‘Schuldverweigerung’ (Frei 2005, guilt refusal), ‘the coalition of silence’ or ‘moral numbness’ (Giesen 2004, 116–117), the ‘inability to mourn’ (Mitscherlich and Mitscherlich 1975), or ‘an almost perfectly functioning mechanism of repression’ (Sebald 2004, 12). This repression led in the private sphere to a refusal to talk about guilt or responsibility with respect to the Holocaust, to exculpatory narratives, and to the denial of obvious facts. Everyone assumed that the others, too,

32 Of Perpetrators and Victims had supported the Nazi regime and would therefore agree to be silent about their common shame. In the public sphere, the Holocaust was addressed in a passive mode as ‘the immense suffering of the Jewish people’ (119), but perpetrators were only seldom mentioned and commonly identifed as a small group: the Nazi elite. This demonization of Nazi rule, so Giesen argues, ‘removed the nation from the realm of moral responsibility and culpability. Intoxication, seduction, and blindness allowed Germans even to regard the German nation as the true victim of Nazism’ (2004, 120). In some respects, the silencing of the past after 1945 continued the disregard for implication and accountability before 1945. During a second phase of the Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung, this silence was actively challenged by the second war generation or the generation of ’68. It contested this self-identifcation in terms of victimhood and demanded clarity about their parents’ involvement in the war. The issue of guilt was persistently brought to the fore of public debates and replaced narratives that had presented Germans as victims of Nazi tyranny with a charge of tacit and overt implication. Under force of a ‘zersetzenden Aufklärungsdruck’ (Assmann 2007, 64, subversive pressure for clarifcation), the second generation pursued private investigations and a public avowal of collective guilt. As a result, Germany became to be defned as a ‘Täternation’ (Giesen 2005, nation of perpetrators) – a shift that was epitomized by German chancellor Willy Brandt’s kneeling at the Ghetto Heroes Monument in Warsaw in 1970. ‘The trauma, unspeakable in the years after 1945, had been turned into the stigma of collective guilt, publicly contested, and debated between generations’, so Giesen argues (2004, 135). Resistance against this discourse of guilt appeared during the second half of the nineties, both in public debates and in culture. Critics have often linked this resistance to the end of Germany’s division into two states. As Cohen-Pfster and Wienroeder-Skinner remark, with the ‘German question’ being politically resolved and the other German half no longer defned in a state of opposition, other German questions have resurfaced. […] the search for commonalities and collective experiences in this formerly divided country leads back to 1945 and includes the narrative of suffering in the Second World War. (2012, 4) Although the authors all too easily ignore the antagonisms that continue to defne German identity up to today, they aptly hint at the new mnemonic perspectives that could emerge after the reunifcation in 1991. The twisted demarcation between the so-called ‘good antifascist and socialist German Democratic Republic’ and its ‘fascist and capitalist counterpart’ in the west made debates about German victimhood and suffering impossible. With the peaceful revolution and the subsequent reunifcation in 1990, a gradual quest for shared national narratives emerged – one in which perpetratorship

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lost its function as a mark of political differentiation and where a ‘counter discourse on Germans as victims’ (Nolan 2001, 114), both in public discussions and in cultural representations of World War II, could develop. In German literature, the spark which led to attention being given to German suffering was provided by W.G. Sebald’s provocative claim that German literature lacked the capability of integrating the allied bombings in its collective memory.1 Shortly after, during a speech upon receiving the ‘Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels’ on 11 October 1998, the renowned German author Martin Walser criticized the unrelenting and customary reiteration of Germany’s guilt (‘eine Routine des Beschuldigens’, Walser 1998). Günter Grass expanded this discussion during a public speech in 2000, where he remarked ‘wie spät und immer noch zögerlich an die Leiden erinner’t wird, die während des Krieges den Deutschen zugefügt wurden’ (2001, 31, how late and still hesitant we can remember the suffering of the Germans during the war). His novella Im Krebsgang (2002), which addresses the bombing of the transport ship Wilhelm Gustloff in which 9,400 feeing Germans were killed, can be seen as a successful effort in bringing this memory of German victimhood back to public attention.2 The mounting defance of what Barbara Beßlich and others call the ‘Tabuisierung der Opfer’ (2006, 12, tabooing of victims) quickly spread through literary engagements with the past of World War II. Under the umbrella of German suffering, authors thematized the topics of escape and displacement from eastern territories, the loss of Heimat, looting and rape by the Red Army, the allied bombings, and the existential agonies that accompany war. Besides Grass and Walser, other authors belonging to the Erlebnisgeneration, such as Dieter Forte (Der Junge mit den blutigen Schuhen, 1995; Sprechen und Schweigen, 2002) and Walter Kempowski (Der rote Hahn. Dresden im Februar 1945, 2001) contributed to this reorientation of German cultural memory. They were not the frst to address these topics, yet their canonical status gave them public visibility, and they derived moral and political authority as members of what Sigrid Weigel refers to as an ‘invisible frst generation’ (2002, 274), located between the so-called frst generation of perpetrator-fathers and the so-called second generation of ’68. According to Weigel, because of their historical in-between position, this generation could claim an ‘epistemological privilege’ – a kind of ‘knowledge without guilt’ (2002, 274). Therefore, they signifcantly added to the emergence of a social framework and discourse ‘in which German sufferings dating back to the Second World War can be separated from reactionary and revisionist arguments and, freed of the danger of political exploitation […] have a chance to be heard with empathy’ (Assmann 2006, 198). Berger and Taberner speak in that regard of an invitation to refect on the sequencing of the ‘German experience’: Germans as aggressors, Germans as perpetrators (with occasional acts of moral righteousness), Germans as victims of the furious response

34 Of Perpetrators and Victims provoked by their repression, Germans as members of a vanquished nation. (2009, 4) The topic of German suffering was also taken up by younger authors, such as Uwe Timm (Am Beispiel meines Bruders, 2003), Judith Kuckart (Lenas Liebe, 2002), Reinhard Jirgl (Die Unvollendeten, 2003), and Julia Franck (Die Mittagsfrau, 2007). Yet in the discussion about the reappraisal of German victimhood, the novel Flughunde (1995) by Marcel Beyer was hardly ever mentioned. Its story, which is set against the background of the National Socialist era, has two protagonists: Hermann Karnau, sound engineer and researcher of the human voice, as well as Helga Goebbels, eldest daughter of Joseph Goebbels. The plotlines of both characters run parallel and meet time and again, as we see Karnau sinking ever deeper into the NS-ideology, while Helga increasingly starts to question the acts of her father. At its appearance, Flughunde received critical acclaim for its poetic style, its play with fact and fction, its attention for the memory transfer through material carriers,3 and its analysis of perpetrator psychology. It also caught the attention of many scholars of German literary memory, who have focused mostly on the character Hermann Karnau. His personal pathology, his experiments on humans to compile an atlas of vocal sounds, his involvement in the murdering of the Goebbels children, and his control over the memory transfer to the present via his recordings have drawn the lion’s share of scholarly inquiry.4 In my reading of Flughunde, I wish to shift the focus of the discussion to the character of Helga Goebbels. While Karnau provides for an intricate study of the National Socialist perpetrator, her character has been interpreted, in some instances, as an icon of pure victimhood under the reign of National Socialism.5 Yet, what is persistently overseen in readings of the novel is the fact that the victimhood addressed in Flughunde differs fundamentally from that brought up by, for example, Walser or Grass. In an essay about post-Holocaust authorship, Julia Hell argues that the reemergence of German victimhood in public discourses entailed that one can speak of the traumatic experiences on the part of non-Jewish Germans, as long as the differences between these historical experiences are not forgotten and, most importantly, as long as the trap of transforming Germans into the victims of National Socialism is avoided. (2003, 14) Helga is, however, not victim to forces from outside of Germany, but to her parents and to Karnau. For that reason, I believe that the indexical dimension or ‘thrust’ in Flughunde concerns Beyer’s meta-mnemonic engagement with how Germans who were affliated with National Socialism – either

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by proximity or because of ideological conviction – could indeed become victims of Nazi rule. Helga is a victim in two ways. First, and most obviously, she is murdered by her parents who are prominent Nazis, because they cannot envisage her (and her siblings) living in a reality after National Socialism. Second, and in far more complex ways, she is victim to the fact that her close proximity to National Socialism renders her victimhood in Flughunde impossible. This proximity impacts her behavior, inciting symbolic violence and mimetic behavior, which troubles her iconicity of pure victimhood, regardless of the fact that she repeatedly questions National Socialist regulations and her killing. What is important here is that Beyer’s representation of this type of victimhood differs signifcantly from the allocation of guilt to a small Nazielite, as expressed in the immediate aftermath of the war by the bystanders. In Flughunde, this staging of victimhood does not serve purposes of exoneration but offers an investigation into the complexities that mark the proximity to perpetratorship and how it affects personal identities. To illustrate these complexities in Flughunde, I will start my analysis by investigating the novel’s representation of the dynamics involved in the transfer of perpetratorship and guilt from one generation to the next, from parents to children. Subsequently, I will discuss how the novel addresses this transformation at the level of form and how it also explores the reader’s identity as a distant witness to the events in the novel. Via the use of the camera-eye technique in the description of Karnau’s acts of perpetration and the use of the present tense in narrating the past, Flughunde brings its readers in close proximity to the narrated history, up to the point where they also they become what Michael Rothberg has referred to as ‘implicated subjects’ (2013; 2019). With this notion, Rothberg hints at the extension of historic accountability for present-day subjects in traumatic histories and opens up ‘a broad and murky terrain in which we can locate many dilemmas of remembrance, responsibility, and reparation’ (2013). Beyer’s novel, I will argue, aims at transforming its readers from distant observers into involved witnesses. In this manner, Flughunde troubles conventional understandings of the relation to perpetratorship from a synchronic and diachronic perspective.

The Transfer of Perpetratorship While Helga and her sisters principally reside in a world of fantasy and playfulness at the outset of the story of Flughunde, they are continuously exposed to the politics of the surrounding adult world – an exposure that molds and directs their views. Their youth, epitomizing innocence and ignorance, is strongly infuenced by what Slavoj Žižek terms the ‘symbolic violence’ (2008, 1) of indoctrination and manipulation. Ideological positions are transferred from one world to the other, from one generation to the next, through complex processes of exposure and shielding.

36 Of Perpetrators and Victims Overall, Helga’s exposure to the adults’ experience of the war follows two paths: involuntary and intentional. The frst is an automatic process facilitated through flial bonds and spatial contiguity. Here, the children become implicated in National Socialist perpetration via familial relations with ‘guilty’ adults, and via their instrumentalization for their parents’ ideology. A good example of this is the fact that all of the Goebbels children carry names starting with the letter ‘H’ – Helga, Hildegard, Helmut, Hedwig, Heidrun, and Holdine – which establishes a link to the name of Adolf Hitler. Although there is no consensus regarding a possible political motivation for this naming, the nominal association with the name of the German Führer involuntarily taints their identity. Moreover, Helga and her siblings become an instrument in Goebbels’s propaganda machine, being staged in radio broadcasts and photo sessions, and they are also present at various political meetings, where they are directly exposed to Nazi ideology. As this ideology has no secretive character and is accepted as the norm of daily life, the transfer of it exerts a strong effect on their identity. Just as the children are exposed to war in its most general sense, they are also shielded from specifc details and concrete political implications. For instance, when Helga and her siblings respond to their father’s propaganda with questions, they tend to be appeased with misleading statements. Consider Goebbels’s explanation of the Germanization of the Alsace after its annexation by the Germans in 1940: Papa, was ist denn eigentlich Entwelschung? […] Na ja, sagt Papa. Wie soll man das erklären? Das ist die Gegend hin zu Frankreich. Aber eigentlich ist das ein deutscher Landstrich. Plötzlich gehörte es zu Frankreich, obwohl es doch ganz deutsch ist. Und jetzt gehört es wieder zu unserem Land dazu. Aber das ist doch nicht Entwelschung? Nein, Entwelschung ist … das ist überhaupt ein falsches Wort. Man hat einfach im Elsaß alles wieder umgestellt auf deutsche Verhältnisse, die Schulen, die Verwaltung und so weiter. Warum sollte im Elsaß etwas anders sein als im restlichen Reich? Da gab es aber auch Leute, denen das nicht gefel, die wollten sich unbedingt gegen Deutschland sperren. Denen mußte man dann etwas Beine machen, mit Polizei und so. Die hat so manchen Verräter aus dem Dunkeln hervorgezogen, der lieber unentdeckt geblieben wäre. Sind das dann Schattengestalten? Ja, das kann man sagen. Sind Schattengestalten Männer, die auch Kinder entführen? Vielleicht, ja. Aber davor braucht ihr keine Angst zu haben. Niemand würde es wagen, euch zu entführen. Kindesentführung wird mit dem Tod bestraft, das hat euer Papa schon vor Jahren durchgesetzt, gerade auch, damit ihr, meine Liebsten, sicher seid. (FH 126)6

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Papa, what does Germanization mean? […] Well, says Papa, let’s see. Alsace is over toward France but it’s really part of Germany. The French took it away from us, even though it’s a hundred percent German, but now it belongs to us again. But what does Germanization mean? It simply means that everything in the Alsace has been put back to German, school lessons, newspapers, government announcements, and so on. After all, why should Alsace be any different from the rest of the Reich? Some of the people there didn’t like that. They were determined to put a stop to them. They try to keep their activities dark, the traitors, but the police have unmasked them. Shady characters, you mean? Yes, you could call them that. Men who kidnap children, are they shady characters too? Yes, but you’ve no need to be scared of kidnappers, no one would dare to kidnap you. Kidnapping is a capital offense, your Papa made sure of that years ago, just so that you, my darlings, could feel safe. (KT 99–100) Goebbels’s rhetoric evinces a complex maneuvering of exposure and shielding strategies. First, he tries to avoid explaining the particular nature of Germanization by pointing out its effects rather than its meaning: ‘now it belongs to us again’. This effect is assessed as a return from a state of nonnormality (‘The French took it away from us’) to one of normality (‘it’s a hundred percent German’). Helga, however, realizes the insuffciency of her father’s answer and wants to know how this ‘return’ exactly took place. In response to that, Goebbels erases the negative political term from the children’s vocabulary by frst stressing its insuffciency and then removing its exceptional character by calling it something ‘simply’ belonging to everyday reality. The rhetorical question ‘why should Alsace be any different from the rest of the Reich?’ is then aimed to confrm the self-evidence of the Germanization. Notably, Goebbels does not remain silent about the violence involved; he instead indicates that it is directed at a small group of people resisting the ‘normal’ state of affairs: ‘shady’ traitors who want to oppose Germany. By referring to the shade, Goebbels awakens the children’s inherent fear of the dark and so implicitly makes them side against these so-called traitors. The reference to child kidnapping then diverts attention from the political to the personal sphere, where his political measures against ‘traitors’ are presented as an attempt to protect the welfare of the entire family. Goebbels’s sophisticated rhetoric thus produces a highly complex form of shielding. It does not silence the topic; he engages it – but in such a way that the children view his actions as a form of protection.

38 Of Perpetrators and Victims As a rhetorical strategy, this shielding mechanism not only serves to alleviate the children’s fears but also keeps them from knowledge of the war. Although they fnd themselves at the ideological heart of the war machinery, they are, at least initially, not affected by its cruel manifestations. They mostly reside in an idyllic country house at Schwanenwerder, south of Berlin, grow up with the privileges of the elite, and are exempt from the drastic measures of Nazi ideology tyrannizing the rest of the German population. Their fantasy world is largely untouched by the growing brutality of the regime and the severity of the war.

The Appropriation of Perpetratorship In Flughunde, such transfer of knowledge enacts mimetic behavior in the children. This is, frst of all, recognizable in the playful imitation of war events and Nazi terminology in their games and conversations. Going for a walk with their mentor Karnau, the children play with the stroller, pretending it is a tank with which to crash through puddles (FH 53; KT 45). On another occasion, they play ‘Winterhilfswerk’ (FH 60; ‘Winter Relief’ (KT 54))7 and ‘Taubstummen-Aufmarsch’ (FH 69; ‘deaf-mutes on parade’ (KT 54)). Most pronounced is their imitation of their father’s role in a car accident, in which their mother was injured because of Goebbels’s recklessness: ‘Trotzdem wollen alle Vater spielen, das slechte Gewissen muss auch gar nicht lange anhalten, und der Vater darf seinen Mitarbeiter Befehle geben, er hat eigene Sekretäre und immer viel zu tun’ (FH 61; ‘Everyone wants to play Father in spite of that, because he doesn’t feel bad about it for long and he gets to order everyone around. He has his own secretaries and he’s always very busy’ (KT 46)). Such mimetic behavior is not entirely innocent. On several occasions, their play turns into concrete identifcation with the authority they are imitating, and this in turn leads to violent consequences. One day, for instance, they play ‘spontane Aktion’ (FH 144),8 imitating a street scene in which Jews were exposed to public humiliation and denigration: Wir haben einmal in der Stadt gesehen, wie das geht. Hilde schaut zu mir und sagt: Wir zwei geben die Befehle, Ihr Kleinen müßt uns gehorchen. Sie holen ihre Zahnbürsten aus dem Badezimmer und müssen sie vorzeigen: Wir prüfen ob sie auch in Ordnung sind. Dann müssen die Kleinen auf die Knie runter, sie müssen mit den Zahnbürsten den Boden im Spielzimmer sauber putzen, wir Aufseher stoßen sie, wir dürfen sogar ein bisßchen treten. Die Kleinen dürfen uns nicht ins Gesicht sehen beim Schrubben, sie müssen den Blick senken und dürfen auch einander nicht anschauen, jeder hat seine Ecke auf dem Teppich anzustarren. Wir Großen stehen mit breiten Beinen vor ihnen und stemmen die Hände in die Hüften: Los, bürsten, macht schon.

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Aber es ist viel schwieriger, einen Teppich zu putzen als das Straßenpfaster. Die Fäden kommen aus dem Boden und verhaken sich fest in den Bürsten, die schon bald voller Flusen sind. Hilde stellt ihren Fuß auf Helmuts Schulter: Wird’s bald, schneller, sauberer. Wir brüllen uns die Köpfe rot, Hilde will unbedingt lauter schreien als ich, aber wir merken beide, daß wir langsam heiser werden, bald haben wir eine richtige Wut auf unsere Geschwister. Die trauen sich nicht mehr zu mucken, die schrubben ohne Pause und rutschen auf den Knien durch das Zimmer, immer schneller, je lauter wir sie anschreien. (FH 144) We’re playing brownshirts and undesirable elements, the game we saw them playing in Berlin one day. We’ll give the orders, Hilde says, looking at me, and the little ones have to obey them. The others fetch their toothbrushes from the bathroom and hold them out for us to inspect. Then we make them get down on their knees and scrub the nursery foor. Being in charge we’re allowed to shove them around and even kick them a little. They aren’t allowed to look at us while they’re scrubbing the foor, they have to look down the whole time. They aren’t allowed to look at each other, either. They have to keep staring at their own stretch of carpet. The two of us stand over them with our legs apart and our hands on our hips. Go on, we tell them, scrub harder, put your back into it But it’s much harder to scrub a carpet than a pavement. Bits come off and get stuck in the bristles, and it isn’t long before they’re full of fuff. Hilde plants her foot on Helmut’s shoulder. Get a move on, she says. Faster, cleaner. We yell our heads off, Hilde insists on yelling louder than me, but we both notice we’re growing hoarse and get really angry with the others. They don’t dare to say a word, they scrub away without stopping and shuffe across the foor on their knees, faster and faster the louder we shout at them. (KT 115–116) Here, their play moves beyond the mere imitation of physical action, triggering feelings of anger and power: ‘really angry with the others’. In response, the fear with which their siblings perform (as Jews) also becomes real: ‘They don’t dare to say a word’. This transition from imitation to enactment complicates the opposition between the realm of the children and that of the adults as the latter’s perpetratorship now becomes part of the children’s identity. This merging of identities is not only apparent in such explicit imitative acts but also manifests itself in the form of what Žižek calls ‘systemic

40 Of Perpetrators and Victims violence’, a violence inherent in ‘the smooth functioning of our economic and political systems’, and residing invisibly in our daily behavior or ‘“normal” state of things’ (2008, 2). With the Goebbels children, this systemic violence is recognizable in their unconscious adaptation of Nazi terminology in their daily language. Helga, for example, displays a rigorous insistence on cleanliness and a refusal to accept the non-normative and extraordinary, in this case a fying fox: ‘Was sollen denn das für Hunde sein. Das ist doch Blödsinn. Hunde können laufen, aber nicht fiegen’ (FH 52; ‘Nonsense, there are no such things. What do you mean, foxes? Don’t be silly, foxes run, they can’t fy. You must mean bats’ (KT 38)). Her sisters also demonstrate this normative ideology when they consider the name of Karnau’s dog, Coco, as improper for a dog: ‘Helga, hast du schon mal gehört, daß ein Hund Coco heißt? Wir haben seit dem Sommer einen Setter [...] und der heißt Treff, das ist ein richtiger Hundename’ (FH 37; ‘Have you ever heard of a dog called Coco? We’ve had a red setter since the summer […]. His name is Treff; that’s a proper dog’s name’ (KT 25, emphasis in original)). While such behavior does not have to originate in a National Socialist upbringing, it does ft in the rigid Manichean worldview that accompanies this ideology. Moreover, on several occasions, they adapt words that clearly belong to the Nazi register: Zum Beispiel, wenn Heide auch so eine Taubstumme wäre, wie diese Leute, von denen Sie [Karnau] erzählt haben. Wir wissen das ja nicht, wir haben sie noch nicht gesehen. Und anfangs merkt man doch auch gar nichts, weil Heide sowieso nicht sprechen kann. Könnten wir dann niemals mit ihr reden? Wäre sie ein richtiger Krüppel? Das wäre doch furchtbar. Wir hatten nämlich schon mal ein Krüppel, der hat aber erst gar nicht gelebt. (FH 57) What if Heide were a deaf-mute like the people you told me about? We don’t know what they’re like, because we’ve never seen any. We wouldn’t notice a thing at frst because babies can’t talk anyway. Wouldn’t we be able to talk together, ever? Would Heide be a cripple? That would be awful. Our mother had a crippled baby once, but it was born dead. (KT 42–43) By using the word ‘cripple’ in reference to her newborn baby sister, Helga draws on the National Socialist discourse on biopolitics and its desire to purify the body politic. Associating the incapacity of speech with an aberrant physicality, she partakes in a worldview in which every form of physical dysfunction is considered a radical degeneration and a threat to the health and normality of the state. This goes hand in hand with her blatant lack of empathy in viewing the loss of her little brother through the lens of

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Nazi ideology rather than through family relations. Another striking example of this language use is her response when she learns that Karnau’s dog is a mongrel: ‘Ist Coco nicht reinrassig? […] Dann ist er ja ein Bastard’ (FH 66; ‘You mean he isn’t pure-blooded? […] So he’s a bastard?’ (KT 51)). Here, too, she imitates the biopolitical discourses of her time and culture, insisting on a radical distinction between a pure, unmarked ‘Self’ and an impure, deviant ‘Other’. Hence, Helga increasingly takes up the perpetrator role as she begins to internalize the Nazi ideology.9 The children’s mimetic behavior and subsequent blurring of boundaries between perpetrators and victims are, however, short-lived in Flughunde. The deteriorating war circumstances increasingly encapsulate the children, as they are confned in the last days of the war to Hitler’s bunker. Here, their fate is intimately tied to that of their parents, who cannot imagine their children living in a liberated Germany and are willing to sacrifce them to their own ideology. Helga quickly understands that things are taking a bad turn and realizes that their parents will not release her and her siblings from their grip. Yet because she is in no position to resist this fate, she remains silent for the sake of her siblings’ peace of mind: Wir Großen sind doch keine kleinen Kinder mehr, mit Schulfrei kann man uns nicht mehr locken. Aber wir können ihr [Magda Goebbels] das auch nicht sagen, dann bekämen die Kleinen noch mehr Angst. Die dürfen nicht erfahren, was uns allen bevorsteht: Wir werden nicht mehr lange leben. Das kann man nicht laut sagen. (FH 241) Hilde and I aren’t babies anymore. Mama doesn’t take us in with all this stuff about no more lessons, but we can’t tell her so because the little ones would be even more scared. They mustn’t fnd out what we’re in for, all of us. They mustn’t fnd out we’ll soon be dead. (KT 192) As a result, Helga tells her siblings that the Berlin ruins are actually construction works, suggesting that the ultimate victory is at hand. Resorting to the very rhetoric successfully applied by her father in an effort to soothe his children, Helga becomes even further complicit with her parents’ perpetratorship. Despite the fact that her lies, in contrast to her father’s, are white lies, their effect is the same: they evoke an imaginary reality to avert anxiety and pre-empt critical refection and resistance. Hence, Helga, to a certain extent, bears responsibility both for the violent death of her siblings and her own death at her parents’ hands through poisoning. The white spot on Hermann Karnau’s vocal map metaphorically represents how the innocence of the children is troubled by their proximity to perpetratorship. As we learn over the course of the story, Karnau is obsessed with vocal sounds and he wants to chart all of them on his ‘Karte aller Stimmfärbungen’

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(FH 29), an atlas of vocal sounds.10 His ambition of ‘Vollständigkeit’ (FH 62; ‘completeness’ (KT 48)) is, however, thwarted by his – at least initial – refusal to record the voices of the children: ‘Die Stimmen dieser Kinder werden auf meiner Karte nicht verzeichnet, wo sie dann offenlägen vor aller Welt, und, schlimmer noch, auch vor den Kindern selber’ (KT 63, ‘these children’s voices will not be entered on my map, where they would be exposed to all and sundry and, worse still, to the children themselves’ (KT 48)). He does not want to map their voices because he wants to spare them the sense of selfestrangement that he himself experienced when he heard his own voice as a child. As a consequence, the absence of these voices causes a ‘weißer Fleck’ (FH 63; ‘blank space’ (KT 48)) on his map. This blank irritates Karnau, yet he initially accepts it in an effort to preserve the children’s youthful innocence. For that reason, this blank is not just a reference to what is missing on the vocal map; it also represents the children’s preserved innocence (with ‘white’ functioning as its conventional symbol) on a map that is increasingly flled with sounds that are achieved through acts of brutal torture. Yet, some elements complicate such a reading. At an earlier point in the narration, Karnau looks forward in time: ‘aber der weiße Fleck läßt sich nicht ausfüllen, erst Jahre später ein verwandter Ton’ (FH 30; but the white space does not allow being flled out, only years later a related tone).11 The mentioning of ‘only years later’ can be read as a reference to Karnau’s eventual recording of the children’s voices on the night that they are killed in Hitler’s bunker.12 This recording allows him to fnally complete his map, yet he has to admit that this flling out does not cover the blank completely. This failure refects the absurdity of Karnau’s project, which can only remain incomplete. For that reason, the character of Karnau functions as an allegory for the vain and absurd nature of Nazi biopolitics and its efforts to purify the body politic. Yet, if we conceive of this ‘white space’ as a symbol of the children’s innocence, Karnau seems to admit that the eventual flling out of this spot will not be accomplished with pure ‘whiteness’ of innocence, but only by ‘ein verwandter Ton’ (a related tone). Here, he seems to anticipate the children’s changed identity. ‘Years later’, after a period of indoctrination, their voices do no longer symbolize that pure ‘white’ innocence. Tainted by Nazi ideology because of their proximity to structures of power and perpetration, they are now merely a related tone or hue of that innocence. Hence, despite their dire fate, the novel reveals how they cannot be considered as sheer war victims. To be sure, Helga’s proximity to National Socialism does not turn her into a perpetrator, nor does it repudiate her identity as a victim of murder. Yet, it inevitably steers her identity into a murky terrain in which ignorance and innocence can no longer be assumed as features that offer redemption from responsibility. Although she has not contributed to the effectuation of National Socialist measures, she is – to pick up Rothberg’s concept again – defnitely implicated in it. Rothberg defnes the concept of the implicated subject as follows:

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Implicated subjects occupy positions aligned with power and privilege without being themselves direct agents of harm; they contribute to, inhabit, inherit, or beneft from regimes of domination but do not originate or control such regimes. (Rothberg 2019, 1) This defnition surely applies to Helga’s character in Flughunde. Through her father, she is indeed in a position of privilege, and she ‘inherits’ and actively adopts the language and behavior of power. In doing so, she becomes a ‘participant in histories and social formations that generate the positions of victim and perpetrator’ (ibid.). While her mimetic behavior surely is playful and she is not in a position to resist National Socialist actions, Beyer shows at length how her proximity to perpetration fundamentally affects the nature of her identity, to the extent that it undermines the victimhood that is inscribed onto her character as a result of her being killed in Hitler’s bunker. By situating this implication in the fgure of Helga Goebbels, Beyer’s novel functions as a moral laboratory for the investigation of German victimhood in relation to World War II. On the one hand, it confrms the possibility of its existence by projecting it onto a child in wartime – a victimhood that seems almost impossible to deny. On the other hand, it undercuts that vision by illustrating that victimhood becomes virtually inconceivable within proximity to power and privilege. This does not mean that Flughunde is a melodramatic or sentimental lament of innocence lost. I believe it rather shows us how categories such as ‘perpetrator’, ‘victim’, and ‘implicated subject’ are positions occupied in particular and dynamic structures and histories of power. In that sense, it resists Manichean models of thought that freeze these identities as ontological and diametrically opposed categories. It rather shows us the continuum between them and how they can coexist in what Rothberg describes as ‘complex implication’ (2019, Part II). In sketching out that complexity, Beyer announced the need for a new phase of the German Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung – one that would shortly after be made more explicit by Sebald and Walser.

The Form of Involvement The intricate relationship between perpetratorship and victimhood in Flughunde is not only present in the novel’s content, but also in its form. With the exception of one brief passage that reports the fnding of Karnau’s recordings in an orphanage in Dresden, reported by an authorial narrator (FH 219–225; KT 175–181), Flughunde consists of an alternation between two storylines: that of Karnau and that of Helga, whose stories we follow through their focalization. Through this creative fabulation, which embodies the novel’s poetic thrust, Beyer brings the perspectives of the German perpetrator and its victim together in one narrative. This alternation does,

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however, not merely entail a formal juxtaposition of both identities in the narrative. It also stresses their entanglement, suggesting an interdependence between both disparate identities that jointly inhabit the narrative of the German collective memory of World War II, and who constantly gain or lose dominance in the German postwar past that deals with the war. Their disparity is expressed by the clear demarcation between the respective storylines by means of a blank space in the text; their entanglement by how these storylines often seem to merge with each other. The following scene, in which the Goebbels children wake up Karnau one morning after having moved to his home, illustrates this aptly: Ich blinzele. Es ist schon hell. Und da strahlt mich ein Kindergesicht an. Und noch eins. Er hat die Augen aufgemacht. Sie fangen an zu kichern. Die Kinder haben sich hereingeschlichen und sitzen bei mir auf dem Bett. (FH 68) I open my eyes a fraction: daylight already. I make out a child’s smiling face. And another. He has opened his eyes. They start to giggle. The children have crept in and are sitting on my bed.13 While the ‘I’ in the sentence, ‘I open my eyes a fraction’, clearly refers to Karnau’s perception, the use of ‘He’ in ‘He has opened his eyes’ marks the change of perspective to the children, who observe Karnau waking up. The perspective then immediately switches back to that of Karnau: ‘They start to giggle’. This transition is not marked by blank spaces or textual indicators about who is focalizing, which makes it easy to confuse both perspectives. In light of the novel’s engagement with the dynamic nature of the identities these characters represent, these shifts in perspective do not just refect literary play; they formally express the interconnectedness of these perspectives and the historical categories they represent. Besides addressing implication as a result of historical proximity to structures of power and violence, Flughunde also addresses its diachronic, transgenerational dimension. Published in 1995, 50 years after the end of World War II, the novel speaks to readers for whom this war is a distant memory or to those who only know it through material media. With regard to the latter group, this temporal distance commonly implies historical and emotional detachment and a lack of – or at least a diminished – political and moral connection. However, while fctions of meta-memory take the opportunities opened up by this detachment as a starting-point for their mnemonic commitment (as I will explain in more detail in the third section of this book), more than often they emphasize the need for

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mnemonic attachment and for a responsibility of present-day subjects for the legacy of World War II. This didactical exercise is often made explicit on the diegetic level; in Flughunde it is expressed on the level of form. In the following, I will elaborate on Beyer’s formal efforts to involve his reader into history. Flughunde invokes readerly involvement by means of two literary devices that further defne the novel’s poetic thrust in its meta-mnemonic commitment: the camera-eye technique and the present tense in the rendition of the protagonists’ focalization. The camera-eye technique suggests the absence of authorial presence of the narrating subject. Its purpose is to create the impression that observations by the characters are merely transmitted, ‘without apparent selection or arrangement, a “slice of life” as it passes before the recording medium’ (Stanzel 1986, 232). In Flughunde, this arrangement is given shape through the frst-person renditions of the events by Helga and Karnau. For sure, they themselves interpret and assess what they see, yet there is no authorial guidance for the reader beyond these personal perspectives. Hence, readers are forced to take up the responsibility of gauging the events perceived by the protagonists as well as the latter’s responses to it. Reading therefore entails not only the act of making sense of the past presented, but also to be actively involved in its formation. Michael Rothberg’s concept of traumatic realism is helpful to clarify the narrative logic behind this technique. While coined specifcally in an effort to describe appropriate modes of realism in representing Holocaust atrocities, the term is also useful to articulate how Beyer tries to put his reader in the shoes of his two protagonists. Traumatic realism, so Rothberg argues, does not allow for ‘passive mimesis’, but attempts to ‘transform its readers so that they are forced to acknowledge their relation to posttraumatic culture’ (2000, 103). It seeks both to construct access to a previously unknowable object and to instruct this audience in how to approach it. Its stakes are, hence, of an epistemological, pedagogical, and moral nature. I believe it is exactly this active mimesis that Flughunde strives for by means of the camera-eye technique. The moral nature of this reading exercise is brought to a head in the fgure of Herrmann Karnau. As Stanzel has indicated, the camera-eye technique is ‘especially suited for presenting man as a “fgure without depth” and for expressing his “internal muteness” in language’ (1986, 233). This description fts Karnau’s character very well. He is described as someone who experiences a profound emptiness within himself: ‘So aufmerksam ich auch nach innen horche, ich höre nichts, nur einen dumpfen Widerhall von Nichts, unten aus der Bauchhöhle vielleicht, das Fiebern, das Rumoren meiner Innereien’ (FH 16–17; ‘However hard I listen inwardly, I hear nothing, just the dull reverberation of nothingness, just the febrile rumbling of my guts, perhaps from deep within the abdominal cavity’ (KT 8)). This emptiness does not only imply a lack of imagination or personal opinion, but also of moral sensitivity. His observations of the tortures he ordains to

46 Of Perpetrators and Victims fll his vocal map are marked by a total absence of compassion for his victims and of any refection about the nature of his acts. This is, for example, clear from the following description, in which he follows the dissection of a human larynx: Wie eine Wunde wirkt die rosa Haut inmitten der Umgebung aus gekräuseltem schwarzem Haar, diesem widergespenstigen Hundefell, das der Rasierapparat nicht überall bis auf die Poren hat entfernen können. Die freigelegte Kehle unbeweglich, dem Lichtstrahl ausgesetzt, so blendend hell die ausgeleuchtete Stelle, daß sie fast weiß wirkt. Quietschendes Gummi beim Anlegen der Handschuhe. […] Beginn der Öffnung. Die offene Hautdecke, die Maserung der Muskulatur, das austretende Blut gerinnt um Kin und Schultern, verklebt den Pelz. Haben Sie endlich den Durchbruch? Die Klemme wird in den Hals geschoben. Besser ausleuchten, nichts zu erkennen. Im Anschlag die Luftröhre: Ein schwacher, gleichmäßiger Lufthauch weht um die Finger des Chirurgen. Jetzt durch die enge Öffnung mit dem Skalpell vor bis zum Kehlkopf. (FH 160) The pink skin looks like a wound in the midst of that expanse of curly black hair, that stubborn canine fur which the razor has failed to slice off fush with the pores. The bare throat is motionless, exposed to a beam of light so dazzlingly bright that the illuminated area looks almost white. Rubber gloves squeak as the surgeon pulls them on. […] The open epidermis, the muscle texture, the blood that trickles over chin and shoulders, matting the fur. ‘Are you through yet?’ A clamp is inserted in the throat. ‘More light, I can’t see a thing.’ Next, the windpipe – a faint, rhythmical breeze over the surgeon’s fngers. Now to insert the scalpel in the narrow aperture and tackle the larynx itself. (KT 127–128) Focalized through Karnau, without any mediation of an authorial narrator, the dissection is presented in a very dispassionate way. Karnau registers the surgeon’s acts and the slow and gradual progression of the scene, which sticks closely to the tempo of the dissection itself, evokes the impression that we follow the scene through the eye of a camera. Plenty of elements hint at Karnau’s ideological mindset in this presentation, for example the objectifcation of the body and its representation in animalistic terms. His impatience toward the surgeon may signal an emotional investment, yet it is mostly a refection of his obsessiveness. Compassion and moral refection are entirely absent. It is exactly here that the readerly involvement sets in. The camera-eye technique creates what Meinhard Mair calls ‘eine Unbestimmtheitsstelle’ (2014, 203), an absence which readers must fll out themselves and therefore aims at activating their moral refection. The novel appeals to the reader’s ability to recognize the discrepancy between what is

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represented on the one hand, and Karnau’s behavior and disregard of suffering, on the other. This effect of the camera-eye technique is supported by the use of the present tense in Flughunde, which creates what Genette calls a ‘simultaneous narration’ (1983, 218).14 Here, ‘the temporal hiatus between the narrating and the experiencing self […] is reduced to zero: the moment of narration is the moment of experience’ (Cohn 1999, 107). This enhances the impression that an authorial narrator is absent, and it results in a fction that unfolds the past ‘without having to presentify it’, as Armen Avanessian suggests (2013, 364). With this, Avanessian implies that the moment of diegesis in the novel is canceled out and the text aims at generating or suggesting a pure mimesis. As a result, Flughunde produces a narrative situation in which the reader, by looking through the eyes of the protagonists, virtually coincides with them. With Helga, the reader has to experience her initial innocence, her growing insecurities and confusion, and her eventual resignation when facing death. In the case of Karnau, the reader closely follows him on his path from being merely a follower of Nazism to his participation in the highest echelons of the Nazi elite. This proximity is maintained when he observes the tortures. Yet what is offered to the reader is not just a voyeuristic opportunity to observe torture. Karnau’s total absence of refection upon his deeds or upon the fate of the tortured subject aims to incite precisely this refection in the reader, summoning him or her to take a stand in relation to what is shown. In doing so, the novel performs an ‘active mimesis’ (in contrast to the ‘passive mimesis’ Rothberg hints at): readers are forced out of the comfort zone of merely registering what the focalizing subject observes and are faced with the following dilemma: can they stick to the mere registration in light of what is presented to them – even when these fall beyond their mnemonic scope? Can they, like Karnau, refuse to be morally involved and indulge in his obsessive gazing at this spectacle of mutilation? This moral situation raises a crucial issue with regard to looking at victims of atrocity in Holocaust studies – one concerned with the danger of voyeurism inherent in that act and of becoming a ‘colluder in the genocidal gaze of the murderers’ (Morra 2005, 102). As readers are left alone in witnessing Karnau’s acts of brutal torture or are even forced to inhabit his perspective, their voyeurism turns into implication. While passive bystanders can look away, those readers who continue to read produce in the act of reading the torture from which they cannot remove their gaze. Readerly involvement in Flughunde is, hence, not just a didactical project; it is also a confrontation with the collusion of past and present, of the historical ‘other’ and the present ‘self’. Through this confrontation and the experience of implication, the novel aims at transforming its readers from passive observers of history into active participants in the negotiation of World War II memory. It attempts to create what Julia Hell terms a ‘new spectator – neither voyeuristically aligned with the perpetrators of genocide, nor lost in unproblematized identifcations’ (2003, 34).

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New Spectators To conclude my analysis of Flughunde, I want to engage the question of what these ‘new spectators’ have to do, besides actively refecting on their relation to the past and their identity as implicated subjects through voyeurism and identifcation. I want to link this refexivity to how Flughunde has been read as a critical refection on the use of the archive in the German Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung. As I have pointed out above, Karnau’s participation in National-Socialist perpetration is predominantly driven by his wish to compile his vocal map. His emotional and moral detachment implies a complete disregard for the individual he tortures, and the desire for the completeness of his vocal map leads him to even record the voices of the Goebbels’ children as they are dying. As Ian Fleishman shows, this mnemonic drive is essentially murderous in that it disembodies the historical subjects whose voices it wants to register and preserve. Ulrich Baer has connected this drive to the post-war reliance on the archive to know the past. With his archival drive, so Baer suggests, Karnau functions as a symbol of post-war Germans who can safely rely on ‘the archives’ to preserve historical memory and are thus relieved of the burden of embodied memory as living beings. [...] Flughunde investigates precisely how the reliance on archival recordings can acquit someone of truly remembering one’s past. (2003, 250–251) This argument resonates with Andreas Huyssen’s contention that ‘[t]he more memory stored on the data banks and image tracks, the less of our culture’s willingness to engage in active remembrance’ (Huyssen 1995, 7) or with Derrida’s notion of the archive as an ‘external memory’ which, because it is easily accessible, does not need to be stored by the mind (quoted in Roy 2016, 194). Through its form, Flughunde counters this externalization of memory. It puts the reader in the shoes of its protagonists, suggesting temporal proximity and raising questions about the readers’ relation to or implication in the narrated events. In doing so, Beyer hints at the extension of accountability of present-day subjects in traumatic histories, opening up ‘a broad and murky terrain in which we can locate many dilemmas of remembrance, responsibility, and reparation’ (Rothberg 2013, 40). The readers’ role here lies not in recognizing their accountability or complicity in the committed crimes, but in acknowledging implication and assuming responsibility for an engaged, even affective investment in remembering that war past. By following their path closely through focalization, interior monologue, the camera-eye technique, and the use of the present tense, readers are invited to internalize the perspectives of the protagonists while being morally alert,

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and to construct judgments that are built upon that internalization rather than on prescribed mnemonic traditions or the assumed objective truth of the archive.

Notes 1 Sebald formulated this claim in his Zürcher lectures, which were later published in his essay Lufkrieg und Literatur (2002). For an overview of the discussion concerning Sebald’s claims, see Beßlich, Grätz, and Hildebrand 2006. 2 For an overview of the debates and further readings about Grass’s initiatives, see Braun 2010, 122–128. For a discussion of the topic of allied bombings in German literature, see Gerstenberger, Norton, and Herminghouse 2012. 3 For an overview into the role of media in the construction of memory in Beyer’s work, see Georgopoulou 2012. 4 See, for example, Schönherr 1998, Pliske 2000, Schmidt 2000, Baer 2003, FabreRenault 2006, and Fleishman 2009. 5 See Ring 2007 and Schmidt 2000. 6 The German quotes are from Marcel Beyer, Flughunde (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1996), for which I will use the abbreviation ‘FH’. The English quotes are from the English translation of the novel by John Brownjohn, entitled The Karnau Tapes (1997). For referencing, I will use the abbreviation ‘KT’. 7 In the German original, Helga uses the term ‘Winterhilfswerk’ (FH 60), which is translated as ‘collecting for charity’ (KT 54) in the English translation. I use the offcial translation of ‘Winter Relief’, because it is crucial to my argument that the children internalize the offcial terminology in their play. 8 The term ‘spontane Aktion’ appears in Goebbels’s propaganda for Reichskristallnacht in November 1938. Here Goebbels represented the violence executed on Jewish citizens as a spontaneous response by the German citizens rather than a well-planned and organized act of aggression by the National Socialist party. 9 Regardless of the fact that the children spend more time with Hermann Karnau – who grows steadily into his role as perpetrator – than with their parents, his role in the indoctrination process is minor. Primarily interested in National Socialist politics because of the possibilities it offers for his research, rather than in the ideology itself, he does not actively or consciously transfer that ideology to the children. Moreover, it is exactly in those moments when he is together with them that his perpetrator role makes room for a more reasonable and caring attitude. For analyses of Karnau’s complex complicity, see Schönherr 1998 and Fleishman 2009. 10 For an elaborate study of Karnau’s project, which he also refers to as a ‘topophony’, see Schönherr 1998. 11 I use the German version for my interpretation, because its use of ‘Ton’ refers to sound as well as to the value or quality of color. The English translation of The Karnau Tapes uses ‘utterance’, which does not possess that duality: ‘It may be years before a related utterance from the lips of another sound source flls the last gap – indeed, a human life-span may be far too short to accomplish this’ (KT 20). The use of ‘tone’ refers in English to sound and color as well, but that duality is less obvious. 12 For a convincing analysis of Karnau’s guilt in the killing of the children and the recording of their voices, see Fleishman 2009 and Schmidt 2000. 13 I have translated this quote from the original myself, because in The Karnau Tapes, quotation marks and an exclamation mark are used to translate ‘Er hat

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die Augen aufgemacht’ into ‘His eyes are open!’ (KT 52). These additions undo the ambiguities of the focalization in Flughunde and are, hence, unusable for my interpretation. 14 For critical analyses of the use of the present tense in Beyer’s work, see Avanessian 2013 and Beßlich 2006.

References Assmann, Aleida. 2006. ‘On the (In)Compatibility of Guilt and Suffering in German Memory’. German Life and Letters 59 (2): 187–200. ———. 2007. Geschichte im Gedächtnis: Von der individuellen Erfahrung zur öffentlichen Inszenierung. Munich: C.H.Beck. Avanessian, Armen. 2013. ‘(Co)Present Tense: Marcel Beyer Reads the Past’. The Germanic Review 88 (4): 363–374. Baer, Ulrich. 2003. ‘Learning to Speak Like a Victim: Media and Authenticity in Marcel Beyer’s Flughunde’. Gegenwartsliteratur 2: 245–261. Beßlich, Barbara. 2006. ‘“Jeder Zeuge ist ein falscher Zeuge” Wissenschaftswahn und Kinderblick in Marcel Beyers Roman “Flughunde”’. In Wende des Erinnerins? Geschichtskonstruktionen in der deutschen Literatur nach 1989, edited by Barbara Beßlich, Katharina Grätz, and Olaf Hildebrand, 44–48. Berlin: Erich Schmidt. Beßlich, Barbara, Katharina Grätz, and Olaf Hildebrand. 2006. ‘Wende des Erinnerns?: Geschichtskonstruktionen in der deutschen Literatur nach 1989’. In Wende des Erinnerns?: Geschichtskonstruktionen in der deutschen Literatur nach 1989, edited by Barbara Beßlich, Katharina Grätz, and Olaf Hildebrand, 7–18. Berlin: Erich Schmidt. Beyer, Marcel. 1996. Flughunde. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. ———. 1997. The Karnau Tapes. Translated by John Brownjohn. New York: Houghton Miffin Harcourt. Braun, Michael. 2010. Die deutsche Gegenwartsliteratur. Köln: UTB. Cohen-Pfster, Laurel, and Dagmar Wienroeder-Skinner. 2012. ‘History and the Memory of Suffering: Rethinking 1933–1945’. In Victims and Perpetrators: 1933–1945, (Re)Presenting the Past in Post-Unifcation Culture, edited by Laurel Cohen-Pfster and Dagmar Wienroeder-Skinner, 3–26. Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter. Cohn, Dorrit. 1999. The Distinction of Fiction. Baltimore/London: Johns Hopkins UP. Fabre-Renault, Catherine. 2006. ‘“Sur la carte de l’âme allemande, une tache blanche”: Le passé de l’Allemagne vu au présent de la troisième génération’. Germanica 39: 165–179. Fleishman, Ian Thomas. 2009. ‘Invisible Voices: Archiving Sound as Sight in Marcel Beyer’s Karnau Tapes’. Mosaic 42 (2): 19–35. Frei, Norbert. 2005. 1945 und wir: Das Dritte Reich im Bewußtsein der Deutschen. Munich: C.H.Beck. Genette, Gérard. 1983. Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method. Translated by Jane E. Lewin. Ithaca: Cornell UP. Georgopoulou, Eleni. 2012. Abwesende Anwesenheit: Erinnerung und Medialität in Marcel Beyers Romantrilogie Flughunde, Spione und Kaltenburg. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann.

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Giesen, Bernhard. 2004. ‘The Trauma of Perpetrators: The Holocaust as the Traumatic Reference of German National Identity’. In Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity, edited by Bernhard Giesen, Jeffrey C. Alexander, Ron Eyerman, Neil J. Smelser, and Piotr Sztomka, 112–154. Berkeley: California UP. ———. 2005. ‘Das Trauma Der “Täternation”’. In Geschichtsbilder: Konstruktion – Refexion – Transformation, edited by Christina Jostkleigrewe, 387–414. Europäische Geschichtsdarstellungen 7. Köln/Weimar/Wien: Böhlau. Grass, Günter. 2001. ‘Ich erinnere mich’. In Die Zukunft der Erinnerung, edited by Martin Wälde, 27–34. Göttingen: Steidl. Hell, Julia. 2003. ‘Eyes Wide Shut: German Post-Holocaust Authorship’. New German Critique 88: 9–36. Huyssen, Andreas. 1995. Twilight Memories: Marking Time in a Culture of Amnesia. New York/London: Routledge. Mair, Meinhard. 2014. Erzähltextanalyse: Modelle, Kategorien, Parameter. New York: Columbia UP. Mitscherlich, Alexander, and Margarete Mitscherlich. 1975. The Inability to Mourn: Principles of Collective Behavior. New York: Grove Press. Morra, Joanne. 2005. Julia Kristeva. New York: Routledge. Nolan, Mary. 2001. ‘The Politics of Memory in the Berlin Republic’. Radical History Review 81 (1): 113–132. Norton, Sydney. 2012. ‘Luftkrieg Revisited: Contemporary Responses to the Allied Bombings of German Cities’. In German Literature in A New Century: Trends, Traditions, Transitions, Transformations, edited by Katharina Gerstenberger and Patricia Herminghouse, 99–118. New York/Oxford: Berghahn Books. Pliske, Roman. 2000. ‘Flughunde. Ein Roman über Wissenschaft und Wahnsinn ohne Genie im “Dritten Reich”’. In Auskünfte von und über Marcel Beyer, edited by Marc-Boris Bode, 108–122. Bamberg: University of Bamberg, Lehrstuhl für Neuere deutsche Literaturwissenschaft. Ring, Annie. 2007. ‘There Are no Perpetrators in Recent German Fiction Dealing with the Nazi Past, Only Excuses: Discuss’. aghring.blogspot.com (blog). August 1, 2007. Rothberg, Michael. 2000. Traumatic Realism: The Demands of Holocaust Representation. Minneapolis/London: Minnesota UP. ———. 2013. ‘Multidirectional Memory and the Implicated Subject: On Sebald and Kentridge’. In Performing Memory in Art and Popular Culture, edited by Liedeke Plate and Anneke Smelik, 39–58. New York/London: Routledge. ———. 2019. The Implicated Subject: Beyond Victims and Perpetrators. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Roy, Elodie A. 2016. Media, Materiality and Memory: Grounding the Groove. New York: Routledge. Schmidt, Thomas. 2000. ‘Erlauschte Vergangenheit: Über den literarischen Stimmensucher Marcel Beyer’. In Aufgerissen: Zur Literatur der 90er Jahre, edited by Thomas Kraft, 141–150. Munich: Piper. Schönherr, Ulrich. 1998. ‘Topophony of Fascism: On Marcel Beyer’s “The Karnau Tapes”’. Germanic Review 73 (January): 328–348. Sebald, W. G. 2004. On the Natural History of Destruction. New York: Modern Library. Stanzel, Franz Karl. 1986. A Theory of Narrative. Translated by Charlotte Goedsche. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.

52 Of Perpetrators and Victims Taberner, Stuart, and Karina Berger. 2009. ‘Introduction’. In Germans as Victims in the Literary Fiction of the Berlin Republic, edited by Stuart Taberner and Karina Berger, 1–14. Rochester: Camden House. Walser, Martin. 1998. ‘Friedenspreis der Deutschen Buchhandels’. Erfahrungen beim Verfassen einer Sonntagsrede. Mit der Laudation von Frank Schirrmacher. Frankfurt-am-Main: Suhrkamp. Weigel, Sigrid. 2002. ‘“Generation” as a Symbolic Form: On the Genealogical Discourse of Memory Since 1945’. The Germanic Review 77 (4): 264–277. Žižek, Slavoj. 2008. Violence: Six Sideways Refections. New York: Picador.

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‘In Search of a More Bearable Tomb’ Narrative Integration and Heteroglossia in Erwin Mortier’s Marcel (1999)

The question of how to imagine victimhood within memory discourses dominated by notions such as perpetration and guilt, while avoiding accusations of apologia or revisionism, is not limited to German literature about World War II. In Flemish literature, similar issues arise when it comes to the history of the collaboration with the Nazi occupier in Belgium. Over the course of the post-war period, the topic of collaborationism and its subsequent sanctioning during the liberation days – commonly referred to as ‘de repressie’ (the repression) – have dominated the cultural memory of the Second World War in Belgium. These topics have fueled numerous political and public debates and they continue to cause controversies.1 Consider, for instance, the fery political debates in the Belgian parliament that followed Minister of State Jan Jambon’s statement in October 2014 that Flemish Nationalist collaborationism was wrong but that people during the war ‘had their reasons for collaborating with the German occupier’. Another signifcant example was the controversy over Flemish politician Stefaan De Clerck’s use of the verb ‘vergeten’ (to forget) instead of ‘vergeven’ (to forgive) with regard to collaborationism during a television show on Flemish television VRT in May 2011.2 The Flemish literary response to these events varies widely throughout the post-war period. The frst decade after the war saw numerous literary attempts to understand the nature of collaborationism and its various motivations. Important examples are Gerard Walschap’s Zwart en wit ([Black and White], 1948) or Valère Depauw’s De dood met de kogel ([Execution], 1951). The representation of the ‘repression’ at the end of the war, in contrast, is marked by a lack of differentiation, the staging of extreme violence, and its attribution to personal and political agendas. These elements serve the purpose of representing this historical event as an incommensurate sanctioning of those accused of collaborationism.3 This opposition, often functioning as an apologia for collaborationism, has from the sixties onwards and with the emergence of a new, second generation of authors gradually given room to more critical approaches toward collaborationism. Shifting focus from the situation during the war to that

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of the children of collaborationists, these authors stage characters in search of their identity and knowledge of their family history. Many novels start questioning the collaborationists’ self-image as morally and sometimes even politically upright citizens whose choice to collaborate has been misunderstood and wrongfully punished (e.g. Hugo Claus’ De verwondering (1962, transl. as Wonder in 2009)); respectively they critique this generation’s failure or refusal to communicate its involvement in collaborationism (e.g. Jan E. Daele’s Je onbekende vader ([Your Unknown Father], 1977), Monika van Paemel’s De vermaledijde vaders ([The Accursed Fathers], 1985). This quest often leads to unpleasant disclosures, with many of the protagonists considering their parents’ involvement in collaborationism as a smudge on their identity. The second-generation attitude toward the past in Flemish literature is, therefore, frequently marked by anger, disappointment, and condescension toward their parents’ generation. Literary accounts about generational conficts over the war past have continued to appear through the 1990s, but their assessment of the frst generation’s collaborationism seems less normative. The focus on the perpetrator descendants’ historic mission makes room for an investigation of a third-generational perspective – one that is no longer marked by moral and political partisanship but by an often-empathetic curiosity. Notable examples in Flemish literature are Erik Vlaminck’s Wolven huilen ([Wolves Howl], 1993) and Geert van Istendael’s Altrapsodie ([Rhapsody for Alt], 1997). Out of this curiosity emerges a wish to historicize collaborationism – not for purposes of apologia or moral condemnation but for historical understanding and for the development of what Lewis Ward has termed ‘transgenerational empathy’. Building on Dominick LaCapra’s notion of ‘empathetic unsettlement’ as a necessary position when approaching victim testimony,4 Ward conceives of this form of empathy as ‘an approach to the past that is self-refexive, draws on ideas of time, memory and generations, and moves both toward and away from the victims of the past in a simultaneous gesture of proximity and distance’ (2008, 58). It is an attitude that refects both ‘affect and objectivity, and its dual meaning of sharing the feelings of others while at the same time understanding or comprehending the situation and context’ (2008, 81). In the second close reading of this section, I will use Ward’s term to investigate how Erwin Mortier’s novel Marcel from 1999 assesses the memory of Flemish collaborationism. While Ward coined the term to articulate a relation toward victims, I will argue that Mortier’s approach of collaborationism is an attempt to combine objectivity and affect, yet without turning perpetration into victimhood. In the form of a traditional multigenerational or ‘genealogical’ family novel, it examines how the Flemish Nationalist memory community deals with the legacy of World War II in the private sphere.5 For that, the novel uses an autodiegetic narrative perspective, which implies that the narrative voice is determined by the perspectives of an I-narrator in the present and an eight-year-old younger version of this

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narrator in the past, who focalizes the events. While the latter observes these events through the lens of innocence and reverence, the former looks back both at those involved in collaborationist history as well as at his younger self with a certain irony. As I will show, the convergence of these perspectives creates a layered vision that works in the spirit of Mikhail Bakhtin’s notion of heteroglossia, ‘the persistent interaction and mutual conditioning of [the] various compositional units’ (1992, 263) in a novel, which brings about the ‘dialogization’ of language. When ‘a word, discourse, language, or culture undergoes “dialogization”’, it also becomes ‘relativized, deprivileged, aware of competing defnitions for the same things’ (Holquist 1981, 427). As Bakhtin has indicated, heteroglossia encompasses not only a formal openness to other meanings but also a profound ethical stance. In genuine dialogue, the position of the other is never completely incorporated into one’s own position but retains its independence even as it interacts with the position of the self. Heteroglossia, thus, has the potential for bringing about a non-hegemonic communication between collective identities, and it also – ideally – pre-empts the reifcation of this communication into stereotypes. In my reading of Marcel, I want to apply this potential to the novel’s multi-layeredness that results from the autodiegetic narrative situation, arguing that this voice allows for a new perspective in assessing Flemish Nationalist collaborationism: one that refuses the apologias of the frst generation as well as the condemnations of their descendants. Not only does it resist the monoglossic nature of these previous attitudes, but it also forms a perspective of integrating the haunting legacy of the collaborationist past into the Flemish and Flemish Nationalist cultural memory.

Working Through Melancholia Marcel tells the story of an eight-year-old boy, who remains nameless, vacationing at the house of his grandparents in the East-Flemish countryside, sometime during the sixties. The boy, residing in a world of play and fantasy, is largely unaware of the burdened past that haunts his grandmother – her brother Marcel’s collaboration with the Nazi occupier and his death at the Russian Front.6 While she does not openly speak about this past, her behavior and actions betray a continuing emotional investment in the events that took place more than twenty years before. She seeks the company of acquaintances who also collaborated and who are still resentful of the punishment and the ostracism they were subjected to at the end of the war. This small subculture, stigmatized with the label ‘blacks’ by the community at large, remains self-contained, largely avoiding contact with people outside of their group.7 Within that subculture, the grandmother assumes the role of guardian over the memory of Flemish Nationalist collaborationism, which is

56 Of Perpetrators and Victims apparent from how she controls and censures conversations about the past. Her relation to the boy is highly ambiguous in that regard: while she does not talk to him about the past, she lets him participate in her weekly cleanings of her cabinet, which contains pictures of deceased acquaintances and relatives – among them Marcel. She also takes him along on her visits to collaborationist friends. During one of these visits to a fabrics store, the boy hears his grandmother engage the salesman Maurice in a short and confusing conversation: ‘En wanneer?’ hoorde ik Maurice vertwijfeld vragen, ‘wanneer, wanneer, wanneer?’ Bij elke ‘wanneer’ sloeg hij met zijn knuisten op het tafelblad. ‘Nooit! De zaak staat verdomme nog altijd op naam van mijn broer.’ ‘Toe Maurice, kalmeert.’ ‘Ik heb genoeg geboet.’ (M 14–15) ‘When?’ I heard Maurice moan. ‘When, when, when?’ With each ‘when’ he banged his fsts on the table. ‘The answer is: never. The license is still in my brother’s name, dammit!’ ‘There, there Maurice, no need to get all excited.’ ‘I’ve paid my dues, haven’t I?’ (M 8)8 While the reasons for Maurice’s grief are not made explicit here, they are most likely linked to the collaborationism of his son Léon who, together with Marcel, fought and died in Russia while fghting with the German army. That Maurice’s business is under his brother’s name likely refers to the fact that many collaborationists lost their civil rights, including the right to vote and to own property.9 The small boy, however, has no idea what they are talking about and is, hence, startled by Maurice’s subsequent sobbing. But no explanation follows; instead, the grandmother merely mutters, ‘“Hij is er nog altijd niet over,” zei ze tegen niemand in het bijzonder, op weg naar het station’ (M 16, ‘“He still hasn’t got over it,” she declared to no one in particular as we walked back to the railway station’ M 9–10), here at once exposing the protagonist to and excluding him from her knowledge. To the boy, the history of his great-uncle remains elusive. During a visit at his great-aunt Marie-Cécile in a convent, he overhears her saying that Marcel saved them all from Bolshevism – a remark that endorses Marcel’s fght at the Russian Front but which the boy does not understand: ‘Ik dacht dat het de zoveelste vreemde ziekte was’ (M 23, ‘I thought she was referring to yet another mysterious disease’, M 16). He also abstains from asking for an explanation. The war past remains something that lies outside of his conscious world. If he learns anything at all, it is that Marcel is no longer alive, even as his name continues to surface regularly in conversations.

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Besides her more obvious interventions as a guardian of the memory of the past, the grandmother’s work as a seamstress for the circle of ex-collaborationists serves as a metaphor for how she continuously attempts to keep the past hidden behind a façade. This is, for example, the case with Miss Veegaete, the local schoolteacher who supported the German occupation by organizing German cultural evening programs. When Miss Veegaete visits the grandmother to be ftted for a new dress, her undressing coincides with the gradual unveiling of her own war past: Ze bukte zich, gespte de riempjes van haar schoenen los en plukte met haar vinger haar parelgrijze panty’s van tussen haar tenen. ‘Hoe is het nog met Maurice?’ ‘Ach, op en af. Er zit weinig evolutie in. Wat zoudt ge willen?’ ‘Maurice,’ mijmerde Juffrouw Veegaete, ‘zulk een bloeiende zaak, en ze nog altijd op andermans naam moeten zetten.’ (M 40) She bent down, undid the buckles of her shoes and pinched her stockings out from between her toes. ‘And how is Maurice these days?’ ‘Ups and downs, you know how it is. Nothing much has changed. What do you expect?’ ‘Poor Maurice,’ Miss Veegaete said dreamily. ‘Such a fourishing business, and yet he still hasn’t got his license back.’ (M 31) The information revealed to the boy refers here only indirectly to the fgure of Marcel (i.e. via his comrade’s father Maurice). It takes on a more direct and concrete form as the scene brings us closer to Miss Veegaete’s body: Ik hoorde alleen gefuister, het geruis waarmee Juffrouw Veegaete uit haar kleren stapte, het zwiepend geluid van haar onderrok, in wit satijn of vieux rose. ‘Mijn broer heeft nog geluk gehad,’ hoorde ik haar zeggen, ‘hij was maar zeventien.’ (M 41) All I could hear were whispers, the rustle of Miss Veegaete shedding her clothes, the swish of her satin slip, which would be white or vieux rose. ‘My brother was lucky,’ I heard her say. ‘He was only seventeen at the time.’ (M 31) With this reference to her brother, Norbert, who also fought with Marcel in the Flemish Legion, the involvement of Miss Veegaete’s family in collaborationism takes on a concrete shape. Her following monologue is entirely devoted to her own and her acquaintances’ experience of the repression

58 Of Perpetrators and Victims at the end of the war. The end of her confession fnally coincides with the moment at which she is fully dressed again. The body of the female collaborationist functions thus as an allegory for the war past, with clothing being a metaphor for covering it up. The fact that the dress is made out of fabrics sold by the ex-collaborationist Maurice and sewed by the boy’s grandmother underlines this interpretation. The grandmother’s affnity with the boy fts in with her resolve to guard the past. ‘Ze doen alsof die kleine hun eigendom is.’ (M 59; ‘They act as if the boy belongs to them.’ (M 46)), his father comments. Indeed, in the course of the novel, we encounter the grandmother’s continuous attempts to integrate the young protagonist into her very own narrative of the past. To her, he soon becomes a surrogate for her brother. Certain physical features the boy shares with his dead granduncle facilitate this. ‘Marcel gesneden…’ (M 80; ‘Marcel to a tee…’ (M 66)), the ex-soldier Cyriel, who had also joined the Flemish Legion, remarks when meeting the boy. Keeping the boy close to her helps the grandmother to assuage the sense of guilt grief she associates with her brother. Moreover, in addition to providing a source of comfort, the presence of the boy also serves as an opportunity for the grandmother for fxing what went wrong in the past: ‘In mij zag de grootmoeder een van de haren, een Ornelis. Ze zou alles goedmaken’ (M 51, ‘The grandmother saw me as one of hers […]. She would set things right’, (M 39)). The meaning of ‘right’ is rather ambiguous in this context. Literally, it refers to correcting mistakes of the past, that is, Marcel’s collaboration with the Germans and her own sense of failure in stopping him from enrolling in the Flemish Legion. ‘Right’, however, also evokes the politically charged contrast between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’; terms commonly associated in Belgium with the resistance, respectively with collaborationism. Seen from this angle, she seeks to rid ‘right’ of its stigma and, in this manner, to shield her grandson from the implications of her family’s guilt. Letting the boy help her tidy up her cabinet with photos of the deceased (among them one of Marcel) and taking him along on visits to ex-collaborationists, she accomplishes, however, just the opposite: leading the boy further into this very past and implicating him in it.10 This becomes evident when a former collaborationist asks the boy whether he will become ‘een goede Vlaming’ (M 80, ‘another staunch Fleming’ (M 66)). The grandmother answers in his place: ‘Dat legt er al naar aan’ (M 80, ‘That depends’ (M 66)), thereby tapping into a discourse of ambiguity where she can affrm a Flemish Nationalist agenda (being good for Flanders even if this entails collaborationism) as well as bowing to the offcial policy of condemning collaborationism. The boy’s identity is thus doubly instrumentalized by a guilty generation, both as a representation of that guilt and as a symbol of redemption from it.11 The grandmother’s incessant preoccupation with the past and her monopolizing of the boy function as an effort to revive the past where Marcel was

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still around and as an attempt to fx what went wrong. This behavior is a clear example of what Dominick LaCapra terms ‘acting-out’. According to LaCapra, acting out (or ‘melancholia’ in the Freudian terminology) is a state of mind ‘in which one is haunted or possessed by the past and performatively caught up in the compulsive repetition of traumatic scenes – scenes in which the past returns and the future is blocked or fatalistically caught up in a melancholic feedback loop’ (2001, 21). We recognize this mechanism in the grandmother’s sticking to the circle of Marcel’s ex-comrades, in order to keep him alive in conversations, and in her appropriation of her grandson in an effort to set the past ‘right’. Seeking absolute control over the boy is her way of compensating for her inability to stop her brother from enrolling for the Flemish Legion, just as her weekly cleaning of her cabinet becomes an act of worship to a past that continues to be alive to her. On the diegetic level Marcel positions the melancholic memory practice of the grandmother versus that of the protagonist. While the boy is obviously too young to take a stance towards the memory of collaborationism, he also challenges her attitude. Despite his subordination to her austere rules, he tirelessly explores his grandparents’ house, which inevitably leads him to Marcel’s belongings in the attic. Unaware of their sensitive nature, he plays with his great-uncle’s things, peruses his notebooks, and is confronted with Flemish Nationalist slogans like ‘Vliegt de blauwvoet!! Vlaanderen Houzee!’ (M 131, Fly Bluefoot fy!! All hail to Flanders!’ (M 74)) or ‘Trilt in uw graf, Gij Vlaamsche Helden. Gij Jan Hyoens. Gij Artevelden!’ (M 132, ‘Tremble in your graves, you Flemish Heroes! You Jan Hyoens. You Artevelden!’12). The boy even dresses up in his clothes. For him, Marcel is not a National Socialist collaborationist who caused the family so much grief, but a fascinating companion during the long and somewhat solitary summers at his grandparents. Dressing up suggests a measure of identifcation with Marcel, which the boy articulates more pronouncedly when defying his grandmother’s demand to come down from the attic: ‘Ik weigerde een stap te verzetten. De zolder was van mij, van niemand anders dan van mij, en van Marcel (M 136, ‘I refused to budge. The attic was mine, it belonged to no one but me. And Marcel’. (M 112)). The growing identifcation with Marcel goes hand in hand with the boy’s imitation of how the adults that surround him behave with regard to the collaborationist past. During Miss Veegaete’s visit, for example, he at frst hides in the room out of a voyeuristic desire to see his schoolteacher’s body. Upon being discovered and sent out by the grandmother, he continues to eavesdrop from outside the door. The adults’ secretive behavior and the denial of his desire for a clear view of the (war) body greatly intrigue the boy and deepen his interest – not in the past as such but in its fetishistic substitution (dressing/undressing). Hence, when the grandmother later receives a bundle of letters that Marcel wrote from the war front, he cannot resist stealing one: ‘Zij, die anders alles hoorde, hoorde niets nu. […] Ik knoopte mijn hemd open en liet de omslag langs mijn borst naar binnen glijden’ (M 83,

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‘She, who otherwise heard everything, heard nothing now. [...] I unbuttoned my shirt and let the envelope glide down my chest’ (M 68)). The letter functions here as a fetish object. Since the boy cannot have Miss Veegaete’s forbidden war body, he takes the letter as a substitute. By putting the letter – here functioning as a symbol of the guilt associated with collaborationism – under his shirt, his clothes take on the same metaphorical meaning as Miss Veegaete’s clothing: they protect the past. Furthermore, through the close proximity of the letter and his chest, his body, like Miss Veegaete’s, become a carrier of that past and the guilt that accompanies it. Despite the fact that the boy becomes implicated in the past of his grandparents’ generation as a result of his grandmother’s actions as well as of his secretive interest and mimetic behavior, his detachment and his lack of knowledge of the historical and political sensitivities of Marcel’s war past cause a confict with the grandmother. This happens when the boy takes the letter, with an image of the double eagle holding a swastika between his talons embossed on the letter’s envelope, to school for a show-and-tell. The fascist emblem is taken from him and returned to the grandmother’s housemaid, who then entreats the boy to confess his theft to the grandmother. When he does so, the grandmother refuses the confrontation: ‘Ze keek niet op. Ze nam de brief niet aan. […] “Nu niet. Nu niet!” Haar grijze krullen schudden heen en weer onder mijn ogen’. (M 133, ‘She did not look at me. She did not take the letter. […] “Not now. Not now!” Her grey curls swung from side to side’ (M 110)). In response, the boy fees to the attic, followed a bit later by the distressed grandmother, who bids him come down. The boy, however, refuses. As the grandmother ascends the stairs, her fear of confronting the past becomes evident in her failure to enter the attic: Onder aan de trap talmde de grootmoeder, haar vingers timmerden zacht op de leuning. Toen kwam ze naar boven, bedaard, stap voor stap. Op elke tree moest ze wachten, zich bedenken, toch maar verdergaan. […] Tenslotte zag ik haar krullen boven het trapgat uit, haar voorhoofd, haar ogen. Ze strekte haar arm uit, als een drenkeling, alsof ze behoorde tot de nacht en vreesde dat het helle licht waarin ik zat haar vezel na vezel zou ontmantelen. (M 136) The grandmother lingered at the bottom of the staircase, her fngers drumming softly on the banister. Then she started climbing, slowly, step by step, pausing to refect with each step but progressing steadily all the same. […] Finally the top of her head rose above the trap door, her forehead, her eyes. She stopped there and raised her arm to beckon me, as if she were drowning, as if she were a creature of the night shrinking from the shaft of sunlight in which I would dismantle her fber by fber. (M 111)

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While the grandmother cannot enter the attic, the boy refuses to leave it. The opposition between both is represented by a spatial opposition between high and low as well as by the grandmother’s association with water (‘drowning’) and darkness (‘creature of the night’) and the boy’s connection to air (higher up in the attic) and light (‘sunlight’). The water, darkness, and low spatial position of the grandmother connote burden and melancholic anchoring, while the boy’s upper position and his proximity to light suggest lightness and the absence of traumatic involvement. The darkness and the light also suggest political opposition: the ‘black’ collaborationist past of the grandmother versus the white color that marks the boy’s resistance to be part of her mnemonic narrative. While this intergenerational confrontation at frst seems to result in a total standstill, the situation soon takes a turn for the better: ‘Ze keerde zich om en begon de trap weer af te dalen, maar bedacht zich. Halverwege ging ze zitten en sloeg met haar hand op de trede. “Kom hier bij mij”’. (M 135, ‘She turned to go downstairs again, but changed her mind. She sat down on a step midway and patted the space beside her. “Come and sit here”’ (M 112)). Accepting the grandmother’s invitation, the boy sits down next to her. Their shared positioning midway on the staircase functions as a spatial metaphor for how both parties fnd a common ground between their initial positions, between high and low and dark and light. It is a place where the cramped defensiveness of the grandmother meets the overall playful and detached attitude of the young boy; where her melancholia convenes with the boy’s intrigue for Marcel; where a melancholic attachment to the past meets a post-traumatic perspective. The ensuing conversation between the grandmother and the boy is crucial to understanding the overall attitude of the novel toward collaborationism. First of all, for neither of them is this talk a didactic exercise. The grandmother does not instruct the boy about collaborationist history or about how to approach it, nor does the boy tell her how she should do that. Rather than for its informational value, their exchange is important because it initiates an intergenerational dialogue in which both parties gain equal footing. First of all, while the grandmother controlled previous conversations, the boy clearly assumes more independence here. This is apparent from his reply to her bid that he ‘moogt niet altijd het beste denken van de mensen...’. (M 135, ‘mustn’t think everyone is as good as they make out’ (M 112)). He immediately replies with ‘En gij moogt niet kwaad zijn op mij’. (M 135, ‘And you mustn’t be cross with me’ (M 112)). Her imperative is here immediately followed by his, which signals a bilateral rather than a unilateral relation of power, as was the case before. A second element signaling the boy’s increased control is his naïve plan to take the grandmother along to Marcel’s grave: ‘En als ik groot ben, ga ik Marcel zijn graf bezoeken. Als ge wilt, moogt ge mee’. (M 135, ‘And when I grow up I’ll go and visit Marcel’s grave. You can come with me if you like’ (M 113)). Besides expressing his new ability to utter personal initiative, the

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boy’s plan also has relevance to how the grandmother treats the memory of collaborationism. In the opening line of the novel, the narrator mentions that the grandmother used to take him to the cemetery: ‘Daar nam de grootmoeder me ieder jaar heen, maar ze kwam er zelf haast dagelijks’. (M 7, ‘I was taken there once a year by the grandmother, but she herself was a daily visitor’ (M 1)). The grandmother is, in other words, a person who is deeply invested in the past, someone who guards it, cleans it (her cabinet with pictures), ornates it (Miss Veegaete’s dress), and cultivates it: ‘Ze was de averechtse baker van haar ras. Ze zou haar doden niet zomaar laten verdwijnen’. (M 7, ‘She was the unbending midwife of her tribe. She would not allow the dead to vanish unattended’ (M 2)), the narrator indicates. Yet what remained hidden behind these efforts of attention is Marcel’s war past. With his plan to take the grandmother along to Marcel’s grave, the boy immediately points at the painful spot within her memory and invites her to engage it with him. From the conversation, the boy learns that Marcel has no real grave and lies buried somewhere in Russia. Because of that, the grandmother points out, his offcial burial in Flanders was merely a formal event, as there was ‘geen kist onder die katafalk’ (M 136, ‘wasn’t a coffn’ (M 113)). This element is crucial to understand Marcel’s continuing presence in her life and memory. Because his body was never found, she cannot integrate her brother – and the past he represents – in the general past that she cultivates and guards. He is literally a dis-embodied memory and takes on the shape of a specter – an identity metaphorically refected by the fact that his belongings are stowed away in the attic as well as by the boy’s fantasies about Marcel’s nightly wanderings through the grandparents’ house: ‘op sokken of in laarzen, van de zolder naar de kelder, of halt te houden aan mijn deur, doodstil, jaloers op mij, hem gesneden, op mijn moeders ogen na’ (M 94–95, ‘roaming the house in his stockinged feet, all the way from attic to basement, pausing at my door, deathly quiet, jealous of me – Marcel to a tee but for the eyes I got from my mother’ (M 78)). The movement ‘from attic to basement’ symbolically hints at Marcel’s own attempts to shed his spectral identity and to be integrated in the ground of the general past or, more specifcally, in the Flemish (Nationalist) cultural memory of World War II. The shame and the grandmother’s inability to mourn deny him that integration, yet the conversation between her and the boy signal perspectives for change. In speaking to the little boy about Marcel, the grandmother has to give narrative shape to an event that, until then, resisted narrative integration.13 LaCapra stresses that this ‘articulatory practice’ (2001, 22) forms a necessary step in the process of mourning (or working-through), enabling someone ‘to recall in memory that something happened to someone (or one’s people) back then while realizing that one is living here and now with openings to the future’ (2001, 22). The conversation, the novel suggests, opens perspectives for the grandmother to break through the melancholic feedback loop.

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This newly acquired ability to distinguish between past and present is evident in her decoupling of the boy from her deceased brother. During this conversation, she differentiates between the person of her brother and the person of her grandson, referring to the former in the third person, while addressing the latter in the second. She, moreover, also allows the boy to keep the letter, thereby symbolically surrendering the legacy of collaborationism to a young generation, allowing it to fnd its very own way of relating to it. Notably, the boy puts Marcel’s letter in an old biscuit box and buries it in the garden. With this act, he literally and symbolically flls the empty spot that caused the inability to mourn. Substituting the letter for Marcel’s body, the boy not only removes the forbidden, spectral body of the collaborationist from the realm of taboo and suppression (symbolized by the attic), but also mimics the social ritual of mourning. The boy has found what the narrator poetically terms ‘een draaglijker tombe’ (M 94, ‘a more bearable tomb’ (M 78)) for Marcel. While this notion holds the promise of mourning and of a more endurable dealing with the history of collaborationism in Flanders, it does not suggest that we can simply turn the page, let go of this past, and fnally look forward into an untroubled future. The use of the comparative is crucial here. The novel seeks for ‘a more bearable tomb’, i.e. one that is still there and needs to be acknowledged by presentday subjects. Burying the past does not mean forgetting in this case, but it allows for a less charged form of remembering – one that may hold promises of transgenerational dialogue, recognition, and maybe even repair. The novel itself opens the door to this kind of recognition. Just before the boy buries the letter, he reads it, and we now get to hear Marcel’s voice directly. Not surprisingly, his involvement in National Socialism turns out to have been far more complex than the Manichean readings of the past circulating in the public sphere have led us to believe: Ik heb ander nieuws. Ze zeggen dat we binnenkort weer een eed moeten afeggen. Rechtstreeks voor den führer. Er zijn er die tegenpruttelen. Ikzelf zie het ook niet zitten. […] ik ben ook overgeplaatst, bij de grenadiers. Ik zal die Russen goed kunnen zien als den strijd begint. En ik weet tenminste waarvoor ik strijd. Voor Vlaanderen, en niet voor de Snor. Politiek Onbetrouwbaar! Het is een schone decoratie. (M 140, emphasis in original) I’ve got some important news to tell you. They say we will have to take another oath of allegiance shortly. To the Führer himself this time. There’s been some grumbling among the men. I don’t like the idea myself. […] Anyway, I’ve been transferred. I’m with the Grenadiers now, so I’ll have a good view of the Russians when the fghting starts. And at least I know what I’m fghting for. For Flanders, not for the Moustache. (M 117, emphasis in original)

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While the boy, on the diegetic level, cannot fully grasp the ideological implications of Marcel’s letter, we as readers can, for we here encounter the voice of a Flemish Nationalist, who despite his idealist aspirations for his homeland refused to adhere to the National Socialist doctrine. Although this does not exempt Marcel from his alliance with the Nazi occupier, his misled idealism, as well as the punishment for his refusal to pledge allegiance to the NS state (his transfer to the frontlines), complicate his identity as perpetrator considerably. By means of this letter, Mortier presents us with a more complex image of Marcel. In contrast to the grandmother’s initial mnemonic ambiguity toward her brother, in which the latter was continually present, yet unspoken off (iconically represented by his half-faded picture in her cabinet), we can now, through the eyes of the little boy, look straight at Marcel’s version of the facts. The past is, in other words, no longer fltered through inhibitions or techniques of shielding, but presented through the eyes of someone who, through his emotional and moral detachment, is able to open himself to what LaCapra calls an ‘empathic unsettlement’ (LaCapra 2001, 47), that is, a form of witnessing ‘involving both an objective (not objectivist) reconstruction of the past and a dialogic exchange with it […] wherein knowledge involves not only the processing of information but also affect, empathy and questions of value’ (LaCapra 2001, 35, emphasis added).14 Signifcantly, this objective and empathic reconstruction and the subsequent possibility of sharing the past with us as readers could only come about through the resistance of a third-generation character who refused to become part of the mnemonic narrative of the frst generation. In that sense, the young boy’s behavior can be read as an allegory of how the Flemish community as a whole might go about inscribing the war past in our collective memory: in openly talking about it (‘objective reconstruction’) and in generously listening to its various voices (‘empathic witnessing’), there might be a chance to give it a place in the cultural memory of World War II (‘narrative integration’).

The Irony of Meta-Memory The dialectical relationship between the grandmother’s and the boy’s attitudes toward the memory of Marcel is presented by means of an ‘autodiegetic’ narrative perspective. The narrator is the boy as an adult looking back upon the events of the past, the fgure of his grandmother, and himself as a young boy. This suggests the presence of two distinct narrative perspectives: that of the narrating I in the present and that of the experiencing I in the past. However, it should be clear that there is, in fact, only one perspective on the events of the past, namely that of an authorial narrator who intermingles the mental states of two focalizers in order to present these events: that of an experienced, knowledgeable adult in the present (the

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external focalizer) and that of an experiencing, ignorant child in the past (the internal focalizer). This technique produces an ambiguous image of the grandmother. While she is presented through the eyes of the boy as an authoritative and controlling woman, the adult’s view on this perception is simultaneously marked by irony. We fnd this duality, for example, in the description of her ritual cleaning of her glass-fronted cabinet, flled with pictures of the dead: ‘De grootmoeder zegende hen met haar stofap en riep alle namen af’ (M 9, ‘The grandmother blessed them with her duster and hailed all their names’).15 While the acts of blessing and hailing bespeak the manner and authority of an ancient priestess, the use of the duster also desacralizes her actions and turns her into a travesty of that authority. Another example of this is the description of her moving with the ‘majesteit van een oud galjoen’ (M 51, ‘majesty of an ancient galleon’ (M 39)) – a remark that combines the young boy’s reverence with the relativizing by the adult narrator, which respectfully but ironically points at her decline. Signifcantly, although the adult’s voice constructs and structures the perception of the small boy and the image of the grandmother that we receive through his eyes, its use of irony does not suppress or erase the tone and implications of the boy’s perception. The novel, by contrast, uses what Mieke Bal has termed ‘free indirect’ or ‘ambiguous’ focalization (1999, 159), a technique by which the focalization of the overarching external focalizer seems to overlap with that of the internal focalizer, as in the examples mentioned above. In this manner, the focalization becomes ambiguous and, with it, the image of its perception, i.e. the grandmother’s character. I consider this ambiguity an apt example of Mikhail Bakhtin’s notion of heteroglossia, which allows the co-existence of diverging discourses rather than their mutual exclusion. I have in mind here, not so much Bakhtin’s contention that language is ‘heteroglot top to bottom’ (1992, 291), but the deliberate implementation of heteroglossia as a rhetorical device that aligns the novel’s poetics with its stance toward the grandmother’s memory practice. As I have shown, Marcel depicts the grandmother as a guardian of the problematic past of Flemish Nationalist collaborationism. In many instances, she blocks conversations about this past and her melancholia and bitterness leave little room for humor and critique. In that sense, she represents what Phillipe Hamon calls ‘le discours sérieux’ (1997, 59, the grave discourse), a term he uses to refer to discourses marked by monoglossia, pertinence, and the absence of ambiguity. It is authoritarian and universal, pedagogical, and tightly related to the performance of power. Hamon positions this discourse vis-à-vis that of ‘la légèreté, de la distanciation’ (1997, 59, lightness, distance) which he defnes as marked by a formal agility as well as by a deliberate undermining of its performative impact on its addressee. At frst sight, we could apply the opposition between both discourses to the contrast between the grandmother’s serious memory practice and the ironic

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approach by the external focalizer, suggesting the confict between gravity and lightness, between severity and humor. The novel, however, does not impose humor or lightheartedness as alternative modes of speaking about the past. Instead, it proposes a heteroglossic discourse that allows for what Linda Hutcheon calls a ‘semantically complex process of relating, differentiating, and combining said and unsaid meanings’ (1994, 89). She argues that this process of differentiation and relation, which she considers an intrinsic quality of irony, entails a rapid oscillation between two different meanings; denotation and connotation cannot be seen simultaneously but are also inextricable from each other, and it is continually tied up to ‘an evaluative edge’ (ibid.). This discourse of fuid semantic differentiation stands in sharp contrast to the grandmother’s monoglossic discourse on the past. Since the very notions of heteroglossia and irony involve the defance of normativity and the absence of a hegemonic narrative center that articulates a unilateral ‘truth’, this new discourse does not discard the one it contests. Just as the novel, on a diegetic level, strives at integrating the memory of this diffcult war past in Flemish cultural memory, its poetics refect a mode of communication about the past that leaves room for the voices of victims, perpetrators, and their survivors – and thus for that of the grandmother and Marcel. To illustrate this, I return to the scene on the staircase, which is indicative for this fusion of voices. By using the spatial metaphor of the middle position where the reconciliation between the grandmother and the little boy takes place, Marcel already indicates that one memory practice is not just replaced by another. The boy’s openness for Marcel’s history – a result of his ignorance of his great-uncle’s deeds and their political implications – does not posit a mnemonic alternative, and neither is it one for the narrating adult in the present. Rather, the middle position symbolizes the unsettling of binary oppositions through an intergenerational dialogue, resulting in a memory practice that is workable for both generations. The heteroglossic discourse of this practice consists, in other words, of three voices: the grandmother’s repressive and melancholic, but also cautious approach; the little boy’s naïve openness; and the critical, ironic but also empathetic attitude of his adult alter ego. To articulate the nature of this attitude, Lewis Ward’s concept of ‘transgenerational empathy’ is helpful again, as it hints at ‘an approach to the past that is self-refexive, draws on ideas of time, memory and generations, and moves both toward and away from the victims of the past in a simultaneous gesture of proximity and distance’ (2008, 58). Yet while Ward – as mentioned before – coined this concept to speak about victims, I have argued in my reading that Marcel proposes this approach toward perpetrators, i.e. those guilty of collaborationism. To be sure, this immediately raises the question of whether this kind of empathy is possible or morally acceptable at all. Yet, and to conclude this reading, it is necessary to accentuate that

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Marcel is not about exoneration, but about nuance where it is in place. The novel does indeed acknowledge that Marcel made a grave mistake by collaborating with the Nazi occupier and that his youthfulness is not an excuse. ‘Marcel was oud genoeg om te weten wat hij deed, Andrea. Vierentwintig. Dat was geen snotneus meer’ (M 31, ‘Marcel was old enough to know what he was doing, Andrea. He was twenty-four. Not a youngster anymore.’ (M 33)), Miss Veegaete instructs the grandmother. And we fnd a similar image in the grandmother’s thoughts in Mortier’s sequel to Marcel, De onbevlekte from 2020: ‘Hij was een kind, half mens, één kwart veulen, zeker één kwart bloedhond’ (Mortier 2020, He was a child, half human, one quarter foal, one quarter bloodhound). A bloodhound, that too. The image of Marcel produced through the double, autodiegetic perspective links together affect, a need for objectivity, and critique. It creates a duality in which the critical assessment of guilt is not bypassed or diminished but supplemented with an understanding or comprehension of situation and context and with a nuance that often has no place in hegemonic discourses about the past. In light of the unrelenting and strongly charged nature of the Flemish Nationalist war memory in Belgian and Flemish politics, Mortier’s quest for a ‘more bearable tomb’ for the legacy of collaborationism can be read as an invitation to fnd ways of weaving this diffcult past into the fabric of Flanders’ cultural memory without covering it up – a task that, twenty years after its frst publication – is still fully in the works.

Notes 1 For a sociological and historical overview of the developments of war memory in Flanders and Belgium, see Gotovitch and Kesteloot 2002; Labio 2002; Benvindo and Peeters 2011; Luminet 2012; Aerts 2014; 2018. 2 Jan Jambon expressed this statement in the Walloon newspapers La Libre Belgique and La Dernière Heure on 13 October 2014. Although he nuanced his statement the same day, a storm of critique arose, and the controversy lasted many weeks. Minister of Justice Stefaan De Clerck used the verb ‘vergeten’ (to forget) instead of ‘vergeven’ (to forgive) with regard to Flemish collaborationism during a television show on Flemish television on 15 May 2011. He commented on a debate in the Belgian Senate over a bill submitted by Flemish Nationalist Party Vlaams Belang, demanding amnesty for Flemish collaborationism with the Germans during the Second World War. The remark was met with strong political opposition from both Walloon and Flemish parties, frmly denouncing every hint at granting amnesty and forgetting the war past. De Clerck was forced to apologize publicly, stating that he regretted his choice of words and had only wanted to fuel the discussion over the war past. For the case De Clerck, see Flanders Today 2011. Another crucial signal of the continued presence of these historical topics in the Flemish and Belgian cultural memory was the commotion around the television series Kinderen van de collaboratie (Children of collaborationism), broadcasted on Flemish television in 2017. 3 For a comprehensive overview of this frst generation’s literary construction of collaborationism and the repression during the Second World War in Flanders, see Lensen 2014; 2011; and Beyen 2002. 4 See LaCapra 2001. I will come back to this term in more detail in this chapter.

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5 The term ‘genealogical novel’ is frmly established in the study of Dutch and Flemish literature. According to Brems, it is ‘concerned with descent and origin, of an individual, a group or a nation’ (2012, 75). In English studies this literary genre is generally referred to by the term ‘roots-novel’, while it is termed ‘Generationenroman’ in German literary studies. For a critical analysis of this genre in the Flemish context, see Brems 2012; Van Hulle 2012; Vanderlinden 1994. For a critical analysis of this genre in German literature, see Reidy 2013. 6 Marcel’s collaborationist commitment refers to the voluntary enrolment of young Flemish Nationalists in the so-called Vlaams Legioen (Flemish Legion), a military unit erected by the Flemish National Movement, to fght alongside the German army against Russia during Operation Barbarossa. 7 In Flemish collective memory, the complex historical situation of World War II is typically framed by two images: that of a relatively small group of people collaborating with the occupier and that of another, small group of people actively resisting them – an opposition expressed by the terms ‘black’ and ‘white’, conjoined by a large grey zone. The conception of these colors is not only a manifestation of the common western cultural conception of good and evil in terms of white and black but originates in their metonymic association with both parties: most paramilitary collaborating formations wore black or dark uniforms, prompting the people to perceive any collaborationist as ‘black’. In response, resistance fghters wore white garments (at least after the war). One of the most important resistance movements was called ‘De Witte Brigade’ (The White Brigade). 8 All Dutch quotes are from Erwin Mortier, Marcel (Amsterdam: Meulenhoff, 1999). Unless otherwise indicated, English translations of these quotes are from the English translation of the novel by Ina Rilke (2003). 9 For a comprehensive discussion of the repression and its after-effects, see Aerts 2014. 10 With the notion of implication, I incur Michael Rothberg’s notion of the ‘implicated subject’. As I have explained in my analysis of Marcel Beyer’s Flughunde in Chapter 1, Rothberg uses this notion to refer to subjects that contribute to, inhabit, inherit, or beneft from regimes of domination but do not originate or control such regimes’ (Rothberg 2019). Similar to the argumentation in my analysis of Flughunde, I do not imply that the young protagonist in Marcel consciously strives to be part of the regime of domination held up by his grandmother, yet it is exactly that what she aims for. By controlling the young boy, she wants to make him part of her mnemonic regime – an action that will, to a certain extent, be successful but also deleterious to her own project, as I will show further on in this chapter. 11 For an analysis of the complexities of this appropriation, see Lensen 2013. 12 Since the English translation of the original passage is somewhat inadequate (‘Glory to our Flemish Heroes!’, M 74), I have provided my own translation here. The lines are an adaptation of verses from the poem ‘Klokke Roeland’ by the Flemish poet Albrecht Rodenbach. In the original, these fgures are not ‘Vlaamsche Helden’ (Flemish heroes), but ‘Gentse Helden’ (Heroes from Gent). Jan Hyoens (1317–1379) and ‘Artevelden’, which refers to Jacob van Artevelde (c. 1290–1345) and his son Philip (1340–1382), are historical fgures that play a central role in Flemish Nationalist mythology. 13 The term ‘narrative integration’ is here understood as a crucial part of the process of working through trauma, as for example claimed by Cathy Caruth: ‘The trauma thus requires integration, both for the sake of testimony and for the sake of cure’ (1995, 153). It ‘allows the story to be verbalized and communicated, to be integrated into one’s own, and others’, knowledge of the past’, ibid.). In this

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sense this integration process is both an individual experience, allowing a person to accept the trauma as part of one’s life history, as well as a collective event in which that trauma can be shared and become a part of collective memory. 14 Trauma theorist Dori Laub insists in a similar manner that witnessing (and with it the beginning of working-through trauma) can be accomplished only in the presence of an empathic listener ‘who can hear the anguish of one’s memories and thus affrm and recognize their realness’ (Laub 1992, 68). 15 This quote is my own translation of the following passage from the Dutch original: ‘De grootmoeder zegende hen met haar stofap en riep alle namen af’ (M 9). In the English translation of Marcel by Ina Rilke, this sentence is translated as follows: ‘The grandmother blessed them with her duster and told me all their names’ (M 3). This translation does not accurately represent the Dutch original nor does it do justice to the relation between the grandmother and the young boy. In the course of the novel, the grandmother does not directly address the young boy, except by means of imperatives. The offcial English translation suggests a dialogical interaction, but the grandmother is mostly caught up in a monologue with herself, witnessed by the boy.

References Aerts, Koen. 2014. Repressie zonder maat of einde? Gent: Academia Press. ———. 2018. Kinderen van de repressie. Antwerpen: Polis. Bakhtin, Michael. 1992. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Edited by Michael Holquist. Austin/London: Texas UP. Bal, Mieke. 1999. Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative. 2nd ed. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Benvindo, Bruno, and Evert Peeters. 2011. Scherven van de oorlog. De strijd om de herinnering aan de Tweede Wereldoorlog, 1945–2010. Antwerp/Brussels: De Bezige Bij/SOMA. Beyen, Marnix. 2002. ‘“Zwart wordt van langs om meer de Vlaamsgezinde massa”. De Vlaamse beeldvorming over bezetting en repressie, 1945–2000’. In Het gewicht van het oorlogsverleden, edited by José Gotovitch and Chantal Kesteloot, 105–120. Ghent: Academia Press. Brems, Elke. 2012. ‘The Genealogical Novel as a Way of Defning and/or Deconstructing Cultural Identity: Flemish Fiction Since 1970’. Memory Studies 5 (1): 74–85. Caruth, Cathy. 1995. ‘Recapturing the Past. Introduction’. In Trauma: Explorations in Memory, edited by Cathy Caruth, 151–157. Baltimore/London: Johns Hopkins UP. Flanders Today. 2011. ‘De Clerck in Talks after Amnesty Remarks’, May 25, 2011. http://www.flanderstoday.eu/current-affairs/de-clerck-talks-after-amnesty-r emarks. Gotovitch, José, and Chantal Kesteloot, eds. 2002. Het Gewicht van Het Oorlogsverleden. Ghent: Academia Press. Hamon, Philippe. 1997. Texte et Idéologie. Paris: Hachette. Holquist, Michael. 1981. ‘Glossary’. In The Dialogic Imagination by M.M. Bakhtin: Four Essays, edited by Michael Holquist, translated by Michael Holquist and Caryl Emerson, 423–434. Austin: Texas UP. Hutcheon, Linda. 1994. Irony’s Edge. London/New York: Routledge. Labio, Catherine. 2002. ‘The Federalization of Memory’. Yale French Studies 102: 1–8.

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LaCapra, Dominick. 2001. Writing History, Writing Trauma. Baltimore/London: Johns Hopkins UP. Laub, Dori. 1992. ‘Bearing Witness or the Vicissitudes of Listening’. In Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis and History, edited by Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub, 57–74. New York/London: Routledge. Lensen, Jan. 2011. ‘“But What If the Street Turns Loose”: Civilian Violence in Flemish Novels on the Second World War’. Werkwinkel: Journal of Low Countries and South African Studies 5 (1): 93–111. ———. 2013. ‘Perpetrators and Victims: Third-Generation Perspectives on the Second World War in Marcel Beyer’s Flughunde and Erwin Mortier’s Marcel’. Comparative Literature 65 (4): 450–465. ———. 2014. De foute oorlog: Schuld en nederlaag in het Vlaamse proza over de Tweede Wereldoorlog. Antwerp: Garant. Luminet, Olivier, ed. 2012. The Interplay between Collective Memory and the Erosion of Nation States. The Paradigmatic Case of Belgium. Special Issue of Memory Studies 5 (1). Mortier, Erwin. 1999. Marcel. Amsterdam: Meulenhoff. ———. 2003. Marcel. Translated by Ina Rilke. London: Vintage Books. ———. 2020. De onbevlekte. Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij. Reidy, Julian. 2013. Rekonstruktion und Entheroisierung: Paradigmen des ‘Generationenromans’ in der deutschsprachigen Gegenwartsliteratur. Bielefeld: Aisthesis. Rothberg, Michael. 2019. The Implicated Subject: Beyond Victims and Perpetrators. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Van Hulle, Joris. 2012. Ik schrijf zoals ik schrijf: Vlaams proza 1980–1989. Leuven: Davidsfonds. Vanderlinden, Sonja. 1994. ‘Het genealogisch schrijven van de Vlaamse Tachtigers’. Tydskryf vir Nederlands en Afrikaans 1 (1): 67–75. Ward, Lewis Henry. 2008. ‘Holocaust Memory in Contemporary Narratives: Towards a Theory of Transgenerational Empathy’. Dissertation, Exeter: University of Exeter. https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10036/47273.

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The Comfort Corner of Victimhood Holocaust Victimhood in Arnon Grunberg’s De joodse messias (2004)

The renegotiation of the notion of perpetratorship through the infusion of affect and empathy in Flughunde and Marcel contains a certain potential of controversy. Not only can it conjure suspicions of apologia or downplay the severity of acts of perpetration, it might also be perceived as an effort to relativize the gravity or singularity of suffering. This potential is, however, even stronger when not perpetratorship but victimhood, and Holocaust victimhood in particular, is put under scrutiny. As Jeffrey Alexander shows, the transformation of the Holocaust from a war crime to a ‘trauma of all humankind’ (2002, 59) during the post-war period, gave its victims the aura of sacred subjects of unredeemable suffering. For that reason, interrogations of this aura – certainly with regard to the Jewish community – have regularly evoked controversy and suspicions of revisionism and anti-Semitism, and they continue to do so. In the third chapter of this section, I will take a closer look at De joodse messias (2004) by the Dutch-Jewish author Arnon Grunberg, a novel that offers a critical exploration of the signifcance of Holocaust victimhood for Jewish identity today. The novel does not put Holocaust victimhood itself under scrutiny but suggests that it is no longer a uniquely defning element of this identity. I will argue that the novel, rather than pleading for a sustained emphasis on victimhood in cultural memory, makes a case for less of it. For that, it provides us with a satire of both philosemitic phantasies about Jewish identity and of the Orthodox-Jewish community itself, which it depicts as no longer emotionally invested in the trauma of the Holocaust. The novel’s protagonist, Xavier Radek, decides as a teenager to devote himself to consoling the Jewish people. He considers them the ‘vijanden van het geluk’ (DJM 9, ‘enemies of happiness’ (TJM 3)) and as a people that continuously suffers.1 His decision seems an effort to compensate for a sense of guilt for the sufferings in which he is implicated through his family history. His grandfather was an SS offcer in Auschwitz and the grandson now wants to make up for that problematic legacy. In order to attain his goal, Xavier eagerly seeks contact with members of the Orthodox-Jewish community in his hometown Basel, and he starts a homosexual relationship with Awromele, an Orthodox-Jewish boy of his age. Following his desire to

72 Of Perpetrators and Victims assume Jewish identity, Xavier urges Awromele to teach him Yiddish, and the latter also helps him to undergo a circumcision. The operation, executed by the half-blind Mr. Schwartz, goes terribly wrong and Xavier ends up losing a testicle. This does not, however, deter his mission to console the Jewish people. Keeping his amputated testicle in a small glass container and calling it ‘King David’, he continues his pursuit ever more fanatically. Following Theodor Herzl’s path, Xavier eventually goes to Israel, where his journalistic and political work makes him the chairman of the Likud party.2 Several years later he is elected as the country’s Prime Minister. This position allows him to accomplish what he considers to be the ultimate consolation of the Jewish people: a retribution for their suffering during the Holocaust in the form of a nuclear missile attack on the Western world. The novel suggests that this attack triggers a global apocalypse reminiscent of the one in Stanley Kubrick’s Doctor Strangelove, or how we learned to love the Bomb (1964), and which leads also to the destruction of Israel. Through the juxtaposition of Xavier’s urge for identifcation with the Jewish people and the latter’s ill-fated belief that he is the Jewish Messiah, De joodse messias critically explores the pitfalls of philosemitism and Judaic Messianism – and political messianism as such. In the novel, both ideological positions refect structural resemblances with factors that led to the events of World War II. In my reading, I will focus on the novel’s metamnemonic refections on these resemblances as well as on the poetic means with which these ideological positions are put under scrutiny. My analysis will proceed in four steps. First, I will investigate the nature of Xavier’s wish to console the Jewish people, which at frst sight seems merely a naïve form of philosemitic sentiment, but which in reality is a refusal to face the legacy of perpetration in his family history. The depiction of this attitude, executed through the use of an authorial narrator, is marked by dramatic irony and caricature. Second, I will focus on the novel’s satirical sketch of the Orthodox-Jewish community. Via the abundant use of clichés and stereotypes, it illustrates the erroneous character of Xavier’s defnition of Jewish identity in terms of sacred victimhood. Third, I will analyze the link between the novel’s critique of philosemitism and its critical assessment of Judaic Messianism. The novel suggests that Xavier’s refusal to confront his grandfather’s participation in the Holocaust enables the return of this anti-Semitic perpetration. The novel presents the ambivalence of his philosemitic naiveté and his increasingly terrifying fanaticism through elements of the grotesque and references to the biography of Adolf Hitler and Theodor Herzl. Furthermore, it links this course of events to Judaic Messianism. By viewing Xavier as their Messiah, the people in Israel are compared to the masses in the thirties in Germany and, hence, depicted as blinded by (political) faith. Even if Xavier’s actions are meant as a retribution for the Holocaust, they eventually lead to the destruction of Israel – a destruction that, through the intertextual connection with Hitler, can be read as the fulfllment of the Nazis’ Final Solution.

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In the fourth and fnal step of my reading, I will contextualize the critique in De joodse messias within contemporary cultural trends that take issue with the sacred character of Holocaust memory.

The Comfort Corner of Victimhood De joodse messias produces a satirical image of how the community of descendants of those who were actively involved in Holocaust atrocities deal with this legacy. At the story’s beginning, an authorial narrator indicates that ‘de deskundigen [hadden] vastgesteld dat de Tweede Wereldoorlog nu eens en voor altijd een afgesloten hoofdstuk was’ (DJM 8, ‘experts had already declared that the Second World War was now over and done with, that chapter was now fnished’ (TJM 2)). Yet, throughout the story, we are reminded that this past is still very present in the private consciousness of perpetrator descendants, and that it is persistently suppressed and revised. Xavier’s family, referred to as ‘[e]en gelukkig gezin met een klein geheim’ (JM 97, ‘[a] happy family with a little secret’ (JM 90)) functions as a case study of that attitude. The description is a blatant understatement. As we learn throughout the story, Xavier’s grandfather was actively involved in the killing of Jewish prisoners in the camps, which makes the secret history far from a ‘little’ one. Furthermore, like in Erwin Mortier’s Marcel, the memory of the relative who participated in the SS intensely haunts this family’s daily life. The use of irony in De joodse messias is, however, far edgier than the mild tone in Mortier’s novel. Irony is not used here to create ambiguity and heteroglossia, but to produce a satirical image of how Xavier’s parents try to revise the past. This revision is, frst of all, clear from their attempts to normalize the grandfather’s violence as a concentration camp guard. By ‘normalizing’, I mean that in their explanation to Xavier, they reduce the grandfather’s motives for his violence to the logic of daily, ordinary life. This process is already present in how they address the topic. When addressing it to Xavier, they invite him to join them on a trip to the sauna. Suggesting relaxation and a family outing, this space is rather unft for tackling the gravity of the Holocaust. Moreover, throughout their conversations they use a very casual tone to talk about the grandfather’s past to Xavier. This contrast between their common formal gestures and the gravity of the historical matter produces an ironic effect and it undermines the credibility of their efforts to deal with the facts. Furthermore, their attempts to normalize the grandfather’s perpetration serve the purpose of moral elevation. Xavier’s parents present the fgure of the grandfather as ‘een mooie man met een zachtaardig gezicht’ (DJM 9, ‘a kind and sensitive person [with] friendly eyes’ (TJM 15)), ‘een hardwerkende man, die veel van zijn familie hield’ (DJM 52, a ‘hardworking man who loved his family a great deal’ (TJM 45)), and they depict his SS membership as the outcome of strict principles, honor and loyalty. Although

74 Of Perpetrators and Victims they do address the violence he committed upon Jewish people, Xavier’s parents offer a revisionist explanation for it, aimed to reduce the grandfather’s accountability for his perpetration: ‘Je opa moest de joden bewaken […] Dat was alles wat hij hoefde te doen, ze bewaken, om te zorgen dat ze niet weg zouden lopen of gekke dingen doen. Maar omdat hij zoveel energie had sloeg hij er af en toe ook eentje’ (DJM 53, ‘Your grandpa had to watch over the Jews […] That was all he had to do, watch over them, to make sure they didn’t run away or do crazy things. But because he had so much energy, sometimes he hit one of them’ (TJM 47)). First, the architect downplays the role of the grandfather (merely a guard) and the gravity of his violence. Presenting these acts as occasional (‘sometimes’, as opposed to the systematic nature of concentration camp violence) and ordinary (‘he hit one of them’, in contrast to the killing of many), the grandfather emerges as an exception, as someone whose role should not be equated with the horrors committed by the National Socialist regime. Furthermore, his parents explain the grandfather’s violence as caused by something that was beyond his control, i.e. a physical and psychological disorder. Xavier’s father points to the grandfather’s excessive physical energy and his mother calls him ‘hyperactief’ (DJM 54, ‘hyperactive’ (TJM 47)). ‘Tegenwoordig’, she remarks, ‘krijgen de mensen daar tabletjes voor’ (DJM 54, ‘These days, people take pills for that’ (TJM 47)). With this explanation, she implies that if the grandfather would have had such pills at his disposal, he would not have been a perpetrator and, if we extend this logic to all NS perpetration, the Holocaust may not have happened at all. His father reiterates this logic by stressing the transhistorical importance of physical exercise: ‘Als er toen al ftness had bestaan, had de geschiedenis er anders uitgezien. Mensen als je opa wisten niet waar ze heen moesten met hun overtollige energie’ (DJM 55, ‘If they’d had ftness back then, history would have been very different. People like your grandfather didn’t know what to do with all their excess energy’ (TJM 48)). The ironic representation of the parents’ objective to stress the grandfather’s lack of self-control is enhanced by their use of clichés from populist discourse, which further undermines their attempt at a credible confrontation with the past. This is, for example, clear when they minimize the grandfather’s responsibility for his acts: ‘Vergeet niet,’ zei de architect, […] ‘dat het niet de eerste keus was van je opa. Hij had liever iets anders gedaan in zijn leven.’ ‘Hij had liever op het land gewerkt, met de koeien,’ zei de moeder. ‘Maar in die tijd hadden de gewone mensen het niet voor het zeggen.’ (DJM 53) ‘Don’t forget,’ the architect said, […] ‘that this wasn’t your grandfather’s frst choice. He would much rather have done something else with his life.’

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‘He would much rather have worked on the land, with cows,’ the mother said. ‘But back in those days, normal, everyday people didn’t run the show.’ (TJM 46–47) By using the term ‘normal, everyday people’ and by stressing the grandfather’s innate working-class nature (his ostensible wish to become a farmer), Xavier’s mother invokes a populist discourse that typically draws a sharp distinction between the uncorrupt and the unsophisticated (the ‘little man’) and the corrupt dominant elites (usually the politicians) and their camp followers (usually the rich and the intellectuals). The latter group is here evoked through features of control (‘running the show’), inauthenticity, and elite entertainment (‘show’). In doing so, she presents her father as nothing more than a puppet in this show, whose life goal was blocked when ‘Je-weet-wel wie’ (DJM 52, ‘You-Know-Who came along’ (TJM 45)) – a phrase the mother persistently uses to refer to Adolf Hitler. According to her populist reasoning, her father was a victim of the war circumstances rather than an active agent in it. This image of victimhood is underscored by her remark that ‘op zondag heeft hij nooit iemand doodgeslagen, want de dag van de Heere was hem heilig. Zelfs onder die barre omstandigheden’ (DJM 54, ‘Sundays, he [the grandfather] never beat anyone to death, because he honored the Lord’s day. Even under such extreme conditions’ (TJM 48)). Besides stressing the grandfather’s devout Christian nature and his apparent ability for self-control, the notion of ‘extreme circumstances’ suggests that he was actually the one that suffered from these circumstances and not his Jewish victims, who remain unmentioned. The resulting image of the grandfather is that of a good, principled, and idealist person who was nothing more than a victim of the historical circumstances, and it is this image that Xavier adopts. Besides revising the legacy of perpetration in terms of victimhood, Xavier’s parents also treasure anti-Semitic sentiments and even endow the Jewish people with responsibility for the Second World War. This is apparent from his father’s following claim: ‘Als de joden met de Duitsers hadden gepraat, van man tot man, zonder meteen hun stem te verheffen, dan had de vrede een kans gekregen’ (DJM 56, ‘If the Jews had talked to the Germans, man-to-man, without starting to shout right away, peace would have had a chance’ (TJM 50)). According to Xavier’s father, not the Nazi aggression but the Jewish protest against the persecutions ultimately led to the Holocaust. In his eyes, the Holocaust was a form of self-defense against Jewish verbal aggression. By using the phrase ‘would have had a chance’, Xavier’s father hints at the fact that the Jewish people had their fate in their own hands but failed to respond in a reasonable way and were therefore rightfully punished. At no point does Xavier critically engage his parents’ apologetic revisionism and their anti-Semitism. He fnds their revelations somewhat awkward,

76 Of Perpetrators and Victims but more because of his indifference to his family history and his physical discomfort in the sauna than as a consequence of moral embarrassment or indignation. He also refrains from expressing his annoyance at them: ‘Ik moet mijn ouders ontzien, dacht Xavier, ze hebben het al moeilijk genoeg’ (DJM 55, ‘I have to spare my parents, Xavier thought, it’s hard enough for them as it is’ (TJM 48)). Similar to how his parents envision the grandfather as a war victim, so Xavier feels empathy with his parents’ struggle to deal with the perpetration legacy. The narrator’s use of the verb ‘ontzien’ (DJM 54, literally ‘un-see’) expresses Xavier’s conscious looking away from their revisionism, which allows this legacy to continue to haunt him and his family history. I suggest that this refusal to face this diffcult past lies at the heart of Xavier’s elective affnity with the Jewish people. The opening scene of the novel is indicative for that: ‘Omdat zijn grootvader met oprecht enthousiasme en veel vertrouwen in de vooruitgang de SS had gediend […] wilde de kleinzoon met enthousiasme en vertrouwen in de vooruitgang een beweging dienen.’ (DJM 7, ‘Because his grandfather had served, with sincere enthusiasm and a great faith in what the future would bring, in the SS […] the grandson wished to serve a movement with enthusiasm and faith in the future’ (TJM 1)). Xavier’s desire to serve a movement – which is here still vague and which resembles radical Zionism – is explicitly linked to his grandfather’s participation in the SS, yet the exact nature of that link is left implicit. Does his desire come out of a will to compensate for his grandfather’s acts of perpetration? Or is it a mere structural mimicking of his grandfather’s idealism, applied to another goal? Since we are following Xavier’s thoughts via internal focalization, this implicitness is symptomatic of his lack of concrete engagement with that legacy. He seems to pick the positive elements that refect his grandfather’s idealism but takes them out of context and does not link them to the latter’s acts of violence. This attitude may refect his youthful ignorance, yet it also signals a willful avoidance of this history. This avoidance determines the nature of Xavier’s philosemitism, which is shallow, abstract, and often even interspersed with anti-Semitic elements. First of all, similar to his parents’ way of talking about the grandfather, Xavier’s discourse about Jewish identity and suffering is marked by a persistent confict of registers, more specifcally between the morally and politically charged topics and concepts he addresses on the one hand, and the casual tone of small talk in which they are discussed (and to which they are reduced or normalized), on the other. Xavier is presented as someone who does not understand the sensitivities of these topics. This is, for example, clear when he expresses to Awromele’s family the belief that the ‘joden hebben ook Lebensraum nodig’ (DJM 18, ‘Jews need Lebensraum, too’ (TJM 11, italics in original)). The phrase illustrates Xavier’s conviction of the territorial rights of Jewish people, but by using the term ‘Lebensraum’, he – inadvertently or not – makes a painful reference

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to the National Socialist ambition to expand Germany’s territory during World War II. Furthermore, in many cases, Xavier’s ignorance often leads to statements that are blatantly anti-Semitic. On one occasion, he remarks that his wish to console the Jewish people is not just inspired by a conviction about its victim identity, but also by the fact that it is defned by guilt: ‘Voor alles wat ze hadden misdaan al die eeuwen. Voor de schuld die ze op anderen hadden geladen. Voor de bijna onvergeefijke schuld die ze op zichzelf hadden geladen, door geboren te worden’ (DJM 243, ‘For all the wrongs they had committed throughout the centuries. For the guilt they had imposed on others. For the almost unforgivable guilt they had imposed upon themselves, by being born.’ (TJM 228–229)). The phrase expresses the ambiguity of Xavier’s identifcation with the Jewish people, as it entangles the stereotypical Jewish depreciating self-perception with the anti-Semitic view of their undesirable existence. Furthermore, it also refects his parents’ efforts to push the Jewish people into the role of perpetrator (‘For the guilt they had imposed on others’). Xavier hardly ever links his elective affnity with the Jewish people to the Holocaust. In a very general way he calls them ‘de vijanden van het geluk (DJM 9, ‘the enemies of happiness’ (TJM 3)), ‘een verloren volk’ (DJM 43, ‘a lost people’ (TJM 36)), and ‘een bedreigde cultuur’ (DJM 79, ‘a threatened culture’ (TJM 73)). Only once does he refer to them as the ‘uitgemergelde volk’ (DJM 389, ‘emaciated people’ (TJM 328)), but this seems a reference to conventional images of Holocaust victims rather than a sign of in-depth historical knowledge. In that sense, his claim that he has a ‘diep en ontzagwekkend medeleven’ (DJM 28, ‘deep and formidable sympathy’ (TJM 22)) with the Jewish people for ‘persoonlijke redenen, maar ook in het algemeen, op wetenschappelijke basis’ (DJM 28, ‘personal reasons, but also in general, for reasons of science’ (JM 22)), hints at the irrational nature of his ambition, and it undermines his credibility. Despite his apparently wellmeant enthusiasm, his image of Jewish identity is not based on scientifc research or empirical observation, but it remains highly stereotypical. For that reason, Xavier’s philosemitism reveals us more about him than about the Jewish people.

The Absence of Holocaust Consciousness In order to illustrate the erroneous nature of Xavier’s philosemitism, the novel also sketches a satirical image of the Orthodox-Jewish community. Besides showing that this community is no longer emotionally invested in the trauma of the Holocaust, De joodse messias makes use of clichés about Jewish identity to resist the stereotypical defnition of their identity as sacred victims of Holocaust suffering. The community is presented as opportunistic, self-hating, stingy, and passive, bespeaking a number of clichés from the popular imagination about Jewish identity. I suggest that this satirical depiction does not function as a critique of Jewishness in itself – although

78 Of Perpetrators and Victims this type of humor inscribes the novel in a long tradition of self-deprecating views of Jewishness by Jewish authors3 – but as a critique of Xavier’s philosemitism and the triviality of his intentions. First of all, none of the members of the Orthodox-Jewish community is depicted in terms of the sacredness and piety that typify Xavier’s image of this community. For example, Awromele portrays his father as a fake, adulterous, and autistic rabbi, and as a connoisseur of prostitutes: ‘Hij kent ze allemaal, hun voornaam, hun achternaam, hun schuilnaam, waar ze wonen, in welke auto ze rijden, waar ze gaan zwemmen, wat ze het liefst eten, soms komt hij zelfs bij hun ouders over de vloer’ (DJM 66, ‘He knows them all, their names, their surnames, their professional names, where they live, the kinds of cars they drive, where they go swimming, their favorite foods – sometimes he even visits their parents’ (TJM 60)). His father has, moreover, stolen public subsidies meant for the construction of a synagogue in Basel. Rather than as an authority within a sacred community defned by victimhood, he is represented as an offender of petty-crimes – an image that unmasks his professional authority and the precariousness often associated with his Jewish identity. Second, none of the Orthodox-Jewish people that Xavier meets identify themselves through Holocaust suffering. When Xavier claims that the ‘Jews need Lebensraum, too’, it triggers no indignation from Awromele’s family. Awromele does indicate that the topic is discussed at home ‘Twee keer per week’ (DJM 40, ‘Twice a week’ (TJM 33)), but he does not dramatize it and presents it as a routine and a dispassionate ritual. Awromele himself – as an exponent of the third generation after the war – shows no interest in the Holocaust and seems, moreover, marked by the same opportunism as his father. When Xavier mentions Hitler’s Mein Kampf, Awromele’s response (‘wat is daarmee?’, DJM 60, ‘So what about it?’ (DJM 54)) does not refect surprise or indignation. On the contrary, he seems only interested in its aesthetic qualities (‘is het goed?’, DJM 60, ‘is it any good?’ (TJM 54)), its economical relevance (‘Is het een bestseller?’, DJM 61, ‘Is it a bestseller?’ (TJM 55)), and whether it contains any visual material (‘Staan er ook foto’s in?’, DJM 61, ‘Does it have pictures?’, TJM 55). He then switches to its marketing features: ‘De titel is niet slecht. Als het Mein Hund had geheten of Mein Weib, dan had het nooit veel verkocht. Mein Haus was ook een ramp geworden qua verkoop’ (DJM 61, ‘It’s not a bad title. If it had been called Mein Hund or Mein Weib it would never have sold anywhere near that. Mein Haus would have been rotten marketing, too’ (TJM 55)). When Awromele learns that Mein Kampf has not been translated in Yiddish, he immediately declares that the two of them should do that, both as a way for Xavier to learn Yiddish and to proft from it fnancially: ‘Als die uitgever het slim aanpakt verkoopt hij er zo een paar duizend exemplaren van. Dan kunnen we naar de hoeren.’ (DJM 61–62, ‘If the publisher plays his cards right, we’ll sell a few thousand copies. Then we can go to a whorehouse together’ (TJM 56)). Awromele’s statement profoundly shocks Xavier, who – up to

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that point – perceives the Jewish people as a morally elevated community because of its identity of suffering and victimhood. When Xavier enquires about the fact that Awromele, whom he considers to be ‘een speciaal mens’ (DJM 63, ‘a special person’), is only interested in what he considers to be superfcial and questionable gratifcation, the latter states that he does not think of his objective as an expression of lust or degradation, but as part of ‘het vergroten van de totale hoeveelheid geluk’ (DJM 63, ‘increasing the total quantity of enjoyment’ (TJM 57)). This hedonism also marks his religious views: ‘de Almachtige wil de vreugde op deze aarde vergroten’ (DJM 67, ‘the Almighty wants to see joy grow on this earth’ (JM 61)). To Xavier’s follow-up question ‘En de holocaust dan?’ (DJM 68, ‘And what about the Holocaust?’ (TJM 61)), Awromele responds ‘Luister, […] Ik ben de eerste om toe te geven dat de Almachtige Zijn fouten heeft en dat is maar goed ook. Anders zou Hij onuitstaanbaar zijn. Ken jij iemand zonder fouten?’ (DJM 68, ‘Listen [….] I’ll be the frst to admit that the Almighty has faults of His own, and it’s a good thing, too. Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to stand Him. Do you know anyone who doesn’t have any faults?’ (TJM 62)). For Awromele, the Holocaust is merely a divine mistake that proves God’s fallibility and which also makes it possible to like him. God is, in other words, more likable because of the Holocaust than in spite of it. Awromele’s self-confdent, almost laconic tone makes clear that his generation, and the community he belongs to as a whole, does not share what Alvin Rosenfeld refers to as ‘Holocaust consciousness’ (Rosenfeld 2001, 3). Rather than as a sacred memory that pervades all thinking about Jewish identity, ethics, and politics, the Holocaust has evolved into an object of commodifcation. I do not believe that the novel takes issue with that opportunist pragmatism in itself, which fts in with the satirical portrait of the Orthodox-Jewish community. What is rather at stake is Xavier’s disbelief at Awromele’s words, which refects his stereotypical view of the Jewish people as subjects of eternal suffering. Although his observations contradict this image, he refuses to acknowledge them, thus confrming that his view of the Jewish community as well as his entire Messianic project is out of touch with reality. His wish to comfort this community tells us more about him than about the Jewish community, and this raises a number of psychological and ethical issues. First, regardless of his intentions, Xavier’s desire to bring solace to the Jewish people is ethically problematic, not only because he identifes with a group whose history of suffering he does not share, but also because it installs a power relation in which he takes the upper hand. By considering the Jewish people as perpetual victims, they are completely ‘othered’ and objectifed as stereotypes, an act that undermines their very possibility of subjectivity. They are pressured to comply with the phantasm Xavier projects onto their identity. His urge to become a member of the Jewish people refects what Dominick LaCapra calls a ‘self-suffcient, projective or incorporative identifcation’ (2004, 135). This identifcation differs considerably

80 Of Perpetrators and Victims from LaCapra’s notion of ‘empathetic unsettlement’ (2001, 41), which entails the feeling for another without losing sight of the distinction between one’s own experience and the experience of the other: ‘it involves virtual not vicarious experience – that is to say, experience in which one puts oneself in the other’s position without taking the place of – or speaking for – the other or becoming a surrogate victim who appropriates the victim’s voice or suffering’ (2004, 135). Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, Xavier’s philosemitism is not primarily oriented at helping the Jewish people, but at fulflling his desire to suffer himself: ‘De mens leed, zoveel was zeker. Waarom de jongen dan niet? Wat was er mis met hem?’ (DJM 9, ‘People suffered, that much was certain. So why not the boy? What was wrong with him? (TJM 3)). Identifying with the Jewish people allows Xavier to project the image of suffering he projected onto the Jewish community back onto his own ego, allowing him to fll up his personal lack of suffering. For that reason, I believe that Xavier’s philosemitism is a vicarious fetishization of victimhood and a way to repress his own relation to Holocaust history, into which he is implicated through genealogical connection.

The Fantasies of Phantoms Through this vicarious identifcation, Xavier, like his parents, seeks refuge in what I call ‘the comfort corner of victimhood’. Just like they defne their identity and that of his grandfather in terms of victimhood, so he, too, indulges in victimhood and its connotations of moral purity. However, since this identifcation serves mainly as a way of avoiding the legacy of perpetration in his family history, that legacy is stealthily carried along into that identifcation process. His striving for a Jewish identity is, in other words, mixed with that of a sustained SS perpetration – one that Xavier also cultivates. The idealized image of his grandfather and their outer resemblance, which his mother stresses time and again (‘Als twee druppels water’, DJM 10, ‘Like two peas in a pod’ (JM 4)), make Xavier believe the deceased SS offcer to be an example and a guide for his own life project, as confrmed by a passage I quoted earlier: ‘Omdat zijn grootvader met oprecht enthousiasme en veel vertrouwen in de vooruitgang de SS had gediend […] wilde de kleinzoon met enthousiasme en vertrouwen in de vooruitgang een beweging dienen.’ (DJM 7, ‘Because his grandfather had served, with sincere enthusiasm and a great faith in what the future would bring, in the SS […] the grandson wished to serve a movement with enthusiasm and faith in the future’ (JM 1)). The positive use of ‘sincere’, ‘enthusiasm’, and ‘faith’ in the description of the grandfather’s intentions stand in stark contrast to the reality of the latter’s National Socialist perpetration. As we are focalizing through Xavier, the description ironically refects his inability to grasp the historical implications of his grandfather’s ‘enthusiasm’ and depicts the

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identifcation as a youthful but blatantly misdirected search for identity. In both instances of (mis)identifcation, Xavier is not able to face the facts: he refuses to acknowledge that Jewish identity today is no longer exclusively determined by trauma and victimhood, and he does not realize that his grandfather’s intentions are linked with genocide. The result is a naïve and politically twisted perspective, marked by a fervent philosemitism and a subconscious anti-Semitism. The novel gives shape to this ambivalence by means of the grotesque. Grotesque fctions, as Justin Edwards and Rune Graulund indicate, thrive on the ‘built-in narrative between the ludicrous and the fearful, the absurd and the terrifying’ (2013, 4). On the one hand, this ludicrous element is aimed to produce an ironic effect and to evoke the reader’s laughter. Yet in light of the story’s apocalyptical climax, this naivety becomes highly fearful and problematic. While Xavier’s identifcation with his grandfather seems at frst an emulation of what he beliefs to be benign intentions, this identifcation soon assumes an uncanny character. His grandfather, so Xavier imagines, ‘had zijn tweelingbroer kunnen zijn en er waren zondagmiddagen dat hij toegaf aan de neiging tegen zijn opa te spreken’ (DJM 11, ‘could have been his twin brother. There were Sunday afternoons when he gave in to the temptation to talk to his grandpa’ (TJM 4)). When his father suddenly dies, Xavier feels how his grandfather ‘was in hem gekropen. Die had bezit van hem genomen’ (DJM 88, ‘had entered him. He had taken possession of him’ (TJM 81)), which leads to a gradual erasure of his own identity: In het weekend bekeek Xavier zichzelf langdurig in de spiegel. Hij kon ermee door, dat viel niet te ontkennen, maar na verloop van tijd zag hij iemand anders. Een man met een pet op, laarzen aan, een hond aan een korte lijn. Xavier hield van uniformen. In theorie was ook hem een zekere wreedheid niet vreemd. In de praktijk was het er nog niet van gekomen. (JM 91) That weekend, Xavier had taken a good look at himself in the mirror. He didn’t look bad, there was no denying that, but after a while he began seeing someone else. A man wearing a cap, boots, holding a dog on a short leash. Xavier liked uniforms. And, in theory, he was not void of a certain degree of cruelty, although it hadn’t expressed itself in practice yet. (JM 84–85) Xavier’s uncanny transformation refects the increasing dominance of the fearful over the ludicrous within Xavier’s grotesque identity, and it anticipates the disastrous consequences of his philosemitism at the story’s end. While intending at frst to mimic his grandfather’s enthusiasm and idealism for his own commitment, Xavier seems not aware of the fact that the

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anti-Semitism that is intrinsically caught up in those intentions (through his identifcation) will ultimately determine the effect of his actions. Xavier’s identifcation is, however, not merely a result of mnemonic misinformation. As the novel shows us repeatedly, he is very aware of the twisted nature of his family’s relation toward Holocaust memory, but he chooses not to engage that awareness. At some point, Xavier refects upon his intentions, realizing that they are far from equivocal: Alle ambitie begint met de fantasie dat je iemand anders kunt zijn dan wie je bent: overwonnen en geslagen, zonder toekomst en in zekere zin ook zonder verleden. De fantasie is het die je optilt, meesleurt, groter maakt dan je ooit had gedacht te zullen zijn en je dan achterlaat als een lege zak. Wie goed kijkt ziet dat we niet meer zijn dan werktuigen in handen van onze fantasie. Misschien is het niet eens onze eigen fantasie die wij vervullen, maar die van anderen, mensen die wij nooit hebben gekend en nooit zullen kennen. Wij vervullen de fantasie van schimmen. (DJM 204) All ambition begins with the fantasy that you can be a different person from who you are now: defeated and beaten, without a future, and, in a certain sense, without a past as well. It’s the fantasy that lifts you up, drags you along, lifts you to greater heights than you’d ever thought you would reach, then leaves you behind like an empty bag. Any careful observer will see that we are merely tools in the hands of our fantasies. And it may be not even our own fantasies that we’re fulflling, but the fantasies of others, people we’ve never known and never will know. We fulfll the fantasies of phantoms. (TJM 191) Not only does Xavier hint at the whimsical nature of his life project, he also indicates that it is steered by ‘phantoms’, ‘people we have never known and will never know’. Although the novel does not elaborate on the identity of these phantoms, in light of his grandfather’s role in inspiring his ambitions, it is clear that Xavier willfully fulflls his grandfather’s National Socialist fantasies. Hence, philosemitism seems not just a way of countering anti-Semitism, but it fosters it. For that reason, the critique of philosemitism in De joodse messias fts in with a tradition that considers it ‘deeply suspicious, sharing with anti-Semitism a traffcking in distorted, exaggerated, and exceptionalist views of Jews and Judaism’, as Jonathan Karp and Adam Sutcliffe suggest (2011, 1). In this view, philosemitism is ‘a counterfeit benevolence’ and philosemites are what Daniel Goldhagen calls ‘anti-semites in sheep’s clothing’ (ibid.). The nuclear attack at the end of the novel confrms this negative vision. While it seems to be meant as the ultimate consolation of the Jewish people and to serve as retribution for Holocaust suffering by Xavier, it simultaneously leads to the destruction

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of Israel, as all world powers arm up against Israel in defense of Xavier’s nuclear threats. In De joodse messias this ambivalent view of philosemitism is entangled with a critique of Judaic Messianism. According to this doctrine, the Jewish Messiah is not an innocent, divine or semi-divine being who sacrifces himself to save the community, but a charismatic political and military leader who descends directly from King David. Because of Xavier’s philosemitic commitment in Israel, frst as a journalist and later as a politician, the Jewish community increasingly thinks of him as this charismatic leader, and it considers Xavier’s testicle ‘King David’ in a glass jar as proof of his biblical descent. However, from what we as readers know at this point in the story, Xavier is certainly not the Jewish Messiah, but a philosemite whose motivations are deeply rooted in National Socialism. The fact that the Jewish community in the novel fails to recognize this, functions as a critique of the dogmatic character of Judaic Messianism and of political Messianism as such. This critique is carried out through the use of dramatic irony, the grotesque, and historical references to Adolf Hitler. Similar to the novel’s critical approach to the mnemonic practices of the perpetrators’ descendants, the novel creates a contrast between the reader’s implied knowledge and critical awareness on the one hand, and its characters’ ignorance and selfdeception on the other. Representing the Jewish community as unable to recognize Xavier’s fanaticism and the increasingly fascist tendencies of his politics, the novel exposes how dogmatic faith hinders empirical abilities and blocks critical refection. The text amplifes this critique by the reference to the Jewish community’s adoration of Xavier’s grotesque testicle – a bodily element that is not only insignifcantly small but also symbolizes decay and infertility. Because of that, this image is radically opposed to the positive aura of the envisioned Messiah. Third, the novel links its use of dramatic irony to historical references to Adolf Hitler. Throughout the story, we fnd various correspondences between Xavier and the German Reichsführer. Xavier’s loss of a testicle is reminiscent of the rumors that Hitler suffered from monorchism.4 Furthermore, like Hitler, Xavier attends an art academy during his youth but eventually fails to become an artist and subsequently goes into politics. The scenes in the novel that describe Xavier’s rise to power in Israel are reminiscent of Hitler’s ability to mobilize the masses, just as the novel’s fnal scene – in which Xavier is lying next to the dead Awromele and his two dogs – are reminiscent of familiar imagery in cultural memory of the fnal days in Hitler’s bunker in Berlin.5 These intertextual references underscore the ambivalence of Xavier’s philosemitism, presenting it as a cover-up for the anti-Semitic tendencies that slumber in Xavier’s subconscious. Through these techniques, De joodse messias depicts Judaic Messianic faith as a perfect receptacle for Xavier’s philosemitic fantasies, but also as a fertile ground for the anti-Semitic legacy that is immanently caught up in

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them. Believing Xavier to be their savior, many in the Jewish community uncritically accept his increasingly fanatical conviction that the Jewish historical victimhood entitles them to have their own state – an entitlement that should be defended at all costs. When this community eventually realizes that Xavier’s aggressive politics toward Western governments will lead to war and self-destruction, it is too late to stop him. While being besieged in his bunker by the rebellion of the Jewish population and under threat of the international allied forces, Xavier continues to believe that his political actions are all for the sake of the Jewish people. The inscription ‘Greetings from Anne Frank’ on the missile he launches to attack Amsterdam confrms shows that this attack serves as retribution for the Holocaust atrocities, yet it also sparks a nuclear Armageddon that leads to the destruction of Israel. Via this apocalyptic ending, Grunberg produces an allegory of the negative effects of defning Jewish identity as eternal Holocaust victims as well as of the uncritical reception of this defnition.

Laughing at the Holocaust? The critique of philosemitism in De joodse messias fts in with a number of trends in the contemporary renegotiation of Holocaust memory. First of all, the novel’s engagement with the link between the Holocaust and Jewish identity can be read against the background of critical debates about what Rosenfeld calls ‘the “Jewish” fxation on the Holocaust’ (2001, 7). In these debates, which date back as far as the late 1970s and which picked up steam in the 1990s, a number of Jewish intellectuals have pleaded against the perpetual (self-)defnition of Jewish identity in terms of Holocaust victimhood, since it ‘serves the purpose of Jewish self-aggrandizement and prevents other victimized peoples from receiving a proper share of public attention and sympathy’ (ibid.).6 This charge is often connected to a political cause in which Jews use their own past history of suffering as a pretext to infict suffering on others or to divert attention from the oppression of other peoples. The State of Israel is often singled out, an Israel whose image has been transformed into that of an aggressor state shielded by the protective cover of Holocaust memory’ (2001, 14) Rosenfeld critically points out that for some of the participants in these debates ‘any ongoing engagement with the Holocaust’ (2001, 20) is put into question. For that reason, he refers to these debates as an ‘assault on Holocaust memory’ (2001, 3). In light of the satirical account of the Jewish community, its abundant use of anti-Semitic clichés, and the link between the state of Israel and the violent retribution for the Holocaust, one could argue that De joodse messias

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is indeed a literary proponent of this assault on Holocaust memory. Yet, the novel does more than just that, because it does not ascribe this ‘Holocaust fxation’ to the Jewish community itself. No doubt, the community in Israel initially endorses Xavier’s claim that the Jewish people are entitled to have their own state, but the link of this entitlement to Holocaust suffering is solely the product of Xavier’s philosemitic phantasies. Because of that, the mnemonic critique is directed more at the inability of the community of perpetrator descendants to come to terms with their past, than to how the community of Jewish victim descendants defnes itself. For this reason, the assault on Holocaust memory in De joodse messias is present at the level of its poetics (its poetic ‘thrust’) rather than at the level of content (its indexical ‘thrust’). Because of its comical poetics, the novel adheres to a tradition of Jewish artistic works that use various forms of humor to tackle ossifed memory routines in relation to the memory of the Holocaust and Jewish victimhood. Telling examples are Edgar Hilsenrath’s The Nazi and the Barber (1973) and Leslie Epstein’s King of the Jews (1979). Another, more recent example is the controversial performance (and ensuing book) Ich darf das. Ich bin Jude (2008) by German-Jewish artist Oliver Polak, in which he insolently ridicules Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Polak’s approach was met with enthusiasm as well as ferce criticism, but overall, critics endorsed his self-acclaimed authority (‘Ich darf das’) to poke fun because of his Jewish identity (‘Ich bin Jude’). Polak’s work, however, takes the use of the comical a signifcant step further than his predecessors with whom, according to Sander Gilman, ‘laughter is rarely the desired reaction’ (2000a, 282). While their humor is commonly read as ‘black comedy – heavy in a satirical voice or with irony layered upon a bleak vision of the Shoah’ (2000a, 283), Polak’s approach, which German critic Georg Diez considers a proponent of a ‘“New Jew” Movement’ (2011) clearly aims at inciting an empathic laughter, and – in many cases – also gets it.7 A third trend with which I want to describe Grunberg’s engagement with Holocaust memory in De joodse messias – and also in other of his works8 – is that of what Matthew Boswell terms ‘Holocaust impiety’ (see Boswell 2012). This trend, which Boswell fnds in a transnational range of recent artistic engagements with Holocaust memory, entails a resistance against the notion of ‘Holocaust piety’, a term coined by Gillian Rose in Mourning Becomes the Law (1996) to refer to ‘particularly sentimental or sanctimonious approaches to the genocide’ (quoted in Boswell 2012, 1). This notion rests on the vision of the Holocaust as a singular event in history, unsurpassed in its horrifc extent and serving as ‘a timeless and de-territorialized measuring stick for good and evil’ (Levy and Sznaider 2002, 95). This line of thought, which centers around notions of ineffability and non-representability, refects, according to Rose, an effort ‘to mystify something we dare not understand’ (Rose 1996, 43, emphasis in original), thereby obscuring the real relationship between the Holocaust atrocities and our own human nature. Works of Holocaust impiety, by contrast, reject the claims

86 Of Perpetrators and Victims of historical ineffability as well as redemptory interpretations of genocide. They are often marked by representational excess, anti-sentimentalism, avant-garde experimentalism, or overt historical irreverence. According to Boswell, these works deliberately evoke ‘a sense of crisis in readers, viewers or listeners by attacking the cognitive and cultural mechanisms that keep our understanding of the Holocaust at a safe distance from our understanding of ourselves’ (2012, 3). With this ‘safe distance’, Boswell hints at the distance between the identity of perpetrators and that of present-day subjects. The work of Tadeusz Borowski (e.g. This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen (1959)) is an early example of this trend, but in recent decades, it has increasingly become part of mainstream culture, for example in Jonathan Littell’s novel Les Bienveillants (2006), Laurent Binet’s HhhH (2010), or in the flms Inglourious Basterds (2009) by Quentin Tarantino, and Auschwitz by Uwe Boll (2010).9 De joodse messias questions this distance quite acutely as well. Although Xavier consciously looks away from his grandfather’s past, he cannot avoid that it – partially because of his looking away – is inherent to his identity. By conveying the terrifying consequences of this entanglement of past and present, the novel implicitly makes a plea for a closing of the gap between the past of Holocaust perpetration and the present in the form of an active engagement with the perpetrator legacy. This can be linked with Frank Ankersmit’s discussion of attempts to overcome trauma by internalizing it (2005, 350–54) or with Caruth’s notion of narrative integration (see Chapter 2). At the same time, with regard to the victims of the Holocaust, De joodse messias stresses the need for a clear distance between such present-day subjects and these victims. As I have shown, it does this on the level of content via an ironic assessment of Xavier’s identifcation with the Jewish people, but this need for distance is also addressed at the extradiegetic level. More specifcally, the novel tackles the notion of identifcation as what Robert Eaglestone has called ‘a central and major – but not always necessary – part of our experience of reading’ (2004, 24). Identifcation, so he emphasizes, is nothing more than the way in which readers ‘identify’ with the characters in the narrative. With regard to textual accounts of the Holocaust (or other atrocities), many representations from popular culture seem to demand us ‘to do exactly that, to comprehend it, to grasp the experiences, to imagine the suffering, through identifying with those who suffered’ (2004, 19). This identifcation is, however, not only problematic from an epistemological point of view, since the reader does not share the historical experiences of Holocaust victims, it is also ethically questionable. As De joodse messias illustrates the questionable nature of identifcation with those that suffered on an epistemological, ethical, and empirical level, its form works against any form of identifcation with its characters. The absurdity of its plot and the use of caricatures defy any realist reading – with realism as ‘the easiest form in which [identifcation] happens’ (Eaglestone, 2004, 28). Yet, the most effective technique in hindering this

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process of identifcation between readers and characters is the persistent use of dramatic irony throughout the novel. At all times, through the use of an authorial narration, readers know more than the characters and are able to assess their ludicrous nature. They witness the futile attempts of the perpetrator descendants to see themselves as victims and are confronted with the image of a Jewish community that seems largely exempt from that traumatic past. In doing so, De joodse messias pushes three parties out of the comfort corner of victimhood: the descendants of perpetrators that perpetually attempt to revise their legacy, the descendants of Holocaust victims whose identities are defned by more than just Holocaust consciousness, and the readers, whose conventional position of identifcation with victims is barred – not only because of their sense of moral superiority toward the characters, but also by the sudden allowance to laugh at those that are conventionally associated with piety and sacredness. Through this threefold push, De joodse messias puts assertive, often irreverent question marks next to the practices of historical revisionism, contemporary identity construction, and reader identifcation. Grunberg’s meta-mnemonic engagement with these notions – its indexical dimension – demonstrates a pertinent awareness of the continued impact of reifed identity concepts; its poetic thrust, marked by the use of irony, farce, and a rather absurd dystopic ending to produce a satire of the various memory communities, refect an attitude toward memory that does not originate from a need to work through the past. Rather than revealing or narrating the struggles of postmemory, De joodse messias is a forthright example of how its author bypasses historical trauma and mnemonic sensitivities to address crucial issues in contemporary Holocaust remembering. It is this appropriative and provocative act that makes it such a relevant instance of fctional meta-memory.

Notes 1 All Dutch quotes are from De joodse messias (Amsterdam: Vassallucci, 2004). When referring to this novel, I will use the abbreviation ‘DJM’. The English translations are from Arnon Grunberg, The Jewish Messiah, trans. by Sam Garrett (New York: The Penguin Press, 2008), which I will refer to as ‘TJM’. 2 Theodor Herzl (1860–1904) was an Austro-Hungarian journalist, playwright, political activist, and writer who is considered the father of modern political Zionism. Herzl formed the Zionist Organization in 1897 and promoted Jewish migration to Palestine in an effort to form a Jewish state. He died long before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, yet the Israeli Declaration of Independence offcially refers to him to as ‘the spiritual father of the Jewish State’. In 1897 he organized the First Zionist Congress in Basel, which suggests an intertextual link between Xavier Radek and the fgure of Theodor Herzl. For more information on Theodor Herzl, see Avineri 2016 and Zilbersheid 2004. 3 For a recent and comprehensive discussion of Jewish humor, see Wisse 2013. For a comprehensive discussion of anti-Semitic stereotypes, see Felsenstein 1995. 4 For a discussion of these rumors, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Hitler %27s_possible_monorchism.

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5 For a more comprehensive overview of the manifold of references to the life of Adolf Hitler in Xavier Radek, see Konst 2016. 6 See, for example, Novick 2000; Wolf 1980; Evron 1981; Finkelstein 2015; Friedman 2012. For a critical assessment of this view, see Rosenfeld 2001. 7 The use of the comical in cultural engagements of the Holocaust seems tied to a stringent condition. As Gilman has argued, if texts engaging the concentration camps via comical means wish to be accepted into high culture as an adequate representation of the Shoah, they need to stem from the pen of Jewish authors (see 2000a, 284). Eaglestone speaks in this regard from an ‘autobiographical pact’ (2004, 124). Although the humorous response to disasters has repeatedly been claimed to be a Jewish tradition, the fact that all of the authors mentioned here have – in text, context, or paratext – stressed their Jewishness repeatedly, demonstrates their awareness that the public’s acknowledgement of their identity and life experience is a sine qua non for the acceptance of their comical approach of Holocaust victimhood. For critical discussions of the ethical dimensions of the comical in representing the Holocaust, see, for example, Des Pres 1988; DeKoven 2001; Gilman 2000b; Van Alphen 1997; Richardson 2008; Mueller 2011. I will elaborate more on this in my discussion of Astronaut van Oranje (2013) by Andy Fierens and Michaël Brijs in the last chapter of this book. 8 His novels Blauwe Maandagen (1994, transl. as Blue Mondays in 1997), Fantoompijn (2003, transl. as Phantom Pain (2003), or Huid en haar (2010, [Skin and Hair]) explore the persistence of violence in the present and critically question the ‘sacralization of the Holocaust’ (‘De sacralisering van de Holocaust’, in Oegema 2003, 159) in the global cultural memory of World War II. For a discussion of this aspect in Grunberg’s oeuvre, see Van Dijk 2010. 9 For an elaborate discussion of some examples of works of Holocaust impiety, see Boswell and Eaglestone 2004.

References Alexander, Jeffrey C. 2002. ‘On the Social Construction of Moral Universals: The “Holocaust” from War Crime to Trauma Drama’. European Journal of Social Theory 5 (1): 5–85. Ankersmit, Frank. 2005. Sublime Historical Experience. Stanford: Stanford UP. Avineri, Shlomo. 2016. Herzl: Theodor Herzl und die Gründung des jüdischen Staates. Translated by Eva-Maria Thimme. Berlin: Jüdischer Verlag im Suhrkamp Verlag. Boswell, Matthew. 2012. Holocaust Impiety in Literature, Popular Music and Film. London: Palgrave Macmillan. DeKoven, Ezrahi. 2001. ‘After Such Knowledge: What Laughter?’ The Yale Journal of Criticism 14 (1): 287–313. Des Pres, Terrence. 1988. ‘“Holocaust Laughter?” Writing and the Holocaust’. In Writing and the Holocaust, edited by Berel Lang, 216–233. New York: Holms & Meier. Diez, Georg. 2011. ‘The Past as Prop. Young German Artists Defne the “New Jew”’. Der Spiegel, November 11, 2011. www.spiegel.de/international/german y/the-past-as-prop-young-german-artists-boldly-defne-the-new-jew-a-797008. html. Eaglestone, Robert. 2004. The Holocaust and the Postmodern. Oxford: Oxford UP. Edwards, Justin D., and Rune Graulund. 2013. Grotesque. London/New York: Routledge.

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Evron, Boaz. 1981. ‘The Holocaust: Learning the Wrong Lessons’. Journal of Palestine Studies 10 (3): 16–26. Felsenstein, Frank. 1995. Anti-Semitic Stereotypes. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP. Finkelstein, Norman G. 2015. The Holocaust Industry: Refections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering. New York: Verso. Friedman, Thomas L. 2012. From Beirut to Jerusalem. New York: Picador. Gilman, Sander. 2000a. ‘Is Life Beautiful? Can the Shoah Be Funny? Some Thoughts on Recent and Older Films’. Critical Inquiry 26 (2): 279–308. ———. 2000b. ‘Is Life Beautiful? Can the Shoah Be Funny? Some Thoughts on Recent and Older Films’. Critical Inquiry 26 (2): 279–308. Grunberg, Arnon. 2004. De joodse messias. Amsterdam: Vassallucci. ———. 2008. The Jewish Messiah. Translated by Sam Garrett. New York: The Penguin Press. Karp, Jonathan, and Adam Sutcliffe. 2011. Philosemitism in History. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge UP. Konst, Jan. 2016. ‘De joodse messias van Arnon Grunberg en Mein Kampf van Je-Weet-Wel-Wie’. Ons Erfdeel 59 (1): 82–91. LaCapra, Dominick. 2001. Writing History, Writing Trauma. Baltimore/London: Johns Hopkins UP. ———. 2004. History in Transit: Experience, Identity, Critical Theory. Ithaca: Cornell UP. Levy, Daniel, and Natan Sznaider. 2002. ‘Memory Unbound: The Holocaust and the Formation of Cosmopolitan Memory’. European Journal of Social Theory 5 (1): 87–106. Mueller, Kerstin. 2011. ‘Laughing at Hitler? The German Reception of George Tabori’s Mein Kampf (1987) and Dani Levy’s Mein Führer (2007)’. In Strategies of Humor in Post-Unifcation German Literature, Film, and Other Media, edited by Jill E. Twark, 330–362. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Press. Novick, Peter. 2000. The Holocaust in American Life. Boston: Mariner Books. Oegema, Jan. 2003. Een vreemd geluk. De publieke religie rond Auschwitz. Amsterdam: Balans. Richardson, Michael. 2008. ‘“Heil Myself!” Impersonation and Identity in Comic Representations of Hitler’. In Visualising the Holocaust. Documents, Aesthetics, Memory, edited by David Bathrick, Brad Prager, and Michael Richardson, 277– 297. Rochester: Camden House. Rose, Gillian. 1996. Mourning Becomes the Law. Cambridge: Cambridge UP. Rosenfeld, Alvin H. 2001. ‘The Assault on Holocaust Memory’. The American Jewish Year Book 101: 3–20. Van Alphen, Ernst. 1997. Caught by History: Holocaust Effects in Contemporary Art, Literature and Theory. Stanford: Stanford UP. Van Dijk, Yra. 2010. ‘Uitblinken in overleven. De erfenis van de Shoah bij Arnon Grunberg’. In Het leven volgens Arnon Grunberg: de wereld als poppenkast, edited by Johan Goud, 74–104. Kampen/Kapellen: Klement/Pelckmans. Wisse, Ruth. 2013. NO JOKE. Making Jewish Humor. Princeton: Princeton UP. Wolf, Arnold Jacob. 1980. ‘The Centrality of the Holocaust Is a Mistake: The Holocaust Is Being Sold, Not Taught’. National Jewish Monthly 95 (2): 14–17. Zilbersheid, Uri. 2004. ‘The Utopia of Theodor Herzl’. Israel Studies 9 (3): 80–114.

Part II

Memory on the Move?

Introduction Memories move. They move in time, they move in space, they move in form, they move in meaning. While they have always done so, it is only in the last decade that this movement has received full attention in the feld of memory studies. For a long time, memory was conceived of as primarily located in certain sites or objects (Pierre Nora), or as something shared within relatively clear-cut social settings, usually coinciding with the contours of regions, kingdoms, or nation-states, thereby constituting or reinforcing group identity (Halbwachs, Winter, Jan Assmann).1 By contrast, most of the research in memory studies today tends to regard memory not as fxed but as fuid, not as static but as dynamic, not as bound but as unbound. ‘Memories’, Astrid Erll suggests, ‘do not hold still – on the contrary, they seem to be constituted frst of all through movement’ (2011, 11). This quality of memory may indeed be intrinsic to its defnition, as Ann Rigney confrms (quoted in McIvor et al. 2017, 185), yet the increased scholarly attention to memory’s mobility is also inspired by contemporary phenomena, such as migration and mass cultural technologies, which allow for the global dissemination of memories.2 Many authors who engage with the status of World War II memory today thematize this mobility. Marcel Beyer’s Flughunde, Erwin Mortier’s Marcel, and Per Leo’s Flut und Boden, discussed in the other sections of this book, show how memory travels through time and across generations via material carriers such as recordings, letters, and old books. The novels examined in the second section share an interest in how the memory of World War II travels across borders and cultures, and how they become intertwined with other memories. Koen Peeters’s Grote Europese roman (2007), Mano Bouzamour’s De belofte van Pisa (2013), and Peter Verhelst’s Zwerm (2005) each engage in a highly committed and explicit way with the changes in today’s society and their effects on the movements of World War II memory. Koen Peeters’s Grote Europese roman explores the supranational character of Holocaust memory and how it can act as a community-building

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factor in Europe today. It tells the story of a marketing expert, Robin, who travels through Europe to acquire new marketing strategies for his company. Taking the foundational idea of the European Union as a common market as the starting point for its refection, Peeters’s novel explores to what extent the market economy is able to provide a solid basis for a solid European identity. As there is hardly any personal rapport between Robin and the business colleagues he meets during his trip, the novel demonstrates that if the European Union serves to facilitate international business, this business certainly does not bring people closer to each other. Europe, the novel suggests, cannot be supported by a common market alone. Robin refects extensively on this problem, yet he is part of this world and feels no compulsion to act differently. This changes when he learns that his employer, Theo Marchand, is a Holocaust survivor. As a result, Robin develops a keen interest in Holocaust history and starts to recognize the traces of its memory all over Europe. Furthermore, he acknowledges his own position, in Michael Rothberg’s terms, as ‘an implicated subject’ in that history – a concept that articulates how legacies of violence reside in us across space, time, and generation. It is precisely Robin’s acknowledgement of the latent omnipresence of Holocaust memory in Europe, as well as his understanding that this memory travels through time to affect his own identity, that enables him to recognize the ongoing relevance of this past and how it can foster a transnational European identity. Grote Europese roman, in other words, brings the transnational moves of Holocaust memory back into the picture in order to underscore their relevance in light of the various tensions to which the European Union is continuously exposed. While confrming the political relevance of the European Union in light of the Holocaust events, Peeters’s meta-mnemonic commitment in Grote Europese roman raises the question of whether the emphasis on the supranational reach of this memory is not a mere reiteration of earlier tendencies to locate memory in a certain space, albeit on a larger scale. Even if such spatial anchoring may not be part of the novel’s intentions, its vision of Holocaust memory suggests that this memory is frst of all a European issue, which entails a disavowal of its global and transcultural signifcance. Furthermore, this vision can be regarded as an expression of how ‘memory [functions as] a cornerstone in the building of fortress Europe’, as Ann Rigney reminds us (qtd. in McIvor et al. 2017, 189). Memory, Rigney continues, has indeed often ‘been linked to migration in the form of a defensive bulwark: Europe has its own national and regional traditions; you don’t share in those traditions, so keep out’ (ibid.). This type of cultural critique is at the center of the second novel discussed in this section, Mano Bouzamour’s De belofte van Pisa, which engages with the contact between disparate cultural memories. By means of an autodiegetic narration, it sketches the adolescent years of Samir Zafar (‘Sam’), a second-generation Dutch-Moroccan Muslim, born in Amsterdam and son

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of immigrants who came to the Netherlands in 1974. While describing the way he copes with puberty and sexual explorations, as well as life with his peers in the Amsterdam neighborhood ‘De Pijp’, the novel focuses on themes of ethnic belonging, suburban alienation, social injustice, the populist and assimilationist climate that has gained momentum in the Netherlands since the early 2000s, and the painstaking efforts to break away from the path of crime to which he seems predestined. A crucial element in Sam’s engagement with his host culture is his keen interest in the history of World War II. This is not only apparent from his reading of history books and listening to stories about it, but also from the fact that he playfully challenges his fellow pupils’ historical knowledge about the war. In doing so, Sam expresses the desire to obtain what Michael Rothberg and Yasemin Yildiz have termed ‘memory citizenship’ (2011), that is, breaking out of established national, ethnic, and cultural confnes by migrating into the cultural memory of the host culture. Thus, Sam engages with a memory that is at once his and not his. It is his because he is born in a society where the Holocaust is part of cultural memory. At the same time, his ethnic and religious belonging suggests that other memories determine his identity. Because of this duality, De belofte van Pisa broaches a number of questions about the transnational and transcultural role of memory with regard to migrant identity and the possibility of inhabiting a ‘new’ cultural memory or two cultural memories at once. This is why I argue that Sam embodies what Homi Bhabha calls ‘interstitial agency’: he refuses to be made into an agonistic outsider and uses ‘the partial culture from which [he emerges] to construct visions of community, and versions of historic memory’ (2011, 58). As a consequence, De belofte van Pisa challenges any ethno-nationalist underpinnings of cultural memory, illustrating that it cannot be understood as ethnic property. Yet Sam’s commitment to European cultural memory is not a precondition for his claim to memory citizenship being granted, let alone that his own diasporic memory can travel and move into the Dutch, and European, cultural memory. His curiosity is met with indifference and defensiveness and his peers in the Dutch-Moroccan community do not share his aspirations for cultural and mnemonic integration. The novel evidences that the migration journey into a new culture is charged with ambiguities and aporias that suggest that the dismantling of ethno-nationalist visions of Dutch identity (and all its component elements) is far from self-evident, if not impossible. Peeters and Bouzamour certainly demonstrate in their respective novels that memories travel, yet they also show that these travels are met with resistance. While Grote Europese roman teaches us that transnational and transcultural mnemonic traces are useless if they are not recognized as such, Bouzamour shows us that the transcultural memory travels are often a one-way journey through a very narrow security gate. For these reasons, a question mark behind the assertion that memory is on the move, seems necessary.

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The view that memory is something that is perpetually on the move, while at the same time being vulnerable to tendencies that aim to ground it, is also at the center of the last novel in this section, Zwerm by Peter Verhelst. The novel sketches a dystopian society where a confict takes place between ‘The Foundation’, a powerful corporation which carries out medical experiments on human beings and protects war criminals, on the one hand, and a resistance movement, led by the Holocaust survivor Mister J/H, who wants to avenge the death of his family in the concentration camps, on the other. To this end, Mister J/H hunts down the war criminals hidden by the Foundation. He also devises a plan to create an alternative society in order to erase the National Socialist biopolitical doctrine upheld by the Foundation. This confict suggests that the memory of World War II in this dystopian society is not on the move at all. One could argue that it has traveled from World War II to the present, yet the confict in the story suggests that memory moves through a feedback loop. It exerts a strong infuence on the present, regardless of societal and temporal progress. Yet, at frst sight, the novel sketches a positive outcome. At the end of the novel, the Foundation is destroyed, and with the collapse of its buildings comes a new society, carried by Mister J/H’s ideological program that prescribes elements of change and progress. This change – articulated via the metaphors of the virus, the swarm, and the cloud – also affects the structure of memory. Whereas Mister J/H was previously stuck in a past confict deadlock, his victory releases memory and allows it to travel as stipulated by his doctrine: via endless dissemination and mutation. Illustrative for this is the description of the hundreds of people taking pictures of the crumbling Foundation – a reference to 9/11 – and how they circulate them on social media and the internet. The novel confrms that in this process the memory of the event is multiplied into millions of mnemonic signifers that become independent from the event itself. As intangible and disembodied traces, they spread in an extremely fast, unpredictable, and ‘multidirectional’ way, to use Rothberg’s term (2009). Moreover, in this process they become entangled with other interpretations and mnemonic frameworks and take on a radically polyphonic character. Zwerm endorses this view of memory both in form and content and uses the virus, the swarm, and the cloud as metaphors to describe the structure and form of mnemonic movement in the age of mass-culture, digitalization, and globalization. At the same time, however, the novel warns against excessive optimism about memory’s freedom of movement. Both on the level of form and content, the novel persistently stresses the cyclical nature of history. The last sentence in the novel, ‘Dit is het begin’ (Z 6, This is the beginning), which signals the birth of a new society, may indeed suggest that memory is unbound and able to escape the coercive power of ideological tendencies that seek to inhibit its mobility. However, ‘het begin’ is not just a diegetic indication of a new start, but it also refers us, as readers, back

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to the beginning of the text, from where the story seems to start again. The struggle between liberation and coercion, the novel’s structure suggests, is part of an eternal cycle that is never broken. If memories, as Astrid Erll points out, are indeed constituted frst of all through movement, the novels under discussion in this section demonstrate that this movement of memory – just like its play, which I discuss in the second section of this book – is more often than not neutralized or hindered by a number of factors. Indifference, willful amnesia, or the presence of what Feindt and others refer to as coercive ‘mnemonic rules’ (Feindt et al. 2014, 33) in certain social and political environments actively prevent memory from circulating, migrating, and traveling. As I show in my readings of the novels in this section, Grote Europese roman, De belofte van Pisa, and Zwerm make signifcant attempts to alert us to these factors.

Notes 1 The relation between these early approaches in memory studies and those of the last decades is, of course, a simplifed one. For a nuanced discussion of this transition, see Erll 2011. 2 This short introduction is not the place for a comprehensive discussion of this tendency in memory studies, and I will come back to its various aspects in more detail during my readings of the novels in this section. For overviews of this tendency in the feld of memory studies, see Feindt et al. 2014 and Bond, Craps, and Vermeulen 2017.

References Bhabha, Homi K. 2011. ‘Culture’s In-Between’. In Questions of Cultural Identity, edited by Stuart Hall and Paul Du Gay, 53–60. London: Sage Publications. Bond, Lucy, Stef Craps, and Pieter Vermeulen, eds. 2017. ‘Memory on the Move’. In Memory Unbound: Tracing the Dynamics of Memory Studies, 1–26. New York/ Oxford: Berghahn Books. Erll, Astrid. 2011. ‘Travelling Memory’. Parallax 17 (4): 4–18. Feindt, Gregor, Félix Krawatzek, Daniela Mehler, Friedemann Pestel, and Rieke Trimçev. 2014. ‘Entangled Memory: Toward a Third Wave in Memory Studies’. History and Theory 53: 24–44. McIvor, Charlotte, Emilie Pine, Astrid Erll, Ann Rigney, Paula McFetridge, Dominic Thorpe, and Stef Craps. 2017. ‘Roundtable on Moving Memory’. Irish University Review 47 (1): 165–96. Rothberg, Michael. 2009. Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization. Stanford: Stanford UP. Rothberg, Michael, and Yasemin Yildiz. 2011. ‘Memory Citizenship: Migrant Archives of Holocaust Remembrance in Contemporary Germany’. Parallax 17 (4): 32–48.

4

The Names of the Dead in Our Communal Cemeteries The Case for a European Collective Memory in Koen Peeters’s Grote Europese roman (2007)1

The United Kingdom’s offcial withdrawal from the European Union, also known as ‘Brexit’, confrmed what the European elections in May 2014 already suggested: the European project suffers from a lack of public support. Explanations as to why voters choose to throw in their lot with populist, Eurosceptic, and far-right parties are often sought in economic and social insecurity but, as Cris Shore already pointed out a decade ago, the main problem facing the European Union is the lack of public legitimacy of its political institutions. A precondition for a legitimate European democracy, Shore argues, is a legitimate European demos that recognizes itself as a supranational ‘people’ and identifes with the supranational institutions that claim to represent it. The fundamental problem of the EU ‘lies in the fact that the “European public” or demos, barely exists as a recognizable category, and hardly at all as a subjective or self-recognising category’ (Shore 2000, 26). Aleida Assmann speaks in this regard of a failing ‘Selbstbewusstsein, sie sind noch nicht wirklich die Bewohner ihres Traumes und ihrer Geschichte’ (2012, a failing self-consciousness, they are not yet the inhabitants of their dreams and history). Contrary to the neo-functionalist assumptions guiding the process of European integration in its early decades, public identifcation with and attachment to the European institutions has not emerged as a simple by-product of the creation of a unifed European market for goods and people.2 The result of this development is the perpetuating image of the European Union in terms of surface and deep structure, of appearance and core. Many agree that of the frst there is too much, of the second too little. What is missing is referred to in terms of identity, identifcation, feeling, imagination, warmth. What is omnipresent is Europe’s image of a superfcial marketplace and a political arena that stands for rules and belittling, for bureaucracy and quota. If its unifcation process after World War II can be called successful, this duality suggests that it has lost its sparkle and has become a cold, unimaginative place. Although EU institutions have been aware of this problem since the early seventies, it has become all the more urgent over the last decade, with Brexit as the ultimate confrmation of Europe’s chronic identity problem.

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In order to counter this situation, many proposals have been made. One of them is the recurring call for a public and transnational engagement with Europe’s past and the construction of a collective European memory. We fnd this, for example, in the offcial EU discourse that, since the 1990s, has frequently linked European identity to its heritage of rich cultural diversity and seeks to promote this heritage as the key to a shared sense of belonging.3 However, constructing this type of collective memory implies not only integrating many national histories into one grand narrative, but also reconciling Europe’s philosophical and cultural heritage with the atrocities that have taken place amongst its members. Jacques Derrida’s claim that ‘historicity is the essential horizon of humanity’ (1978, 115) is therefore challenged by the case of Europe. Still, many agree that it is exactly the engagement with this divisive past that is crucial to writing such a grand narrative and to Europe’s political identity. In their study Der Kampf um die europäische Erinnerung (2011), Claus Leggewie and Anne Lang present this claim as their central thesis: Wir vertreten in diesem Buch die Auffassung, dass ein supranationales Europa nur dann eine tragfähiges politische Identität erlangen kann, wenn die öffentliche Erörterung und wechselseitige Anerkennung strittiger Erinnerungen ebenso hoch bewertet wird wie Vertragswerke, Binnenmarkt und offene Grenzen: Wenn das vereinte Europa also eine geteilte Erinnerung hat, die vergangene Konfikte, an denen die Geschichte Europas überreich ist, in aller Deutlichkeit benennt, sie aber auch in zivilen Formen bearbeitet und genau darüber eine Gemeinsamkeit wachsen lässt, die die Europäische Union nach innen und außen handlungsfähig macht. (Leggewie and Lang 2011, 7) In this book, we claim that a supranational Europe can only achieve a durable political identity when public debate and the mutual recognition of conficting memories are valued as much as treaties, the internal market, and open borders. This can only happen if this unifed Europe possesses a shared memory, if it clearly names the multiple conficts that mark European history, and works through them with its citizens in order to develop a unity that allows the European Union to become – both internally and externally – an active force. In referring to ‘multiple conficts’, Leggewie and Lang point at the events of World War II, the Gulag, the ethnic cleansing of minorities, the many other national and supranational wars in European history, the heritage of colonialism, as well as those traumatic memories that enter(ed) Europe through immigration as pan-European traumas. They visualize the structural relations between these traumatic memories within a European collective memory in a diagram of seven concentric circles of European memory,

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putting World War II and the Holocaust frmly at the center. This is not surprising, since it forms the very basis of Europe as a political and economic union. For Leggewie and Lang, they function as Europe’s ‘negativen Gründungsmythos’ (2011, 15, negative founding myth). Suggesting the cohesive power of these memories is one thing; letting them function in such a way is another. How can the memories of these conficts, which are ‘far from uniform across countries’ (2014, 122), as Aline Sierp indicates, be used as community-building tools? In an attempt to answer this question, Klaus Eder points to the need for ‘a European public space, which provides an arena for communicating the past to European citizens’ (2005, 216–217). The European institutions continuously play this role, as for example during the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust in 2000, yet Eder suggests that what Europe needs most are ‘cultural techniques such as symbolically-mediated representations of what people have in common’ (2005, 205). The EU, he claims, is a supranational society in need of symbolic mediation if ever there was one because it is structured by more interruptions of social relations than any society known and because its members do not engage in direct social relations. Grote Europese roman (2007, Great European Novel) by the Flemish author Koen Peeters is an outspoken example of such a symbolic mediation. Its title is an intertextual reference to the Great American novel, as the narrator indicates in the mission statement (‘Opdracht’) of the novel: ‘Ik wil een boek schrijven als een Great American Novel, vermomd als een Grote Europese Roman. Ik heb gegoogeld, die bestaat nog niet. Groots en episch moet die de geschiedenis van de Europese mensheid samenvatten (GER 4, I wish to write a book like a Great American Novel, disguised as a Great European Novel. I googled it, it does not yet exist. In a majestic and epic way, it has to capture the history of European mankind).4 Used ‘more as an epithet than as a concept defned with any precision’ (Buell 2008, 136), the Great American novel purportedly captures the unique American experience and identity at a given historical moment, and for this reason, it is often regarded as the American response to the national epic in Europe: literary works that sought to record or are believed to have recorded and expressed the essence or spirit of a particular nation. Examples of novels that have been given the label of Great American Novel are Herman Melville’s MobyDick (1851), F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925), and Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow (1973). There are, however, some crucial distinctions between the Great American Novel and the ambitions of Peeters’s Grote Europese roman. Firstly, while the label ‘Great American Novel’ is typically retroactively attributed to a novel by someone other than its author, Peeters provocatively proclaims that his own novel will possess the epic scope and visionary qualities that a Great American Novel is supposed to have. Secondly, and more importantly, the attribution of the label ‘Great American Novel’ can be applied only on the assumption that a pre-discursive (American) identity exists – one

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that is believed to be reconstructed or represented in that novel. Peeters’s self-conscious labeling of his novel as Grote Europese roman, in contrast, suggests a constructive act, implying precisely the conviction that there is no such identity in the case of Europe and the belief that literature can play a signifcant role in the construction of collective identity. I will structure my analysis of Grote Europese roman’s meta-mnemonic commitment according to its ‘double thrust’. Firstly, I will investigate how the novel offers a critique of the image of Europe as a purely economic and political union and how it brings up the memory of World War II to counter that image. Rather than just aiming to discard it, the novel offers a plea for supplementing this image of Europe with a code of conduct marked by openness to the challenges posed by national difference and by an awareness of the importance of the history of the Holocaust for the identity of Europe today. As I will show, it is only when the protagonist realizes that the memory of these events is present virtually everywhere during his trip through Europe that he is able to recognize its connective potential for the construction of a European identity. While highlighting these mnemonic conditions, the novel appropriates this memory and – in a kind of didactical exercise – pulls it towards its readers from under the obfuscating layers of political and economic interests. In the second part of my analysis, I will explore how Grote Europese roman constantly subverts its own ambitions and political aspirations through a refection on its own form. I aim to show that the novel does indeed offer a plea for a collective European memory, yet that its meta-mnemonic commitment also entails a simultaneous questioning of its ambitions by means of irony and narrative fragmentation (its second, poetic ‘thrust’). These techniques do not effectuate aloofness or to undermine them but refect a novelistic care of not turning these ambitions into dogmatic and unilateral claims. As the narrator indicates in the novel’s mission statement at the beginning of the book, he wants to guide us through Europe, ‘op Europese wijze’ (GER 4, in a European way). What he means by that will be the topic of this chapter.

A Great European Novel… Koen Peeters is the author of a small but diverse oeuvre, marked by a skillful interweaving of classic storytelling and postmodern poetics. His novels – whose topics mostly engage with forgotten or peculiar histories – are highly accessible but at the same time intricate and self-refexive texts. They engage with our modern society and how it focuses on functionality and purpose at the expense of what is deemed trivial and unusable. Out of this, a form of arte povera is born: Peeters’s works engage with the art of the everyday, foregrounding marginal elements in our culture. Out of these elements emerge small and often highly amusing anecdotes, but also stories that challenge canonized historiography. His style persistently balances

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nostalgia and playful irony and his stories resist narrative closure. Peeters has gained wide critical acclaim in Dutch literature, but little beyond. This might have to do with the local setting of his stories and his strict focus on Belgian themes, such as Belgian royal history or the traumatic history of Belgian colonialism in Congo, which have stood in the way of transnational interest. No doubt this focus on national history might in itself be an apt illustration of the problems that national memories face in light of a culture that is increasingly understood in supra- or transnational terms. In Grote Europese roman, Peeters ventures across these national borders. The novel tells the story of a marketing expert, Robin, who travels through Europe to acquire new marketing strategies for his company, Marchand NV. His employer, the elderly Theo Marchand, has become increasingly aware that the market has radically changed. As an intelligent, loyal, discrete, and – above all – single employee, Robin is assigned to ascertain how colleagues and competitors all over Europe organize their business and, on the basis of his fndings, to devise new marketing strategies to be presented in an elaborate business report. On the level of the narrative, the quest is initially economic in nature, but over the course of the story, it becomes increasingly more personal. It evolves into a quest for Robin’s own identity as well as for that of the people he meets during his trip. The novel presents an often-ironic description of the marketing business, replete with conferences and incidental meetings in hotels and airports. For them, Europe – and the world – is analyzed and conquered in terms of personality marketing, customer value, competitive intelligence, performance dashboards, management tools, activity-based costing, preferred suppliers, assessments, and so on. People start each sentence with ‘I’, but each ‘I’ also looks like the others: young, intelligent, successful, wealthy, but devoid of any sense of sociability. As Robin contends: ‘Wij zijn zo gelijkmoedig, gelijksoortig, wij zijn leeg en generiek’ (GER 109, We are all so even-tempered, so similar, we are empty and generic).5 They all share a sense of optimism about progress and international collaboration in a European context, but because of their narcissism and ambition, their interpersonal relationships lack depth, and each of them is essentially interchangeable. Through Robin’s focalization, Grote Europese roman evokes an image of Europe as a utilitarian and professional environment that can do without personal investment and exchange. And Robin initially shares this view. Like his colleagues, he prefers the superfcial and detached professional life, devoid of personal depth – an attitude refected and maintained by his ironic reserve toward others and his indifference to knowing either himself or the people he meets during his trip: ‘Ik houd niet van de geschiedenis van vreemden, en evenmin van die van mezelf’ (GER 73, I don’t like the histories of strangers, and neither my own). Since Robin is a successful marketeer, the novel at frst seems to suggest that Europe may indeed function as a prolifc setting for international business – one in which personal relations and international exchange may be laudable, but secondary.

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Yet Robin acknowledges that the aloofness in these professional relations is a recipe for personal discontent. He experiences his personal life as empty and dissatisfying, governed by the motto: ‘Er zou iets moeten gebeuren’ (GER 34, Something should be happening). Yet nothing happens and Robin’s busy work schedule acts as an excuse not to ponder on the reasons for this dissatisfaction and to defer any attempt to fnd a solution for it. The general character of Robin’s remarks about his professional relations suggests, moreover, that his dissatisfaction is not just a personal matter; it becomes an indication of the fact that these relations have no bonding effect and, hence, that they cannot offer any basis for a transnational understanding. Furthermore, by evoking the world of fnance and marketing, Robin’s discontent indicates a more general critique of the inadequacy of the neoliberal economy for building a shared European self-consciousness and identity. Even if at frst Robin shows no interest in changing this situation, he actively refects on his own behavior and upon the world in which he moves. These refections demonstrate a need for a more personal relationship with the people he meets. During business receptions, where ‘het pittige kapitalisme, de lichtzinnige vreugde van de blaffende marketing’ (GER 160–161, the punchy capitalism, the light-hearted joy of the barking marketing business) are on full display, Robin increasingly feels an outsider with a strong need to talk to ‘mensen die ik nooit meer zal zien’ (GER 162, people I will never meet again). His ironic aloofness gradually gives way to a desire for what he calls ‘het elektrische gesprek’ (GER 171, the electric conversation) with the strangers he meets, an exchange that ‘ons zacht schramt’ (GER 242, scratches us softly) and is mutually ‘uitdagend […], soms erotiserend […], altijd persoonlijk […]’ (GER 243, challenging […], sometimes eroticizing […], always personal […]). Besides this growing personal investment, Robin also develops an interest in Europe’s history. His boss, Theo Marchand, plays a crucial role in this process. Theo is a businessman whose primary goal in life was to become successful. Now, in his old age, he perceives ‘een soort ruis, een verleden dat maar niet als afgedaan beschouwd kon worden’ (GER 246, a kind of white background noise, a past that still cannot be considered as fnished) and which frequently resurfaces in visions and nightmares. This past is the Holocaust. Theo, we gradually learn, is a Lithuanian Jew, formerly named Markmann. After his father committed suicide when the Germans arrived in Lithuania in 1941, his business partners sent Theo on a trip through Europe to avoid Nazi persecution. This past determines Theo’s view of Europe. As a survivor, he is aware of the relevance and the necessity of historical awareness of the Holocaust in order to pre-empt it being repeated. To him, EU history encompasses a long march of ongoing wars, of ‘[b]ergen haar, hopen brillen, stapels schoenen’ (GER 123, mountains of hair, heaps of glasses, piles of shoes). Europe, Theo claims, ‘dat zijn de namen van de doden op onze gezamenlijke kerkhoven’

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(GER 123, is the names of the dead in our communal cemeteries). Robin fnds this remark a bit gloomy, yet Theo responds by considering it ‘heel nuttig […] Het is de beste waarschuwing voor een nieuwe burenoorlog, of wereldoorlog, als je wilt’ (GER 123, very useful […]. It is the best warning against a new war among neighbors, or a new world war, if you wish). Theo, moreover, has a clear idea of how Europe’s member states should behave in this regard: ‘Landen moeten elkaar altijd zeer voorzichtig begroeten, als twee rouwende oudjes op het kerkhof. Dat is de enige juiste toon’ (GER 217, Countries should always meet each other very carefully, like two mourning old people in a cemetery. That is the only appropriate tone). I consider the behavioral code between nations, as proposed here by Theo Marchand, a proper illustration of Judith Butler’s concept of an ethics of vulnerability, as articulated in Precarious Life (2006). Butler calls for a recognition of the fundamental interdependence between Self and Other, a new form of narrating collective traumas, since this narration not only determines our experience of that event but also our reactions to it, for instance, ‘whether we seek an explanation for or exoneration from the event’ (2006, 5). Inspired by the work of the French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, she recommends an approach toward the other that is marked by care and the recognition of interdependence, instigated by ‘an apprehension of the precariousness of life, one that begins with the precarious life of the Other’ (2006, xvii–xviii). The meeting of the two elderly people in the cemetery is a parable about this kind of apprehension. Their joint visit suggests that the cemetery houses the dead of both parties, implying that these people not only mourn their own dead – which would entail the mourning of and a strict attachment to their own national war past – but also those for which they are or might be responsible. They do not only meet as victims of crimes against humanity, but also as its possible perpetrators. It is exactly here, as I suggest with Butler, that on the level of nations the ‘narcissistic preoccupation of melancholia can be moved into a consideration for the vulnerability of others’ (2006, 30). This consideration, this parable teaches us, is necessary for developing a mutual framing in which perspectives of reparation and a shared future become possible. From this, Butler continues, ‘a principle [might] emerge by which we vow to protect others from the kinds of violence we have suffered, if not from an apprehension of a common human vulnerability’ (2006, 44). This meeting exemplifes a point of departure for a new relational understanding where fundamental interdependence with and ethical responsibility for the Other is acknowledged – an understanding which can pave a path for non-violent ethics and politics. During the course of the story, Theo increasingly acts as Robin’s historical mentor – not just with regard to the European business report the latter has to write for Theo’s company, but also with regard to Robin’s vision of Europe. A good example is Theo’s criticism of Robin’s ironic and folkloristic view of Europe, which he picks up after visiting an international event

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about national and regional traditions in Europe at the Brussels town hall. During this event, Robin experiences Europe as ‘iets van vlagjes, mutsjes, linten. De taal van het volk gemengd met de taal van gezagsdragers, en dat gevoed door streekgerechten en gedoopt met het water van Manneken Pis. Ineens lijkt mijn leven eenvoudig’ (GER 44, something with fags, hats, and ribbons. The language of the people mixed with the language of the authorities, and all this fed by local dishes and baptized with water from Manneken Pis. Suddenly my life seems simple). When reporting this to Theo, the latter responds condescendingly to the image: ‘Noem jij dat Europa? […] Dat romantische gedoe van de naties? Europa mag toch iets meer betekenen dan volksdansen?’ (GER 62, You call that Europe? […] That romantic stuff about nations? Surely Europe means more than just folk dancing). Robin’s desire for a personal, electrifying conversation with the people he meets, combined with Theo’s hints about Europe’s history inspire in Robin a view of Europe as a space in which people have more in common than the superfciality his professional relations suggest. Illustrative of Robin’s change in attitude is his remark that Europeans should not just ‘Coexist’ (GER 134, emphasis in original), as the Irish rock band U2 claims in big neon letters during a concert that Robin attends in Brussels. The reference to U2 is important since it serves to confrm the link between capitalism and personal distance. U2 is an icon of mass culture and marketing success, while the notion of ‘coexist’ hints at a form of living together peacefully, but nothing more. It should, however, be something more that than, Robin contends. Indeed, as well-meaning as U2’s message may sound, Robin expects more of the way nations relate to each other under the European umbrella. The desire for an electrifying, personal dialogue, an openness for and an understanding of the shared, foundational past of the Holocaust is what the narrator understands as the ‘Europese wijze’ (the European way), hinted at in the novel’s mission statement. Robin’s growing concern with communication and mutual understanding in a world of superfcial acquaintances coincides with an increased interest in the traces of the past. The ability to ‘see’ becomes of crucial importance here. When he tells Theo about his visit to the Eiffel tower in Paris, he describes how he overheard someone talking ‘een zekere Paul – zijn achternaam versta ik niet – die zelfmoord pleegde door in de Seine te springen, ook daar ergens in de buurt. Ik kan ernaar blijven kijken zonder iets te zien’ (GER 59, about a certain Paul – I couldn’t catch his surname – who committed suicide by jumping in the Seine). Here, his vision is clearly limited: ‘Ik kan ernaar blijven kijken zonder iets te zien’ (I can continue looking at it without seeing anything). Theo’s explanation that ‘Paul’ refers to Paul Celan, ‘[e]en dichter, met een concentratiekampverleden’ (GER 63, a poet, with a concentration camp history), constitutes the frst of a number of initiations by means of which Theo teaches Robin about the inextricable link between Europe’s identity and the past of World War II and the Holocaust. When he learns of Theo’s Jewish identity, Robin becomes keenly interested

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in the history of the Second World War. In Warsaw, he visits the Jewish ghetto and in Berlin he is highly sensitive to the traces of the war past. By observing these historical echoes, he feels increasingly different from his business environment. Walking through Berlin with Diana, one of his business contacts, he remarks, ‘We moeten de namen van de doden van Europa gedenken, omdat ze de essentie van Europa zijn’ (GER 231, We have to commemorate the names of the dead in Europe, because they are the essence of Europe), Diana replies indifferently, ‘“Doe dat,” zegt ze. “Maar er is in deze stad overal wel iets gebeurd. De schimmen zijn er voor wie ze wil waarnemen. En er is zoveel anders te doen voor mij”’ (GER 231, You do that […]. But something has happened everywhere in this city. The ghosts are there for those who want to see them. And I have better things to do). The remark is crucial since it suggests that Robin is now able to recognize the traces of the past exactly because he wants to, which exemplifes an important personal change. It shows that Robin has abandoned his initial self-centeredness and his concern with the present in favor of a general openness for the world around him. In doing so, he recognizes the transnational structure of Holocaust memory and that this trauma, as Cathy Caruth claims, ‘may provide the link between cultures’ (1995, 16). Furthermore, and in an equally personal way, he moves closer to Theo’s insights about the past and about Europe. This is confrmed when he shares his own insights with Diana in words that are very similar to Theo’s. Hence, he not only spreads Theo’s point of view, but also increasingly assumes his employer’s perspective. This identifcation does not constitute a form of idolatry. On the contrary, it shows how Robin – whether knowingly or not – takes a stance in which he tries to understand the trauma that has led to Theo’s current identity. This transformation becomes more pronounced as Robin reads the works of Holocaust survivors Primo Levi and Imre Kertész, which give him nightmares: ‘Ochtends word ik rillend wakker, als een Jood. Een ster-Jood, een sterrendragende Jood’ (GER 283, I wake up in the morning shivering, as a Jew. A star-Jew, a star-wearing Jew). This imaginary transformation is not without ethical limits and problems. By undergoing these psychological changes, Robin – a bit like Xavier Radek in Arnon Grunberg’s De joodse messias (see Chapter 3) – seems to take on a Jewish identity without actually having suffered the Holocaust during World War II. At the same time, this refex of vicarious identifcation is not an end in itself. It is rather presented in the novel as a disruptive and cathartic experience (‘shivering’), through which Robin’s ego is displaced and which opens the perspective of approaching and being able to recognize that which is entirely Other. This outcome, which Grote Europese roman uses to construct an allegory about how to live ‘op Europese wijze’, is the result of a dislocation process on four levels: (1) geographically, by means of his travels through Europe; (2) temporally, by allowing the past into his experience of the present; (3) psychologically, as Robin is able to discard his superfcial narcissism, and

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(4) professionally, as he is eventually able to leave his job, unwilling to be identifed by its depersonalization logic. Finally, it seems that something has happened. This evolution allows him to engage again in a romantic relationship, and it equally has consequences for his identity as a (European) citizen. Engaging in this process of opening up toward the Other, recognizing the fundamental interdependence with that Other, as well as playing the role of the vulnerable one, the novel suggests, allow for transcending the antagonisms that compromise the construction of one’s own identity and that of a shared one – in this case a European one. In the novel’s ‘Envoi’, this parallel evolution is expressed in Robin’s wish ‘op beschaafde wijze met vogels [te] praten. Vogels, die fragiele zielen’ (GER 293, to converse with birds in a civilized manner. Birds, those fragile souls). This wish illustrates his identity change from ‘being a Robin’ – referring to the solitary little bird – to becoming a social creature, part of a community. Robin’s wish also evokes the fgure of Saint Francis of Assisi who, so the legend goes, spoke with birds and preached values of peace, equality, and humility. By adopting an identity of vulnerability, the novel suggests that Robin envisions being a messenger of the supra- or transnational ethics of memory articulated in the novel – one that is able to secure the future of a European community.

… But Also a Small Notebook Grote Europese roman is a culturally engaged, pro-European novel. By pointing to the memory of the Holocaust as a diffcult but distinctive basis for European identity, it functions in the spirit of Klaus Eder’s call for ‘symbolically-mediated representations of what people have in common’ (2005, 205) in Europe. Yet the bravado suggested by its title is misleading. Even if Robin’s European apprenticeship functions as an example for the reader and even if the novel refects didactic impulses through Theo Marchand’s normative assertions about the relevance of acknowledging and validating the transnational role of Holocaust memory, Grote Europese roman contains a number of elements that undermine these impulses from becoming unilateral and dogmatic. To illustrate this, I will explore the novel’s selfrefective character with regard to its own ambitions. A crucial element in assessing the ambitions of Grote Europese roman as a symbolically mediated representation for Europe is the novel’s ‘Opdracht’ or mission statement. Here, the author lays out his intentions and plans, and – in a passage I have quoted earlier – gives himself an assignment: Ik wil een boek schrijven als een Great American Novel, maar dan vermomd als een Grote Europese Roman. Ik heb gegoogeld, die bestaat nog niet. Groots en episch moet die de geschiedenis van de Europese mensheid samenvatten, maar dan vanuit het kleine perspectief van mensen die werken of leven in Brussel. (GER 4)

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I want to write a book like a Great American Novel, but then disguised as a Great European Novel. I have googled it, it does not yet exist. In a majestic and epic way it must capture the history of European mankind, but then from the small perspective of people who live or work in Brussels. Some elements draw my attention here. First of all, the frst sentence indicates the author’s primary intention: he wants to write a book like a Great American Novel. So he asserts outright that Grote Europese roman is a work of fction (as suggested by the mention of ‘Novel’). This is confrmed by the novel’s motto: ‘Nogmaals, elke gelijkenis met personen of steden berust op toeval’ (GER 9, Again, any resemblance with people or cities is coincidental). Not only does this statement instruct the reader not to interpret this novel in a referential manner, the phrase itself is a riff on a common trope in artistic productions to discourage referential readings. This book, it is suggested from the beginning, is all about fction. This intention resonates with that of the novels in the next part of my investigation into the nature of contemporary fction of memory about World War II. These, too, engage in a fctional relation with history, and Grote Europese roman shares with them the questioning or refusal of referentiality. The claim that it seeks to describe the history of European mankind ‘in a majestic and epic way’ is therefore to be understood as deeply ironic and this element of playfulness is enhanced by the phrase ‘disguised as a Great European Novel’. Rather than engaging with the historical truth about Europe, the book undermines its own reliability straight away. The phrase suggests that the novel’s title is nothing but a mask for another intention, namely writing a book ‘like a Great American Novel’. What the author/narrator really wants to do, as this passage makes clear, is nothing more than an exercise in literary genre. Yet the intention of imitating the Great American Novel – and more particularly, its visionary aspirations – is immediately undermined. Rather than choosing an authorial narrator to create an overarching and epic view of European history, the author/narrator opts for the ‘kleine perspectief van mensen die werken of leven in Brussel’ (GER 4, the small perspective of people who live or work in Brussels). The view of European history in the novel will, hence, be modest and personal, rather than majestic and epic. Even if Grote Europese roman uses a third-person narrator, we get to know Europe only through the eyes of Robin and Theo Marchand. We can read the choice for this ‘small perspective’ as a postmodern critique of the national epic genre from which the Great American Novel borrows its ambitions, yet it also suggests the impossibility of Europe being captured in an overarching way. The novel’s structure expresses this impossibility in a formal manner. It consists of thirty-six chapters mostly named after European capitals, and this structure hints at the refusal to integrate all the individual elements that

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make up Europe into one master narrative. Furthermore, Peeters deliberately parodies Primo Levi’s Il sistema periodico from 1975: ‘Ik zou graag die roman schrijven als een periodiek system. Zoals de Italiaan Primo Levi dat ook deed: elk hoofdstuk van mijn roman moet gaan over een hoofdstad, alsof elke stad een chemisch element is in een vernuftig Brussels systeem’ (GER 4, I would like to write a novel as a periodic system. Just like Primo Levi did: each chapter of my novel should address a capital, as if each city were a chemical element in a sophisticated Brussels system).6 The reference to Levi’s Il sistema periodico is crucial for two reasons. First of all, it indicates that Grote Europese roman not only engages with Holocaust memory on the level of content, but also that its form is grounded in this memory. Il sistema periodico is a collection of autobiographical stories about the author’s experiences as a Jewish-Italian doctoral-level chemist under the Fascist regime and afterward. They include various themes following a chronological sequence: his ancestry, his chemistry studies and practicing the profession in wartime Italy, a number of imaginative tales he wrote at that time, and his subsequent experiences as an anti-Fascist partisan, his arrest and imprisonment, interrogation, and internment in the Fossoli di Carpi and Auschwitz camps, as well as post-war life as an industrial chemist. By modeling his novel on Levi’s Il sistema periodico, Peeters seeks to situate Grote Europese roman within European cultural history and remind the reader of the pivotal importance of the Holocaust in this history. Yet, while Il sistema periodico is structured along twenty-one autobiographical episodes named after chemical elements from Mendeleev’s periodic table in order to establish a systematic structure, Grote Europese roman deviates from this systematic approach. In line with its choice of a heteroglossic perspective that can only offer local and limited insights into European history – ‘petits-récits’ (small stories) as Lyotard calls them – the novel offers no systematically organized overview. It includes, for example, capitals such as Bern and Ankara; capitals of countries that are not (yet) European and that point at how Europe is still a highly contested political space. Furthermore, the lack of system is equally present in the relation between the titles of the chapters on the one hand, and the events that take place in those chapters on the other. Although, in many cases, Robin effectively visits the cities mentioned in the title, in others the title refers to encounters with people from those places or to Theo’s life story. In some extreme cases, the capital’s name is almost unrelated to the story, as for example in the chapter ‘Podgorica’, where the link is only present in the mentioning of the ‘Montenegrostraat’ (Montenegro Street) in Brussels. We fnd another example of this in the chapter ‘Sofa’, which does not refer to Bulgaria’s capital, but to the name of a prostitute. The unsystematic nature of the novel’s structure is not only intended to refect Europe’s diversity; it should also be read as defance of the unimaginative uniformity that governs the fnancial market. A signifcant metaphor

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for this defance is Robin’s Moleskine notebook, a gift from Theo initially meant for notes for his report. During his travels, however, it gradually becomes a notebook for ‘de plotseling opduikende diepzinnigheid in oppervlakkige gesprekken met iemand die je amper kent’ (GER 135, the sudden depth popping up in superfcial conversations with people you hardly know). Subsequently, it is converted into a collection of linguistic souvenirs, words, and phrases in various national languages. Its apparent triviality stands in sharp contrast to his work and it becomes, as Sven Vitse notes, ‘a fragmented and scrappy monument to Europe’s (linguistic and cultural) unity in diversity, which is threatened by global monolingualism and the general tendency toward leveling of differences’ (2011, 109). But it is also more than that. Toward the end of his assignment, Robin increasingly supplements his various notes with Theo’s life story, as well as with quotes from his readings of Primo Levi and Imre Kertész. Hence, it becomes a narrative that not only refects Europe’s rich and diverse cultural and linguistic heritage, but it also integrates its dark war past. And it does not only do this out of consideration for its victims. After his trip is fnished, Robin visits the former Nazi prison camp in the Flemish town of Breendonk. Fort Breendonk is a fortifcation built in 1906 as part of the second ring of defenses around the city of Antwerp, Belgium. During the Second World War, the Germans used it as a prison camp and, with the help of Belgian collaborators, detained political dissidents, resistance members, and Jews.7 Now the dark war past is no longer just the story of others, but it also becomes his: he is physically present at the site of perpetration and – more importantly – visits exactly the place that exemplifes the role of his own nation in that perpetration. This implies that in his relation to the war past he is no longer an aloof bystander, but rather, in Rothberg’s terms, an implicated subject. This position, which I used more elaborately in my analyses of Marcel Beyer’s Flughunde and Erwin Mortier’s Marcel, occupies a diachronic space that is at once connected to – as well as distinct from – an original event of perpetration. It articulates how legacies of violence reside in us across space, time, and generation, and it ‘opens up a broad and murky terrain in which we can locate many dilemmas of remembrance, responsibility, and reparation’ (Rothberg 2013, 40). It is precisely this recognition of being implicated in the history of his own nation that provides Robin with the credibility to act in the spirit of Butler’s ‘ethics of vulnerability’. The moment he acknowledges his own history – which at frst, he was not interested in at all, as I have pointed out earlier – and accepts the fact of being implicated, which marks his identity, he is able to understand the fundamental interdependence between self and other and to open his identity to questions of accountability and guilt. During this visit, Robin flls the frst blank page of his notebook, which until that moment he had been ironically referring to as his ‘Groot Europees

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Schriftje’, and renames it ‘Grote Europese roman’. This move is signifcant, as it consolidates the various evolutions that Robin has gone through. The notebook, which was initially intended for his European report, demanding systematic organization and pragmatism, becomes a document marked by personal involvement and historical depth. Its language is marked by literary imagination, playfulness, and self-refexivity. This transformation also shows how the past – through this process of repetition and revision – can be become integrated into a personal narrative that serves the purpose of self-making and gives meaning to the past in relation to the present. Koen Peeters’s novel acts as an effort to ground a truly European literature in the way envisioned by Goethe for his concept of Weltliteratur to foster a sense of mutual understanding. In the wake of the Napoleonic wars, Goethe remarked about the relations between nations: ‘sie sollen nur einander gewahr werden, sich begreifen, und wenn sie sich wechselseitig nicht lieben mögen, sich einander wenigstens dulden lernen’ (1996, 131, they should be aware of each other, understand each other, and if they don’t want to love each other, at least learn to live with each other). Grote Europese roman clearly refects the latter’s ambition to create a discursive space in which different collective identities might be able to acknowledge and understand each other, tolerate each other, even if they do not necessarily learn to love each other – in the sense of the two elderly people looking at ‘the names of the dead in our communal cemeteries’. It prescribes a warmer and more humane Europe, foregrounding the Union’s potential for intercultural synergies and pointing to the morale behind its historical origins and its shared cultural and philosophical heritage. At the same time, it stresses the unavoidable and also necessary diversity at the core of its identity, but also its intrinsic connection to Europe’s modernity and its embedment in a global, neoliberal economy. The Moleskine notebook that forms the discursive basis of this call for a warmer Europe invested in the past is a commodity that is integrally caught up in today’s neoliberal system of distribution and proft. Europe can therefore not dispense with this and needs economic exchange and prosperity in order to foster its identity. Yet it needs more, as Grote Europese roman teaches us. The novel’s explicit pedagogical ambitions, however, stand in contrast to its humble, nuanced form. A great novel, yes – with capitals – but also a small notebook: a small history about awareness, empathy, and vulnerability; about looking and listening carefully; about learning ‘in a European way’. Peeters’s attention to the relevance of Holocaust memory for the European Union and its future existence refects a meta-mnemonic concern for the role and the use of this memory today. It dislodges it out of the national gird and lays out a literary pledge for a transnational vision of Holocaust memory as a means for community building today. By internalizing – and simultaneously departing from – the structure of the Italian Primo Levi’s Il sistema periodico, the novel, moreover, also shows on a poetic level how this memory moves in form across temporal and geographical

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borders. Yet in recent years – and a while after Grote Europese roman was published – concerns have been raised whether the emphasis on the supranational reach of Holocaust memory within Europe is not a mere reiteration of earlier tendencies to locate – or even pin down – memory in a certain space, albeit on a larger scale. From that perspective, the question arises of whether Peeters’s vision of Holocaust memory in Grote Europese roman suggests that this memory is frst of all a European issue, thereby disavowing its global and transcultural signifcance? Is Holocaust memory – and that of World War II in general – really on the move in Grote Europese roman? Does the novel not merely present it as ‘a cornerstone in the building of fortress Europe’, as Ann Rigney reminds us in another context (qtd. in McIvor et al. 2017, 189)? Memory, according to Rigney, has often ‘been linked to migration in the form of a defensive bulwark: Europe has its own national and regional traditions; you don’t share in those traditions, so keep out’ (ibid.). Such refections are highly relevant and show how memory struggles to become an unbound traveler in a rapidly changing social and demographic landscape that incisively affects and changes its conditions and shape. Yet, regardless of these refections, I believe Grote Europese roman offers us a committed effort to chart these changing conditions. The novels discussed in the following chapters explore the potentials and limits of mnemonic travel further.

Notes 1 This chapter is a reworked version of an article of mine that appeared under the title ‘Towards a Transnational Ethics for Europe: Memory and Vulnerability as Gateways to Europe’s Future in Koen Peeters’s Grote Europese Roman’ (2007) in the collection The Changing Place of Europe in Global Memory Cultures – Usable Pasts and Futures (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), edited by Christina Kraenzle and Maria Maier. The re-use of excerpts from this article is in accordance with Palgrave’s consent-to-publish (§2 Rights retained by Author) document. 2 Neo-functionalism is a branch of political science that investigates the integration between market and politics within a specifc region constituted by states that have taken a formal decision to integrate. Its main proponent is Ernst B. Haas, who expected that integration in Europe would be a relatively steady process, in which market integration and the building of policy-making competence at the EU level would go hand-in-hand. The theory was largely abandoned during the 1970s because the Neo-functionalist expectations had not been met. In recent decades, the theory has gained ground again. For a discussion into Neo-functionalist theory and its evolutions, see Haas 1961, Rosamond 2005, Sandholtz and Sweet 1998. 3 For comprehensive discussions of the focus of EU politics on the role of the Holocaust for European identity, see, for example, Parsons 2000 and Sierp 2014. 4 Translation by Sven Vitse, 2011. Unless otherwise indicated, translations from Grote Europese roman are mine. 5 Translation by Sven Vitse. 6 For a comparative analysis of Grote Europese roman and Levi’s Il sistema periodico, see Bousset 2009.

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7 For further information on the history of Fort Breendonk, see http://www.breendonk.be/EN/ accessed 13 June 2020].

References Assmann, Aleida. 2012. Auf dem Weg zu einer europäischen Gedächtniskultur? Vienna: Picus. Bousset, Hugo. 2009. ‘The Periodic Table of Europe: On Koen Peeters and Primo Levi’. In Dutch Studies in a Globalized World, edited by Margriet Bruijn Lacy, 155–163. Münster: Nodus Publikations. Buell, Lawrence. 2008. ‘The Unkillable Dream of the Great American Novel: MobyDick as Test Case’. American Literary History 20 (1–2): 132–155. Butler, Judith. 2006. Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. London/New York: Verso. Caruth, Cathy. 1995. ‘Recapturing the Past. Introduction’. In Trauma: Explorations in Memory, edited by Cathy Caruth. Baltimore/London: Johns Hopkins UP. Derrida, Jacques. 1978. Edmund Husserl’s Origin of Geometry: An Introduction. Translated by John P. Leavy Jr. Nebraska: Nebraska UP. Eder, Klaus. 2005. ‘Remembering National Memories Together: The Formation of a Transnational Identity in Europe’. In Collective Memory and European Identity: The Effects of Integration and Enlargement, edited by Willfried Spohn and Klaus Eder, 197–220. Aldershot: Ashgate. Goethe, Johann Wolfgang. 1996. ‘[Edinburgh Reviews]’. In Sämtliche Werke nach Epochen seines Schaffens: Münchner Ausgabe, edited by Gisela Henckmann, Dorothea Hölscher-Lohmeyer, and Richter, Karl, XVIII/1, 1827–1832:131–132. Munich: Hanser. Haas, Ernst B. 1961. ‘International Integration: The European and the Universal Process’. International Organization 15 (3): 366–392. Leggewie, Claus, and Anne Lang. 2011. Der Kampf um die europäische Erinnerung: Ein Schlachtfeld wird besichtigt. Munich: C.H.Beck. McIvor, Charlotte, Emilie Pine, Astrid Erll, Ann Rigney, Paula McFetridge, Dominic Thorpe, and Stef Craps. 2017. ‘Roundtable on Moving Memory’. Irish University Review 47 (1): 165–196. Parsons, Deborah. 2000. ‘Nationalism or Continentalism? Representing Heritage Culture for a New Europe’. In Beyond Boundaries, edited by Andy Hollis, 1–22. Amsterdam: Rodopi. Rosamond, Ben. 2005. ‘The Uniting of Europe and the Foundation of EU Studies: Revisiting the Neofunctionalism of Ernst B. Haas’. Journal of European Public Policy 12 (2): 237–254. Rothberg, Michael. 2013. ‘Memory Bound: The Implicated Subject and the Legacies of Slavery’. Presented at the Memory Unbound, Mnemonics Summer School, Ghent. http://michaelrothberg.weebly.com/work-in-progress.html. Sandholtz, Wayne, and Alec Stone Sweet, eds. 1998. European Integration and Supranational Governance. Oxford/New York: Oxford UP. Shore, Cris. 2000. Building Europe: The Cultural Politics of European Integration. New York: Psychology Press. Sierp, Aline. 2014. History, Memory, and Trans-European Identity: Unifying Divisions. New York/London: Routledge. Vitse, Sven. 2011. ‘Images of Europe: The (De)Construction of European Identity in Contemporary Fiction’. Journal of Dutch Literature 2 (1): 99–127.

5

Claiming Memory Citizenship in Mano Bouzamour’s De belofte van Pisa (2014)

Many of the novels discussed in this book are written by authors who deal with memories that are part of their national or cultural history. While the novels by Marcel Beyer, Erwin Mortier, Kevin Venneman, Per Leo, and Andy Fierens and Michael Brijs engage with war memory within the confnes of their social or national history, those by Koen Peeters, Peter Verhelst, and Arnon Grunberg are embedded in a transnational, but distinctly Western context. In all these cases, there is a clear link between the novels’ thematic scope and the cultural context in which they have appeared. Yet, with the surge of immigration and the subsequent demographic shifts in Europe after World War II, Europe has become increasingly populated with people whose roots are not defned by the cultural memory of this war. For them, there is often no affliation with this traumatic past through processes of inter- and transgenerational memory transfer. Obviously, this phenomenon raises questions of what such a ‘new’ past means to them and their descendants, and what the infux of their ‘diasporic’ memories means for Western cultural memory.1 The 2014 Bildungsroman De belofte van Pisa (The Promise of Pisa) by the Dutch author Mano Bouzamour deals with this contact between disparate cultural memories. By means of an autodiegetic narration, it sketches the adolescent years of Samir Zafar (‘Sam’), a second-generation DutchMoroccan Muslim, born in Amsterdam and son of immigrants who came to the Netherlands in 1974. While describing the way he copes with puberty and his sexual explorations, as well as life with his peers in the Amsterdam neighborhood ‘De Pijp’, the novel focuses on themes of ethnic belonging, suburban alienation, social injustice, the populist and assimilationist climate that has gained momentum in the Netherlands since the early 2000s,2 and the painstaking efforts to break away from the path of crime to which his ethnic background seems to predestine him. In Sam’s case, these efforts are powered by a promise to his ten-yearolder brother, a convicted criminal, to obtain his high school degree. Although Sam has to repeat a year once, he eventually manages to get his degree, partly through hard work and partly by tricking the school system. The novel does not elaborate on Sam’s changed future perspectives after

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obtaining his degree, but it suggests the promise of social advancement and acceptance in Dutch mainstream society. Yet, rather than being a moralizing plea for the benefts of education, the novel is primarily an examination of Sam’s desires and initiatives to engage fully with Western culture while remaining connected to his original habitus. By attending an upper-class high school, studying the work of European composers on the piano, wearing Western clothes, refusing to go to the mosque, and persistently seeking contact with non-Muslims, he actively resists his parents’ parochialism: they hardly speak Dutch, they are illiterate, and their social circle does not extend beyond the local Muslim community and the mosque. Sam is, hence, in every sense, their opposite. This rebellion is a recurring topic in the work of Dutch writers with a Moroccan background, of which the most important representatives are Moustafa Stitou, Naima el Bezaz, Hans Sahar, Abdelkader Benali, and Hafd Bouazza. On several occasions, these authors have engaged with questions of identity and belonging and their works often focus on generational frictions within the migrant community: the parents who are – either physically or mentally – still in the Moroccan homeland, the young generation’s increasing loss of Muslim faith, and the often twisted experience of being part of two cultures at the same time.3 Rather than being trapped in nostalgia for a lost homeland, the second- and third-generation characters in these novels no longer see themselves as diasporic subjects but deliberately engage with life in the present and negotiations with the host culture. What sets De belofte van Pisa apart from the work of Dutch authors with a Moroccan background is its focus on the role of engaging with the host culture’s collective memory in these negotiations, in this case, the collective memory of the Second World War. Sam is very interested in its history, challenges his fellow pupils’ knowledge of it, and critically assesses the involvement of the Dutch royal family in the collaboration with the German occupier during World War II. What is more, in a moment of total desperation, he feels a strong affective bond with the historical fgure of Anne Frank, to the extent that he writes an appendix to her canonical diary Het Achterhuis (1947, Diary of a Young Girl) in which he lets her survive the Holocaust. In doing so, Sam engages with a memory that is at once his and not his. It is his because he is born into a society in which the event of the Holocaust is an unavoidable part of cultural memory, yet at the same time, his family history, his ethnic belonging, and his growing up in a Muslim environment suggest that his identity bears no direct relation to its legacy and is, rather, determined by other memories. Because of this duality, De belofte van Pisa raises a number of questions about the transnational and transcultural role of memory with regard to migrant identity and the ability to inhabit a ‘new’ cultural memory or two distinctive cultural memories at the same time. For this reason, it is reminiscent of Hans Haacke’s 1998 provocative Reichstag artwork in the context of German reunifcation. Playing on the

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famous inscription above the main entrance of the building that reads ‘DEM DEUTSCHEN VOLKE’ (To the German People), Haacke installed a counter-inscription in a courtyard featuring white neon letters that read ‘DER BEVÖLKERUNG’ [To the Population]. Like the dispute that accompanied the changes in citizenship from jus sanguinis (the right of blood, where nationality is determined by the nationality of one or both parents) to jus soli (the right of soil, where the place of birth confers nationality), the contention surrounding Haacke’s artwork concerned the relations between state, people, and population. Was the German state – represented by the metonymy of the Reichstag – frst and foremost beholden to a culturally and ethnically defned collective, the Volk or people in the original inscription, or did its responsibilities also encompass the Bevölkerung, the broader population, including ethnic minorities, migrants, refugees, and other expatriates living within its boundaries at any given time? Haacke’s piece touched a nerve because it staged a very current issue: how to think, in a transnational age, about political community (the demos) and the subjects who inhabit it.4 In De belofte van Pisa, Bouzamour asks similar questions with regard to the Dutch context. Can Sam become an ‘insider’ of the Dutch community despite the fact that a ‘thick’ national identity continues to be defned by a shared memory whose transfer is governed by the law of inheritance?5 As a member of the second generation of migrants, this law might not apply as stringently to him as it does to his parents’ generation. Being born and growing up in Dutch society entitles him to make its cultural memory (including that of the Holocaust) a basis of his identity, yet his Moroccan family roots remind us that Sam is caught between two forms of belonging. This complicates the line between memory and identity and makes the possibilities of belonging through memory far from self-evident. In my analysis, I argue that De belofte van Pisa, through Sam’s engagement with Dutch and Western cultural memory, challenges ethno-nationalist underpinnings of cultural memory, thereby illustrating that memory cannot be understood as a form of ‘ethnic property’ (Rothberg and Yildiz 2011, 36). These meta-mnemonic refections are part of the novel’s general undermining of the ethno-nationalist understanding of Dutch identity as strictly Caucasian – an assumption that marks mainstream opinion of the Dutch majority culture in the novel, and one that should be read against the backdrop of the populist and assimilationist climate in the Netherlands, exemplifed by Geert Wilders’s right-wing Dutch Party for Freedom (Partij voor de Vrijheid – PVV). My analysis will proceed in three steps. Firstly, I will investigate how the novel stages the intercultural complexities and tensions that arise when Sam, as an autochthonous Dutch citizen who continues to be perceived as the ethnic ‘other’, actively wishes to join in what is commonly considered the domain of the imagined ‘self’: the Dutch and – by extension – Western cultural memory of the Holocaust. Secondly, I will focus on how Sam deals

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with the struggle for what Rothberg and Yildiz have termed ‘memory citizenship’ (2011, passim), the breaking out of established national, ethnic, and cultural confnes by migrating into the cultural memory of the host culture. As I will show, Sam’s historical interest is more than just a personal concern, it is a form of cultural memory work in which he takes on what Homi Bhabha has called ‘interstitial agency’: he refuses to be signifed as an agonistic outsider and uses ‘the partial culture from which [he emerges] to construct visions of community, and versions of historic memory’ (Bhabha 2011, 58). This agency is shaped through the genre of the picaresque. Sam is a picaro whose playful and often abrasive engagement with (Dutch) war memory aims to challenge ingrained mnemonic practices in the majority culture. These practices entail his claims to memory ownership, its routine practices in engaging with the cultural memory of World War II (as I will show in my analysis of his appropriation of Anne Frank’s diary), as well as politically informed expectations about who is entitled to negotiate its meanings. Yet I will also show that this engagement turns Sam into what Michael Rothberg calls an ‘implicated subject’, a term he uses to refer to how present subjects relate to traumatic histories in terms of remembrance and accountability. In conclusion, I will examine the question to what extent this interest and the fact of being implicated in Holocaust memory can act as a link between ethnic groups and cultures, as Cathy Caruth has suggested (see 1995, 11). Does Sam’s mnemonic engagement matter in terms of being accepted by the majority culture? Or is this gap unbridgeable, and the vision of ‘memory unbound’ (Levy and Sznaider 2002) or of ‘memory without borders’ (Huyssen 2003b, 4) in fact the product of wishful thinking, untenable on a collective, socio-political level?

Whose Cultural Memory? Along the lines of what the Turkish writers Zafer Şenocak and Bülent Tulay wrote with regard to Turkish immigration to Germany, the central question behind the engagement with memory in De belofte van Pisa could be formulated as follows: does immigration to the Netherlands – and to European, Western culture as such – also entail ‘immigrating’ into its past?6 Their question is not descriptive but rhetorical in nature. In their work, Şenocak and Tulay envision the immigration into the past of the host nation or culture as a necessary measure of integration. Applied to De belofte van Pisa, this question might gain even greater urgency, since it is not so much concerned with those who migrated, but with their descendants: the second generation of immigrants whose identity is to a large part defned by the place where they were born. Being less prone to feelings of geographic displacement, cultural and social alienation, and nostalgia than their parents, opening up to the cultural memory of the majority culture might be less of a stretch to them. The novel suggests, however, that this generational difference does not make the immigration into that memory obvious.

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The question whether migration and integration also entail the absorption of a host culture’s memory culture might seem pointless overall with regard to the Dutch-Moroccan community of De Pijp portrayed in Bouzamour’s novel. The inhabitants of this Amsterdam lower-class, predominantly migrant, neighborhood appear to be largely uninterested in Dutch (and Western history), let alone their own cultural legacy. Sam’s peers are depicted as school dropouts and petty criminals, who spend their days in the streets, seeking their fortune in organized drug crime and prostitution. Suffering from severe fnancial problems and social isolation, present needs seem far more urgent to them than those of the past. Although this representation serves as a refection on daily life in urban migrant communities, it must also be read as a critique of the perpetual branding processes in populist, right-wing discourses and media. Bouzamour’s novel cites these commonplace depictions of migrant communities in order to disable them by drawing a more complex and heterogeneous portrait of them. With Sam and his friend Soesi, another second-generation DutchMoroccan, Bouzamour shows a young generation deeply interested in the history and cultural identity of the host culture. As Sam indicates, ‘Soesi was dé expert op het gebied van geschiedenis en vooral mateloos gefascineerd door de Tweede Wereldoorlog.’ (BP 12, Soesi was the greatest expert in the feld of history and the Second World War in particular fascinated him endlessly).7 What is more, Soesi’s historical knowledge stems to a large extent from conversations with members of the Jewish community in De Pijp: ‘Hij was al jaren in dienst van een gerenommeerde marktkoopman op de Albert Cuyp. Zijn baas, Benjamin de Jood, vertelde hem tijdens het werk fascinerende verhalen over de Shoah’ (BP 48, He had been working for years for a wellknown market trader on the Albert Cuyp. While at work, his boss, Benjamin the Jew, would tell him fascinating stories about the Shoah). Bouzamour sketches a social network that transcends historical antagonisms. Indeed, it is through stories of Jewish suffering that Soesi and ‘Benjamin the Jew’ – both belonging to ethnic groups that are more often than not opposed for religious and political reasons – connect. The trauma of the Holocaust seems to operate as a crucial link between their respective cultures and counteracts the allegations of anti-Semitism that are often ascribed to Muslim culture. Yet the novel does not offer us utopian scenarios of integration and intercultural harmony through memory work. While confrming that the memory of the Holocaust has indeed arrived in the migrant community of De Pijp, evoking Şenocak and Tulay’s mnemonic ideals, this community is depicted as a polyphonic amalgam of voices and attitudes, in which different relations with the majority culture and its cultural memory coexist. Through Soesi and Sam, Bouzamour presents us with two related, but also fundamentally different approaches to the memory of the host culture. Soesi’s relation to war memory is one of fascination and appropriation. He is very impressed by his Jewish employer’s stories as well as by

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his narrative skills, qualifying his accounts as ‘fascinating’. However, Soesi himself excels as a storyteller, prompting his listener Sam to compare him to ‘a storyteller from Marrakech’, a notion that depicts him as some kind of vernacular historian of De Pijp, as an icon of intercultural memory exchange and transfer. Yet, while Soesi indeed manages to awake a passion in Sam for World War II history, Soesi’s historical interest has, in fact, no integratory ambitions. First of all, he turns his employer’s witness accounts into mythical narratives designed to entertain his peers and gain authority in De Pijp. Comparing Soesi to ‘a storyteller of Marrakech’ and calling his stories ‘grotesque’, Sam suggests that Soesi’s narrations are enigmatic fables in the tradition of The Thousand and One Nights that only serve to entertain. What is more, Soesi’s knowledge seems limited to sensational highlights, such as the Kristallnacht or the feats of ‘Erwin fokking Rommel’ (BP 125). This refects a rather generic, canonical knowledge that holds no direct relation to Dutch war history. Secondly, rather than an engagement with memory itself, Soesi’s stories are presented as means ‘om de aandacht van al de foute dingen die ze deden af te leiden’ (BP 125, to divert attention from all their wrongdoings). These ‘wrongdoings’ refer to the perpetual criminal acts carried out by Soesi, together with Sam’s older brother. Through Sam’s critical remarks about the ethical nature of Soesi’s motivations for storytelling, the novel implies that the engagement with the host’s cultural memory does not automatically generate perspectives of integration but, conversely, can also take the shape of avoiding and denying social problems, and lead to their perpetuation. That Soesi eventually ends up in prison after an armed robbery of a Cash-inTransit vehicle confrms the suggestion that the appropriation of memory, in this case, indirectly contributes to social isolation and ethnic branding. Sam is Soesi’s history student and to him, the Holocaust memory at frst also seems nothing more than a collection of fascinating ‘oorlogsverhalen’ [BP 125, war stories]. Yet, at the same time, Sam’s interest leads him to other sources of historical knowledge, such as television documentaries and books. What is more, his interest gains transcultural signifcance when he engages it provocatively when interacting with members of the CaucasianDutch majority culture. The frst instance of this takes place in elementary school when Sam brings the memoir Een jood in nazi-Berlijn (1997, A Jew in Nazi Berlin) by the Dutch-Jewish war survivor Hugo van Win (1920– 2004) to class: Een keer op de basisschool riep de juf mij bij haar omdat ik Een jood in nazi-Berlijn, van oorlogsoverlevende én homoseksueel Hugo van Win, had meegenomen. […] De juf las de achterfap terwijl ze naarstig wilde weten van wie ik het boek had gekregen, waarom ik het wilde lezen en hoe ik over joden en de Shoah dacht. […] Op de een of andere merkwaardige manier had ik het vermoeden dat ze dacht dat ik de jodenvervolging zou ontkennen. Of op zijn minst zou vertellen dat van die zes

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miljoen er geen één te weinig was of iets in die richting. Het was een vermoeden. Ik kon het natuurlijk ook mis hebben. (BP 124–25) Once in elementary school the teacher summoned me because I had brought Een jood in nazi-Berlijn, by war survivor but also homosexual Hugo van Win, to class. […] My teacher read the back cover while questioning me frantically about who gave me the book, why I wanted to read it, and what I thought of the Jews and the Shoah. […] For some strange reason I suspected that she thought that I would deny the persecution of the Jews. Or at least that I would tell her that out of those six million, not a single one had been too many, or something like that. It was a suspicion. I could also be wrong, of course.) Sam’s vast and detailed knowledge of Holocaust history suggests that he had actually read Van Win’s memoir and does not simply use it to show off. This act of involving the archive of war memory shows that his historical interest – unlike Soesi’s – is not just informed by hearsay and perpetrator attraction, but refects a preoccupation that is private in nature, and a form of what Dominick LaCapra has called ‘empathetic unsettlement’, involving ‘a dialogic exchange with it […] wherein knowledge involves not only the processing of information but also affect, empathy and questions of value’ (2001, 35). For that reason Sam seems intent to enter into what Avishai Margalit terms a ‘thick relationship’ with the host culture, a relationship ‘anchored in a shared past or moored in shared memory’ (2002, 7). Engaging with cultural memory becomes an ‘act of citizenship’ (Rothberg and Yildiz 2011, 34) which entails deeds that take place regardless of formal citizenship status and beyond the bounds of normative practices […] – they are acts that emerge from the population and seek to reconfgure what counts as the people. Acts of citizenship break with the given and allow us to see […] ‘how subjects become claimants when they are least expected or anticipated to do so’. (ibid.) That Sam’s engagement is indeed unexpected and unanticipated is very apparent from his teacher’s response to the fact that he owns Van Win’s memoir. While she might very well simply have expressed surprise at and support for Sam’s precociousness, Sam reads her inquiries and her avoidance of eye contact (‘las de achterfap terwijl ze naarstig wilde weten’) as signals of racial profling. To counter it, he responds by exhibiting his extensive historical knowledge – a strategy that seems effective. She interrupts him ‘opgelucht’ [relieved] and answers: ‘Interessante invalshoeken. Hoe komt

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het dat je daar zoveel over weet?’ (BP, 125 Interesting points of view. How come you know so much about this?). Yet, rather than allaying his suspicion, her response actually reinforces it, and Sam fees the classroom. This encounter reveals the mutual insecurities that mark intercultural contact when a member of a minority culture enters the terrain of a memory that the majority culture claims as theirs. Of course, the teacher’s behavior is motivated by ethnic bias, yet the novel avoids Manichean dichotomies in which the Caucasian majority culture is automatically depicted as racist and dominant during this intercultural confrontation. At the same time, it also accentuates Sam’s own bias in appraising the members of the majority culture. Sam’s keen answers to her questions suggest he fears being considered an ignorant outsider, yet by doing so he indirectly confrms – and maybe even evokes – the racial profling which he suspects. What is more, his suspicions indicate that he is not innocent of profling either. Rather than pinning down the teacher’s bias, the novel maintains the ambiguity by stressing the doubt in Sam’s observation in two ways. He was not sure at the moment she asked these questions, and in the narrating present (that of Sam as the adult narrator), he does not offer any further comment to resolve this doubt. As a precocious young adolescent, Sam seeks to reconfgure citizenship by staking out his claim for co-ownership of the Dutch memory of World War II and the Holocaust a second time on his frst day at the elite high school in Amsterdam Zuid. During a round of introductions, Sam takes the presence of a Jewish classmate, Alain Fléons, as an opportunity to display his historical knowledge again, this time about ‘het verband tussen de joodse diaspora en die van de Marokkanen’ (BP 79, the link between the Jewish diaspora and the Moroccan one). His classmates’ response shows not only doubt, but outright uncomprehending astonishment: ‘Ze keken me aan alsof ik gek was’ (BP 79, They looked at me as if I was crazy). This astonishment could be explained either by their surprise at Sam’s knowledge or their contempt for his daring to compare people who are generally defned through suffering with an ethnic group whose identity has increasingly been identifed in terms of anti-Semitic sentiments and terrorist perpetration. Yet, in depicting this upper-class environment, the novel is not ambiguous with regard to the majority culture’s mnemonic attitude. Insecurities make room for the portrayal of prejudice and elective affnities when Sam quickly realizes that his fellow-pupils consider him an outsider. Except for Jewish Alain Fléons, they are all Dutch natives of Caucasian descent, and Sam understands soon that the cultural divide between him and his classmates, caused by ethnic belonging, is far larger for himself than for Alain: ‘Joods zijn was ontzettend hip: bijna al mijn nieuwe medeleerlingen zeiden dat ze ergens een joodse oma of een joodse tante hadden’ (BP 79–80, Being Jewish was very hip: almost all my new classmates said they had a Jewish gran or a Jewish aunt somewhere). Being Muslim, by contrast, ‘dat was niet hip. Niemand had ergens een moslim tante of een moslim oma’ (BP 79–80, was not hip. No one had a Muslim aunt or a Muslim gran somewhere).

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The classmates’ elective affnity with Jewishness may have been rooted in the well-established presence of Jewish people in Dutch society, but it could also indicate an unrefected defense mechanism in response to a vague, lingering collective feeling of guilt resulting from the Dutch collaboration with the Nazi occupiers. If this is the case, it is the more striking that this collective memory does not extend the same historical obligation to Sam, whose Africanist presence points toward the Netherlands’ colonial legacy and the long-standing presence of people from Africa in the country. On the contrary, in Sam’s case, any faint sense of a historical, collective obligation toward people of African descent has been erased by widespread prejudice and anxieties regarding Muslims in Dutch society, consistently nourished by populist media insisting on linking Islam to terrorism and crime. According to Sam, his and Alain’s presence among their Caucasian peers results in the establishment of an ethnic hierarchy in the imagined community of the classroom (obviously a pars pro toto of Dutch society): a hegemonic Caucasian Dutch majority, a favored Jewish Dutch minority, and a suspect Muslim Dutch minority. From that perspective, the resistance against Sam’s claim to memory citizenship shows how in fact the cultural memory of World War II functions as a kind of ethnic property.

Interstitial Agency Sam does not suffer from the defensiveness elicited by his claims to a memory that is denied to him. His self-conscious and assertive attitude shows that the opinions of his Caucasian fellow pupils are irrelevant to him, thereby ignoring any imposed memory boundary. Rather than lamenting his relegation to the bottom of an ethnic hierarchy, Sam is highly ironic in his use of the word ‘hipness’. While indeed hinting at his initial lack of cultural capital in his new environment, it also impairs his classmates’ arbitrary sociological ranking, indicating that their philosemitism has to do more with cultural fashioning than with genuine intercultural engagement. Sam’s use of ‘somewhere’ in the quotes above confrms this. Here, too, he ironically indicates how his classmates’ predilection for Jewishness – just like Xavier Radek’s motivations in Arnon Grunberg’s De joodse messias (see Chapter 3) – are motivated by a vague sense of historical guilt or accountability, or a perverse exaggeration of the melodramatic logic that a history of suffering does not only produce moral purity but also hipness – a refex I also identify in Per Leo’s Flut und Boden with regard to perpetrator memory (see Chapter 7). Because of this valiant irreverence, Sam is in some ways reminiscent of the fgure of the picaro. He shares with the picaro the situation of being caught up in what Claudio Guillén has referred to as a ‘tangle’ or a ‘social predicament’ (1971, 77) in this case the ethnic and mnemonic tension between his own culture and that of his host nation. Like the picaro, Sam rebels against this tension, refusing social relegation on the basis of his skin color

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and considering his second-generation identity an irrefutable argument to access cultural memory. In addition, it seems – exactly because of this social location, this ‘partial culture’ from which he emerges – that he assumes what Homi Bhabha has termed ‘interstitial agency’, not just to indict the system but also to construct ‘visions of community, and versions of historic memory’ (2011, 58). Sam is deeply concerned about the interaction with the Caucasian community, considering ethnic differences irrelevant. Yet the novel does not just hold up a mirror of the intercultural tensions around memory ownership on the diegetic level. Sam’s mnemonic engagement is also always present in his private refections, which are represented by interior monologue and clearly aim to weaken some more fundamental mnemonic attitudes on an extra-diegetic level. Although the novel gives a variety of such imaginative negotiations, I will here focus on two instances of this meta-mnemonic engagement: Sam’s appendix to Anne Frank’s war diary and his critical refections on the Dutch royal family’s war involvement. When Sam fails his second year of high school and Evelien, his girlfriend, breaks off their relationship, Sam locks himself up for the summer and manically reads and rereads Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl. Fueled by his own misery, he imagines being with her in the secret annex and empathizes deeply with her fate: ‘Elke keer als ik het dagboek opnieuw las, hoopte ik dat Anne tegen het einde alsnog de Bevrijdingsdag zou beschrijven. Maar elke keer moest ik de realiteit onder ogen zien’ (BP 150, Each time I read her diary again, I hoped that Anne would end up describing Liberation Day. But each time, I had to face reality). His empathy with her fate soon gives way to an act of memory production, as he supplements Anne Frank’s story with a description of her post-war life, imagining that she did not die of typhus in Bergen-Belsen but survived the Holocaust: Boven aan de laatste bladzijde van het dagboek schreef ik ‘Lieve Kitty’. Daaronder beschreef ik Bevrijdingsdag. Voor Anne. Zo kreeg ik het warme gevoel dat ze de Shoah alsnog had overleefd en dat ze nu grijs en oud, maar wel lief, met de kleinkinderen voor haar deur op het grasveldje van het Merwedeplein zat te picknicken. (BP 150) At the top of the last page of the diary I wrote ‘Dear Kitty’. Then I described Liberation Day. For Anne. This gave me the warm feeling that she had nonetheless survived the Shoah and that, now gray and old, but sweet, she was having a picnic with her grandchildren in front of her door on the small lawn on the Merwede square. Sam’s narrative does not just offer a positive twist in the form of a pastoral that holds the promise of redemption and reconciliation. He also imagines Anne’s retaliation on those that betrayed her:

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Na de oorlog had Anne samen met Simon Wiesenthal haar verraders opgespoord om hen fink te laten aftuigen door een knokploeg potige marktjoden […]. De verklikkende tongen werden met brute kracht uit de gillende kelen getrokken om vervolgens met een bot slagersmes moeizaam af te worden gezaagd. Daarna paradeerden ze jubelend door de straten terwijl ze de lichamen knersend over het asfalt meesleepten, slordige rode sporen achterlatend. Amsterdammers langs de weg moedigden ze aan als supporters bij een wielerwedstrijd. Het eindsprintje naar de drukke, van applaus vervulde hal van het Centraal Station, de trappetjes op naar de winderige perrons waar uiteindelijk de lillende lichamen, in koor: “Eén, twee, drie!” op het spoor werden gekieperd, alvorens er natuurlijk gulzig beslag werd gelegd op schoeisel, broeken, truien, manchetknopen en bretels van de verraders. (BP 150–151) After the war Anne, together with Simon Wiesenthal, tracked down those who had betrayed her and had them beaten up by a group of sturdy market Jews. The traitors’ tongues were torn out with brute force from their screaming throats and were then severed with diffculty with a blunt butcher’s knife. After that they paraded cheerfully through the streets while dragging the bodies with a crunching sound over the asphalt, leaving messy red marks. The people from Amsterdam lining the streets cheered them on like supporters at a cycling race. The end sprint to the busy hall of the Central Station, flled with applause, up the stairs to the windy platforms where the faccid bodies, in unison: ‘One, two, three!’ were hurled onto the tracks; of course not without frst having greedily stripped the traitors of their shoes, pants, sweater, cuff links, and suspenders. Sam’s fantasy revenge goes on for several paragraphs and portrays Anne Frank and other Jewish victims as vindictive avengers, taking pleasure in violence. The scene evokes the acts of retribution against collaborators in the immediate aftermath of the war, and through references to trains and the stripping of clothes, Sam associates their acts with those of Nazis in the concentration camps. No doubt, this appendix creates ambivalence. From an ethical point of view, one could argue that Sam’s appropriation of Anne Frank’s victim memory is nothing more than a vicarious screen memory, a ‘self-suffcient, projective or incorporative identifcation’ (LaCapra 2004, 135) to amplify his own feelings of powerlessness and rage. What is more, the implicit linking of former victims with perpetrators through shared acts of violence could be read as a form of anti-Semitic revisionism. Yet at no point in the novel does Sam display any anti-Semitic sentiments (on the contrary), and he repeatedly stresses that the appendix is a result of a mental breakdown

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(‘ik was behoorlijk aan het doordraaien’ (BP 154, I was losing it big time)), inviting the reader not to take it too seriously. The appendix is therefore far more relevant as a meta-mnemonic and iconoclastic commentary on the routines of Holocaust memory. In Sam’s story, which refects the imaginative investment so typical for Hirsch’s notion of postmemory, albeit without the psychological implications, Anne Frank is no longer an unassuming symbol of pure innocence, a ‘martyrological icon, dying so that a new generation of Jews might live’, as James Young suggests (1988, 110), but one of resistance – a fgure resembling the Jewish Shoshanna Dreyfuss in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (2009). The agency he gives Anne Frank goes against readings of her character ‘that attempt to bring to the reader or viewer unearned and incongruous spiritual uplift’ (LaCapra 2001, 42, note 51). This imaginative empowerment refects back in two ways on Sam’s identity. Not only does it express his stake to intervene in the negotiations of Dutch cultural memory, it also refects his wish for agency to resist social relegation because of his ethnic identity.8 Sam’s interstitial agency is confrmed by a second instance in which Sam acts as the picaro of Dutch war memory. When he attends his brother’s court hearing, he notices a painting of the Dutch royal family, also depicting Prince Bernhard zur Lippe-Biesterfeld (1911–2004) ‘die […] een nogal onschuldige hobby aan het beoefenen was, namelijk het schrijven van ontzettend onpersoonlijke brieven naar rijkskanselier Adolf Hitler.’ (BP 94, who […] practiced a rather innocent hobby, that is writing very impersonal letters to Reich chancellor Adolf Hitler). Although in various ways Bernhard fashioned himself as a hero of the Dutch resistance during World War II, after his death the journalist and historian Annejet van der Zijl found documents that proved that he had been a member of the NSDAP, the SS, and the Nazi paramilitary group SA in the 1930s (see Van der Zijl 2010). These memberships had been kept secret from the public for a long time, yet Sam’s knowledge of it demonstrates that he not just passively greets the cultural memory of his host culture through myths and stereotypes – as Soesi does. He actually possesses, through his readings, in-depth knowledge of the national memory – knowledge that allows him to actively and critically negotiate its meanings.

Being Implicated and the Ambiguities of Migration Sam’s appropriative and imaginative negotiations with war memory may be bold, yet they are neither dogmatic nor opportunistic. His use of ironic understatement (‘very impersonal letters’) as well as his self-relativizing thoughts on his narrative authority when he rereads his appendix to Anne Frank’s diary (‘Ik zuchtte, lachte om mezelf en stopte het in de koffer’ (BP 277, I sighed, laughed about myself, and put it [the diary] in my suitcase) make his negotiations ambiguous and, hence, devoid of mnemonic dogmatism. Sam does not act like an angry judge, indicting his host’s culture for what happened during World War II. On the contrary, while appropriating

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Holocaust memory and mocking Dutch involvement in perpetration, he also realizes that the inscription of his own identity in Dutch – and Western – cultural memory means adopting the idea of becoming what Rothberg calls ‘an implicated subject’ in the dark pages of its history. Describing how present subjects relate to traumatic histories in terms of remembrance and accountability, this concept helps to make visible how modern subjects participate in contexts of violence and exploitation that at frst seem far removed from them. Neither criminally responsible perpetrators, nor passive victims, or mere innocent bystanders to violence, implicated subjects are ‘participants in – and benefciaries of – systems that generate dispersed and uneven experiences of trauma and wellbeing simultaneously’ (Rothberg 2009, 310). Sam acknowledges that he participates in and benefts from an economic system that is rooted in Holocaust history. This can be seen in a number of comments, for example, when he uses a Hugo Boss facial cream: ‘Wist je dat Hugo Boss de ontwerper was van bruine nazi-uniformen? En ook van de angst inboezemende zwarte SS-uniformen?’ (BP 61, Did you know that Hugo Boss designed the brown Nazi-uniforms? And also those frightening black SS uniforms?). In a similar vein, while cruising on his Vespa through Amsterdam, he remarks: ‘Piaggio, het Italiaanse bedrijf dat de Vespa’s produceert, werd in de Tweede Wereldoorlog vaak door de geallieerden gebombardeerd. Het bedrijf ontwierp bommenwerpers voor het fascistische regime van Mussolini’ (BP 66, Piaggio, the Italian company that manufactures Vespas, was frequently bombed by the allied forces. The company designed bomber planes for Mussolini’s fascist regime). Both examples indicate that Sam is aware that his desire for full cultural integration, including full access to the host’s memory culture, also implies sharing accountability for the past. In that sense, his mnemonic engagement differs yet again from Soesi’s, who seems to use Holocaust memory as a way of distancing himself from Dutch majority culture rather than approaching it. When Sam’s brother jokingly misinforms Soesi that Sam is not allowed to enter the Lyceum Zuid high school, Soesi replies ‘Het zijn toch allemaal NSB’ers’ (BP 10, They are all NSB members anyway), thereby equating the school board with members of the ‘Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging in Nederland’, a Dutch fascist and later National Socialist political party that collaborated with the Nazis during the Second World War. Admittedly, the reference is a crude and vernacular form of stereotyping, yet it expresses his antagonistic vision of the relation between the Dutch majority as perpetrators and the (Dutch-) Moroccan minority as its victims. The historical reference to the nation’s guilt is used, in other words, to differentiate himself from that majority culture. Soesi does not consider himself part of this culture and has no interest in cross-cultural interaction, regardless of his extensive historical knowledge. Sam, by contrast, does. His graduation from high school and his invitation to play a piano concert at the prestigious Amsterdam Philharmonic suggest, moreover, that he is integrated into Dutch mainstream society. This

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raises the question of whether his attitude and his mnemonic commitment function as best practices for contemporary social issues of migration and integration. The novel’s happy ending seems to indicate just that, although some elements clearly work against such a utopian reading. The trajectory from insecurity and resistance to the majority culture’s celebratory response to Sam’s piano concerto clearly suggests an ideal scenario of social progress, integration, and intercultural symbiosis – a scenario that bespeaks the fulfllment of the novel’s title. By obtaining his high school degree, Sam not only fulflls the promise made to his brother in an ice cream parlor called ‘Pisa’, he incarnates the promises of ‘PISA’, the ‘Programme for International Student Assessment’, a worldwide study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in member and non-member states of 15-year-old school pupils’ school performance in mathematics, science, and reading. Seeking to foster educational quality and international collaboration, the program’s objectives ft in neatly with the transnational and transcultural perspectives touched on in Bouzamour’s novel. Yet the trajectory of migration into a new culture seems beset with ambiguities and aporias that suggest that dismantling ethno-nationalist visions of Dutch identity (and all the elements that construct it) is far from selfevident, if not impossible. The novel situates ongoing forms of resistance in the Dutch majority culture as well as within the Dutch-Moroccan community. With regard to the former, one could ask whether the celebratory applause from the predominantly white audience in the concert hall refects genuine appreciation for Sam’s artistic prowess or whether it is informed by racial bias. Sam’s rendition of Rachmaninoff is highly bellicose and resembles his picaresque provocations of cultural memory. It goes, in other words, against the decorum of the white bourgeois upper-class environment and its cultural heritage. The question therefore arises whether the majority culture really ‘gets’ Sam’s interpretation and critical negotiation of Western heritage. What seems more likely is that the laudatory response is motivated by an elective affnity for exotic otherness and the overwhelming applause a way of drowning out lingering feelings of being implicated in ecologies of racial othering. In this sense, it is no more than a condescending encouragement from the majority culture to be one of them. It is a form of what Homi Bhabha has called ‘colonial mimicry’: ‘the desire for a reformed, recognizable Other, as a subject of a difference that is almost the same, but not quite’ (1994, 122, emphasis in original). So, rather than erasing ethnic and cultural boundaries, public acceptance necessarily signifes maintaining ethnic hierarchies. Yet, as indicated above, Bouzamour’s novel is not a mere indictment of ingrained patterns located in the Dutch majority culture. The ambiguity of the scene shows that the novel keeps ambiguity up in the depiction of intercultural relations – one that might continue to mark these relations. Furthermore, the novel also highlights the lack of integration initiative in the Dutch-Moroccan community. Of all his peers from De Pijp, Sam is the

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only one who shows interest in the cultural memory of his host culture. Soesi’s vernacular use of memory works against visions of community, and the other members of the Dutch-Moroccan community are indifferent, if not impervious, to such transcultural interactions. When Sam takes over Soesi’s role as the vernacular historian of De Pijp toward the end of the novel, his stories about the Kristallnacht and the Holocaust are met with mockery, disdain, and physical threats. Whereas Soesi’s narrative authority became possible because he did not cross the line into the mainstream of his host culture, Sam becomes an outsider to his former community. He concludes ‘[I]k was het buitenbeentje van de buitenbeentjes’ (BP 170, I had become the outsider of the outsiders), thereby demonstrating a paradox inherent to his transcultural initiatives. Not only does transcultural movement imply stepping out of his original habitus, but being seemingly accepted as a member of the Dutch ‘people’ unavoidably leads to losing his interstitial agency, as he is no longer part of the hybrid, partial cultural space from which he acted as an in-between fgure. From this perspective, one could argue that Sam – initially belonging to two cultures at the same time – in the end belongs to neither. He is no longer welcome in his community of origin, and the ambiguous relation with his new habitus equally unsettles any notion of genuine belonging – a fact symbolically refected in Sam twisting his ankle on the shiny foor of the concert hall, indicating that the grounds of the majority culture remain a slippery terrain for him. So, while displaying the possibility of claiming membership in the Dutch majority culture, the novel also shows that intercultural exchange remains heavy with indeterminacies. The novel’s challenge of ethno-nationalist conceptions of cultural memory, in this case being a property of the Dutch Volk, must be read against this critical background. Stressing the inherently transcultural and transnational character of memory, it expresses a vision that is indicative of current trends in Memory Studies, connected with, as Andreas Huyssen puts it, ‘the dissolution of the classical frame of memory, the nation state’ (quoted in Feindt et al. 2014, 34).9 Yet, at the same time, it accords with Huyssen’s vision that ‘memory discourses remain tied to the specifc memories of social groups in time and place’ (2003a, 148) – a situation that is boosted in times of socio-cultural tensions, when, Huyssen continues, ‘the space for diasporic thinking, transnational exchange, and cultural hybridity shrinks’ (2003a, 149). De belofte van Pisa demonstrates cultural memory’s potential to foster integration and to support social community building, yet it also reads like a warning against the limits of such intercultural negotiations of memory, when many cultures, faiths, value systems, and global forces meet.

Notes 1 The nexus between migration and memory has become a focus of debates in Memory Studies since Andreas Huyssen’s claim in 2003 that ‘opposed to

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national memory, diasporic memory remains seriously understudied’ (Huyssen 2003a, 149). For an overview of this debate, see Glynn and Kleist 2012. For a discussion of current social and political developments in the Netherlands regarding migration, see De Leeuw and van Wichelen 2008. For a more extensive discussion of these authors, see Anbeek 2002. For a comprehensive overview of the debates and the history of the artwork, see www.derbevoelkerung.de. An insightful discussion is offered by Rothberg and Yildiz 2011. The notion of ‘thick’ is borrowed from Avishai Margalit’s distinction between ‘thick’ and ‘thin’ relations. For him, ‘thick relations’ are ‘anchored in a shared past or moored in shared memory, and “thin relations” connect those who are strangers or remote to each other’. See Margalit 2002, 7. ‘Doesn’t immigrating to Germany also mean immigrating into Germany’s recent past?’, quoted in Rothberg and Yildiz 2011, 35. When referring to this novel, I will use the abbreviation ‘BP’. All English translations are mine, while all emphases in the Dutch quotations – either in the form of italics or capitals – are from the original, unless indicated otherwise. The imaginative investment in Holocaust testimony is also addressed in Daan Heerma van Voss’ De laatste oorlog (2016), whose protagonist, Abel Kaplan, sees the revelation of an unpublished diary as a chance to revive his writer’s career and he starts rewriting it. His aim is not so much, as in the Wilkomirski case, to publish it under his own name, but rather to make it more accessible to contemporary readers, embellishing the style and giving it more narrative tension and suspense. To enhance its credibility, he invites a famous specialist of Holocaust testimonies to write a foreword. As he progresses, however, he increasingly infuses it with elements from his own biography, to the point that the lines between history and fction, between past and present, and between his own identity and Abel Citroen’s become indistinguishable. Yet, like Sam’s coda to Anne Frank’s diary, rewriting remains largely a private matter. While Sam has no ambition of ever making his personal addition public and frowns upon it as a product of youth sentiment when he fnds it months later, Abel Kaplan abandons his plan to publish the diary after the historian turns out to have falsifed historical facts in his scholarly work. Both novels, hence, highlight the problematic tension between testimony and fction, illustrating how a ‘false memoir does not, by virtue of its falsity, automatically convert into fction. More often than not, it converts into oblivion’ (Suleiman 2006, 170). I work out this challenge in more detail in my discussion of Peter Verhelst’s Zwerm (see Chapter 6).

References Anbeek, Ton. 2002. ‘Doodknuffelen: Over Marokkaans-Nederlandse auteurs en hun critici’. In Europa Buitengaats: koloniale en postkoloniale literaturen in Europese talen, edited by Theo D’Haen, 289–301. Amsterdam: Bert Bakker. Bhabha, Homi K. 1994. The Location of Culture. New York: Routledge. ———. 2011. ‘Culture’s In-Between’. In Questions of Cultural Identity, edited by Stuart Hall and Paul Du Gay, 53–60. London: Sage Publications. Caruth, Cathy. 1995. ‘Trauma and Experience: Introduction’. In Trauma: Explorations in Memory, edited by Cathy Caruth, 3–12. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP. De Leeuw, Marc, and Sonja van Wichelen. 2008. ‘Transformations of “Dutchness”: From Happy Multiculturalism to the Crisis of Dutch Liberalism’. In Identity,

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Belonging and Migration, edited by Gerard Delanty, Ruth Wodak, and Paul Jones, 261–278. Liverpool: Liverpool UP. Feindt, Gregor, Félix Krawatzek, Daniela Mehler, Friedemann Pestel, and Rieke Trimçev. 2014. ‘Entangled Memory: Toward a Third Wave in Memory Studies’. History and Theory 53: 24–44. Glynn, Irial, and J. Olaf Kleist. 2012. ‘The Memory and Migration Nexus: An Overview’. In History, Memory and Migration: Perceptions of the Past and the Politics of Incorporation, edited by Irial Glynn and J. Olaf Kleist, 18–44. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Guillén, Claudio. 1971. Literature as System: Essays Toward the Theory of Literary History. Princeton: Princeton UP. Huyssen, Andreas. 2003a. ‘Diaspora and Migration: Migration into Other Pasts’. New German Critique 88: 147–164. ———. 2003b. Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory. Stanford: Stanford UP. LaCapra, Dominick. 2001. Writing History, Writing Trauma. Baltimore/London: Johns Hopkins UP. ———. 2004. History in Transit: Experience, Identity, Critical Theory. Ithaca: Cornell UP. Levy, Daniel, and Natan Sznaider. 2002. ‘Memory Unbound: The Holocaust and the Formation of Cosmopolitan Memory’. European Journal of Social Theory 5 (1): 87–106. Margalit, Avishai. 2002. The Ethics of Memory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP. Rothberg, Michael. 2009. Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization. Stanford: Stanford UP. Rothberg, Michael, and Yasemin Yildiz. 2011. ‘Memory Citizenship: Migrant Archives of Holocaust Remembrance in Contemporary Germany’. Parallax 17 (4): 32–48. Suleiman, Susan. 2006. Crises of Memory and the Second World War. Harvard: Harvard UP. Van der Zijl, Annejet. 2010. Bernhard: Een Verborgen Geschiedenis. Amsterdam: Querido. Young, James H. 1988. Writing and Rewriting the Holocaust: Narrative and the Consequences of the Holocaust. Bloomington/Minneapolis: Indiana UP.

6

Moving in and out of the Feedback Loop History and ‘Globital’ Memory in Peter Verhelst’s Zwerm (2005)

The view of cultural memory as something that is perpetually on the move, while also being vulnerable to tendencies that aim to ground it, is at the center of the last novel discussed in this section, Zwerm: Geschiedenis van de Wereld (2005) by the Flemish author Peter Verhelst.1 The novel’s indexical meta-mnemonic thrust entails an avid engagement with the status of World War II memory in Western society today as well as with the impact of new digital media on our understanding of memory as such. To explore this engagement, I have undertaken a somewhat risky undertaking, i.e. the singling out of a coherent and comprehensible storyline for my analysis – an act that is diffcult, if not impertinent in light of the novel’s poetic program. Zwerm does not thematize memory within a linear and chronological narrative, but as (part of) a complex discursive network that links several traumatic events from history together. As its title suggests, the novel presents us with a swarm of alternating and intersecting stories, persistently and unpredictably changing in subject, form, tone, typography, and narrative perspective – a bit like a swarm of birds that is constantly changing shape and direction. As I will show in this reading, this form refects the novel’s vision of contemporary memory and embodies its poetic thrust. Because of this form, any attempt at condensing Zwerm’s narrative diversity into a synopsis representative of its content is inevitably fragmentary, riddled with omissions, and reductive. These characteristics do not just concern the multitude of storylines and the knowledge that is spread out throughout the novel, but also the overall lack of a traditional, Aristotelian narrative trajectory from a beginning, via a middle, to an end. In Zwerm, this movement is replaced by an amorphous compilation of stories, marked by transformation, unreliable references, and a lack of narrative closure.2 For these reasons, the novel constitutes a textbook example of literary postmodernism, and, more specifcally, of its poststructuralist variant.3 In my reading, the novel’s plot revolves around a confict between a powerful corporation, named ‘the Foundation’, which carries out medical experiments on human beings and protects war criminals on the one hand, and on the other a resistance movement, led by a Holocaust survivor who is at times referred to as ‘Mister J’, and at other moments as ‘Mister H’. This dual

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character – which I will refer to as ‘Mister J/H’ in this analysis – wants to avenge the death of his family in the concentration camps. To this end, he hunts down the war criminals hidden by the Foundation, and he aims to create a new society in order to expunge the National Socialist biopolitical doctrine upheld by the Foundation. This confict indicates that those that were involved in the war – either as perpetrator or as victim – continue to hold a frm grip on the present. The end of the novel suggests Mister J/H’s victory. After the destruction of the Foundation’s buildings, his ideological program that prescribes elements of change and progress can emerge. In my analysis, I argue that this change – articulated via the metaphors of the virus, the swarm, and the cloud – also affects the structure of memory. Whereas Mister J/H was previously stuck in a confict of the past, his victory releases memory and allows it to travel as stipulated by his doctrine: through endless dissemination and mutation. Illustrative for this is the description of the hundreds of people taking pictures of the Foundation’s crumbling buildings and how they let them circulate on social media and on the internet. The novel illustrates that in this process the memory of the event is multiplied into millions of mnemonic signifers that become independent from the event itself. As intangible and disembodied traces, they spread in an extremely fast and unpredictable way and become entangled with other memories and mnemonic frameworks. As a result, they take on a radically polyphonic character. I will unfold the nature of these dynamics with the help of Michael Rothberg’s notion of ‘multidirectional memory’ and Anna Reading’s concept of ‘globital memory’. In my reading, I aim to show that Zwerm endorses the mobilizing effects of digital technologies on collective memory, but that it is equally critical of their side effects and of the inherent paradox that underlies this new mnemonic culture. To argue this, I will proceed in three steps. First of all, I will investigate how the novel, by portraying a dystopian society in which the memory of World War II continues to govern daily life, alerts us to the continued presence of this war’s aftermath in the present. Secondly, I offer a close reading of Mister J/H’s ‘Virutopian’ manifesto and analyze how the novel questions the possibility of historical change. Even if Mister J/H’s victory suggests an end to the National Socialist impact on contemporary society, mechanisms of oppression, indoctrination, and biopolitical violence continue to mark his desire for progress. Thirdly, I will examine how the novel engages with memory in a digitalized and globalized culture and how it uses the metaphors of the swarm, the virus, and other features as innovative models for understanding contemporary memory.

Memory Bound – Melancholia, Trauma, and Retaliation With its evocation of the Foundation, Zwerm stands in a long tradition of dystopian narratives that use the trope of a world governed by an ominous corporation, such as ‘Soylent Corporation’ in the 1973 classic movie

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Soylent Green, ‘Omni Consumer Products (OCP)’ in Robocop (1987), ‘Buy n Large’ in Wall-E (2008), ‘InGen’ in Jurassic Park (1993), ‘BlueBook’ in Ex-Machina (2015), and ‘E Corp’ in the TV-series ‘Mr. Robot’ (2015– 2019).4 This trope refects a fear of unregulated corporate power, and the dystopian imagination serves as a ‘prophetic vehicle’ (Baccolini and Moylan 2003, 2) to warn contemporary readers against tendencies that could, if uncurbed, create this deregulation of society. In Zwerm, one of these tendencies concerns the latency of National Socialist biopolitics, both in the form of secret eugenic experiments and in the Foundation’s protection of the architects of the NS biopolitical program. In short, by means of this dystopia, the novel expresses the fear that, despite being defeated in World War II, the Nazis – or at least elements from their doctrine – are latently, if not overtly, present in Western society. The Foundation, however, is facing a resistance movement. We learn from a secret conversation between a government offcial and an anonymous representative from the Foundation that this movement is led by ‘Mister J/H’. The representative indicates that Mister J/H is ‘een van de engelen van Mengele’ (Z 355, one of Mengele’s angels), a reference to the twins that were subjected to the cruel medical experiments carried out by Josef Mengele in Auschwitz.5 This suggests that Mister J/H’s resistance to the Foundation is motivated by the desire to take revenge for his sufferings during these experiments as well as for the death of his family, as we learn later on in the story. His plan to attack it involves both eliminating the people in hiding at the Foundation (Z 354, ‘om de ondergedoken leden van het Systeem sys-te-ma-tisch uit te roeien’) as well as destroying the Foundation because of its support of the Nazi eugenics program. This confict indicates that the past of World War II has a pervasive impact on the present and that it is hardly affected by the passage of time. While the Foundation holds on to an ideal past in which its biopolitical ideology and ambitions to create a new humankind through racial purifcation could be realized, Mister J/H’s trauma triggers unsurmountable feelings of reckoning. For both perpetrators and victims, the events of World War II continue to govern the present. In Dominick LaCapra’s terms, the past is ‘acting out’ (2001, 21) and the remembering subjects and their memories fnd themselves – similar to the grandmother fgure in Erwin Mortier’s Marcel (see Chapter 2) – in a ‘melancholic feedback loop’ (2001, 21). They do not, in other words, move away from the historical past and are not allowed to become independent from that particular temporal and spatial context – a movement that disables processes of working-through, reparation, and progress.6 Yet, while the Foundation indulges this feedback loop to attain or sustain an ideal past, Mister J/H’s revenge aims at breaking its perpetuation. His resistance does not just aim at undoing National Socialist biopolitics in the present – referred to as ‘[d]e Körperkultur van de Oude Wereld’ (Z [328], the Körperkultur of the Old World).7 His attack on the Foundation

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is equally inspired by the desire to introduce an alternative biopolitical program and to create a new society, called VIRUTOPIA. The ideological program of VIRUTOPIA is formulated in a manifesto printed in white letters on black paper in the middle of the novel. It proposes what seems to be a radical alternative to National Socialist biopolitics. To understand the manifesto’s objectives, it is helpful to frst look at the biopolitical program formulated by National Socialists during World War II. A crucial document in this regard is État et santé: Cahiers de l’Institut allemand from 1942, a treatise consisting of statements on eugenics and race policy by self-declared German health specialists. It was edited by Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer (1896–1969), a German biologist and eugenicist concerned primarily with so-called ‘racial hygiene’ and twin research. ‘The National Socialist revolution’, one reads in the introduction of this treatise, ‘wishes to appeal to forces that want to exclude factors of biological degeneration and to maintain the people’s hereditary health. It thus aims to fortify the health of the people as a whole and to eliminate infuences that harm the biological growth of the nation’.8 The body culture of National Socialism was, in other words, concerned with the administration of the biological body of the nation, and, in particular, with keeping its ‘national genotype’ pure and improving the Aryan racial type. The Virutopian manifesto picks up on these formulations and argues that the National Socialist aspirations for ‘perfecte zuiverheid: het Duizendjarig Lichaam, de hoeksteen van het Duizendjarig Rijk’ (Z [329], perfect purity: the Millennial Body, the cornerstone of the Thousand-Year Reich) has produced its radical opposite. Because of the body’s sterile optimization, it fell ‘in permanente staat van immuno-defciëntie’ (Z [328], into a permanent state of immunodefciency) making it vulnerable to infection and decay. This body, ironically described as ‘de triomf van het Systeem’ (Z [328], the triumph of the System) in the manifesto, gives way to the ultimate pathology: the virus that undermines and destructs it completely. According to the manifesto, the remedy for this weakness is not curing the body, but redirecting life according to the logic of the virus – a logic that emphasizes physical impurity, metamorphosis, and ceaseless mutation: ‘Lever u over aan de grenzeloze verveelvoudiging. De enige mogelijkheid tot overleven is de constant veranderende genetische samenstelling. En wij zijn de profeten van de Mutatie’ (Z [327], Surrender to borderless multiplication. The only chance of survival is the constantly changing genetic composition. And we are the prophets of Mutation). The manifesto depicts this life form as a safeguard against the failing National Socialist body, but it also aims at radically disposing of the National Socialist ideology, which it defnes in terms of absolute singularity and unilateralism: ‘De Leider is het Systeem. Eén Systeem. Eén waarheid. Eén lichaam’ (Z [329], The leader is the System. One System. One truth. One body). The virus, by contrast, is presented as everything National Socialism was not: hybridity, heterogeneity, instability, constant renewal, openness, possibility, and transformation. Inoculation with this

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virus thus aims to inscribe these features in the recipient’s DNA and make it immune to the homogenizing tendencies that led to the Holocaust. Yet, as much as Mister J/H’s plan strives to bring renewal, his Virutopian doctrine extends the feedback loop he is fghting. This is clear, frst of all, from a number of internal contradictions in the Virutopian manifesto. To begin with, the manifesto’s form contradicts the ideals it advocates. In accordance with the manifesto’s generic features, its morphology in Zwerm includes numbered theses, denunciations of the past, an aggressive tone, articulated, for instance, through numerous imperatives (‘Ontvang het VIRUS’ (Z [325], Accept the VIRUS)), collective authorship (‘Wij hebben een droom’ (Z [322], We have a dream)), exaggerated, shrill declarations, and varied, often bold letters.9 All of these elements aim to express the wish to change humanity and to counter the National Socialist biopolitics that the Foundation continues to foster. However, while the manifesto’s call for resistance and renewal may sound laudable in light of the legacy of Nazi biopolitics and the horrifc experiments that were carried out during the Holocaust, it raises questions about the relation between the Virutopian ideal and what it seeks to oppose. Its use of imperatives and strong statements aims to produce a strong and unequivocal voice of resistance, but as a result, the tone of the manifesto resembles the shrill language of Nazi propaganda. While critiquing National Socialism for its belief in a single meaning (‘One Truth’), the manifesto itself reproduces this absolutist logic in this form, turning its message of radical freedom and multitude into a totalitarian decree. A second contradiction in the Virutopian manifesto pertains to the fact that the ideas it promotes are equally reminiscent of Nazi biopolitics. At frst, the manifesto aspires to renew mankind and create a utopian society that is designed to pre-empt any repetition of National Socialist crimes and, by extension, all totalitarian aggression. If the world is defned in terms of radical heterogeneity, the manifesto suggests, a single, exclusive truth becomes unthinkable – an idea also connected with a fundamental openness to the Other: ‘Door het VIRUS word ik een ander’ (Through the virus, I become an other] (Z [325]). Yet, while this promise brings Levinas’ humanism of the Other to mind, it also echoes the ambiguity of National Socialist biopolitics. As Giorgio Agamben remarks, Nazi biopolitics did not seem at frst driven by racism and fear of Otherness, but by a concern with the ‘care of life’ (1998, 148) of its own Volksgemeinschaft. He points in this regard to the double voice of Nazi biopolitics: supposedly caring for those belonging to that Volksgemeinschaft, but undeniably detrimental to those outside of it. The Virutopian ideology shares National Socialism’s promise of bringing something good to its recipients. But just as the racial Nazi program demonstrated that this discourse of care was merely a cover for exclusion, segregation, and genocide, the Virutopian manifesto radically excludes what does not ft within its vision of mankind: ‘DE NIEUWE MENS ZAL VIRAAL

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ZIJN OF ZAL NIET ZIJN’ [THE NEW HUMAN WILL BE VIRAL OR WILL NOT BE] (Z [319–318]). In other words, the manifesto mirrors not only the Nazi myth of the emergence of the new human, but also its tactics of racial purifcation. The inherent ambiguity of the Virutopian manifesto and the continued link with National Socialism is expressed in the dual name of its designer, ‘Mister J’ and ‘Mister H’. While the letter ‘J’ suggests that he is a Jewish victim of the Holocaust, the letter ‘H’ is routinely read as a reference to Adolf Hitler.10 We might therefore want to read this character as an allegory of the interconnected identities of victim and perpetrator. Many elements in the novel ft in with such an allegorical reading, as Vervaeck points out.11 Furthermore, these initials correspond with those of the schizophrenic character Dr. Henry Jekyll, and his dark side, Edward Hyde, from Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Although this reference underscores the dualism inherent to the Virutopian manifesto, implying that Mister J needs a malevolent alter ego to execute his plans, it also reduces the messianic character of Mister J’s ambition to change humanity to a case of individual pathology, i.e. schizophrenia. In other words, something seems very rotten in the virtual state of Virutopia.12 The negative duality marking the Virutopian ideology becomes even more apparent when Mister J/H puts it into practice in the frst Virutopian experiment. For this, he spreads a message on social media about ‘a big, big rave’ party (Z 65). Consequently, hundreds of people arrive at a secret location from where they are transported in subway cars to a dark subterranean hall underneath the Silver-Colored Complex. Their excitement contrasts sharply with the narrator’s ominous description of their arrival at the end stop, named ‘VIRUTOPIA’ (Z 50): En daar rijden ze het station binnen, dit kan niets anders zijn dan de terminus, hier moeten de sporen wel ten einde lopen, armen en handen steken door de raampjes. Niemand die erbij stilstaat dat deze armen en handen echo’s zijn van andere armen en handen die decennia eerder uit treinstellen hingen te wuiven en wanhopige briefjes aan de wind prijsgaven met namen erop geschreven, adressen, de wens om nooit vergeten te worden. (Z 52) And then they enter the train station, this has to be the terminus, where the tracks have to end, arms and hands sticking out of the small windows. Nobody giving a thought to the fact that these arms and hands are echoes of other arms and hands hanging and waving from train wagons decades before, surrendering to the wind small, desperate notes with names written on them, addresses, the wish never to be forgotten.

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The description of the arrival evokes familiar imagery from the cultural memory of the Holocaust. The notions of ‘train wagons’, ‘terminus’, the imperative tone in the phrase ‘where the tracks have to end’, and the reference to arms and hands hanging from the train wagons refer to the infamous train deportations of people to the Nazi camps. The notion of ‘echoes’ moreover confrms this historical reference and sets up a contrast between the historical knowledge of both the narrator and the reader on the one hand, and the unawareness of the partying people on the other. This contrast suggests that the partygoers are passive and ignorant subjects in Mister J/H’s grand scheme. These dynamics continue once these subjects enter the big subterranean hall below the Silver-Colored Complex, where they are exposed to the Virutopian virus. At frst, loud, upbeat music causes them to enter into a state of ecstasy that disables their mental and sensory abilities. This ecstasy hints at the indoctrination by Mister J/H – now exclusively referred to as ‘Mister H’, the evil twin – who frantically monitors the dancing people in the hall with cameras while at the same time controlling their behavior. Meanwhile, the people’s ecstasy provokes a process of dehumanization, which becomes apparent when Mister J/H slows down the music and the people gradually stop dancing. They are, the narrator indicates, nauwelijks bewegend, stollend, ze zijn ontkleed, hun schamelheid verbergend, zo klein mogelijk om anderen niet aan te raken, kinderen hangend aan een been van vader of moeder, hand in hand, omhelzingen, gehuil en… en op een teken leggen ze allemaal het hoofd in de nek, met open ogen wachtend op de waterdruppels die hen zullen reinigen, maar het is geen water. (Z 36) barely moving, congealing, they are undressed, hiding their wretchedness, as small as possible so as not to touch the others, children hanging onto their mother’s or father’s leg, hand in hand, embraces, crying and… and on cue they all look upward, waiting eyes wide open for the drops of water that will cleanse them, but it is no water. Again, Holocaust imagery is invoked to emphasize how the Virutopian experiment bears strong resemblances to the National Socialist acts of terror. The scene clearly suggests a parallel between the people in the dark hall and the victims in the gas chambers of the Nazi concentration camps. However, the sprinklers in the hall do not release Zyklon B or cleansing water, as in Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. What Mister J/H spreads through the big hall instead is the Virutopian virus, consisting of a substance that resembles ‘water en kwikzilver tegelijk’ (Z 76, both water and quicksilver). This substance alludes to a scene from the science fction movie The Matrix (1999), in which Neo, the main character, is engulfed by quicksilver after having

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swallowed a red pill that opens his eyes to ‘the desert of the real’.13 This allusion endows Mister J/H’s substance with an analogous meaning and function: it too, aims to open the eyes of his subjects to the power of the Foundation and to create a new society, VIRUTOPIA. The effect of the substance in this passage is, however, not as redemptive as it is in The Matrix. First of all, the release of the virus causes an enormous panic among the crowd and many people are trampled to death or sucked up by some kind of black box positioned in the middle of the hall. Furthermore, immediately following this event, an airplane crashes into the Silver-Colored Complex in order to destroy the Foundation and to disseminate the virus into the atmosphere. This attack, which echoes that on the World Trade Center in New York on 11 September 2001, seems a further attempt at releasing society from the Foundation’s hegemony. Here, however, resistance and redemption are mixed with death and violence. For sure, Mister J/H attains his goal, and the narrator’s comment that ‘[d]it is het begin’ (Z −6, [t]his is the beginning) suggests that the forces of the war past – here embodied by the Foundation’s involvement in and continuation of the Nazi legacy – are overcome. However, if this beginning promises renewal and progress into a posttraumatic future, it surely is frmly rooted in what it disables. This schizophrenia of the new is formally expressed by the coincidence of the letter ‘O’ on page 0 with the letter ‘O’, which forms the frst letter of ‘OH MY GOD!!’. This exclamation, printed on the following, numberless page in the novel, is the ultimate cry of one of the characters in the airplane just before it hits the Silver-Colored Complex. If this experiment must serve as a point-zero in history to usher us into a new age, then violence constitutes its founding moment, and the trajectory that follows can be nothing else than its offspring. History, so the novel’s subtitle ‘History of the World’ suggests, ultimately signifes the unceasing repetition of destruction and self-destruction in conficts and ensuing wars. Rather than coming to an end, the melancholic feedback loop is set in motion again. This scenario allows us to extend the meaning of these fctional events beyond the diegetic level and read them as a critique of Western culture’s inability to work through the trauma of World War II. Even if Mister J/H’s efforts refect his desire to ‘re-move’ it from the public sphere and consign it to the past, war memory inevitably remains frmly in place. The dystopian imagination serves in this regard as that prophetic vehicle that warns us not only about the continued presence of National Socialist ideas in our current society that might turn for the worse in the future, but also against the ease with which the desire for renewal awakens authoritarian refexes and incites mechanisms of violence. From this perspective, the novel’s subtitle ‘Geschiedenis van de Wereld’ (History of the World) fosters an allegorical reading of humankind’s propensity for forms of retribution that mimic what they aim to retaliate against. The image of human history as a perpetual cycle of trauma and revenge is confrmed by the novel’s experimental form. Its inverted structure, expressed

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by the reversed page numbering (from 666 to −6), its fnal sentence ‘Dit is het begin’ (Z −6, This is the beginning), and the apparent chronological order of the fnal (and also the frst) events in the novel suggest that the entire story forms one cycle within a time loop. With the ending of the novel, a new cycle of infiction and revenge is set in motion. From this perspective, memory is at once on the move and at a standstill. It moves because it travels through time and holds the lives of all protagonists in the present in a frm grip; it is in a standstill because no working through seems possible. If the traumatic memories of World War II – and those of various other historical events in the novel such as the Vietnam War, the Palestine confict, and 9/11 – move at all, this motion is highly paradoxical in nature.

Memory Unbound – The Play of Memobilia Besides offering a dystopian warning about the persistence of historical conficts, Zwerm also explores the moves of memory today in more conceptual terms. In particular, as an example of literary postmodernism – and of its poststructuralist variant in particular – the novel postulates a vision of memory that is directly inspired by Jacques Derrida’s refections on the relation between the notions of ‘center’ and ‘play’. As I discuss in more depth in the introduction to the third section of this book, Derrida defnes ‘play’ as something inherent to each type of structure, as a crucial element in the organization of its coherence and in the relation between the elements in the structure’s total form. Derrida favors this notion of ‘play’ and critically remarks that it has been neutralized or closed off in Western metaphysics by a process of giving the structure ‘a center or of referring it to a point of presence, a fxed origin’ (2005, 352). Applied to the workings of memory, the logic between center and play is analogous to that between historical event and the ‘mnemonic signifers’ (Feindt et al. 2014, 31) that stem from this event. While the former was long thought to be a transcendental signifed ‘beyond play’ (Derrida 2005, 353) that anchors, stabilizes, and orients these signifers and memory as a whole, Derrida claims that such a signifed is absent. Accordingly, mnemonic traces are ‘unbound’ from the historical event and are allowed to move freely. I argue that Zwerm articulates the relation between center and play by means of the confict between the Foundation and VIRUTOPIA. In this conceptual reading, the name ‘Foundation’ does not just refer to an organization or institution established by endowment with provision for future maintenance but to the more elementary meaning of foundation as a basis (such as a tenet, principle, or axiom) upon which something stands or is supported. In its role as a stabilizing and controlling force, the Foundation represents Derrida’s ‘center’ (‘het Systeem. Eén Systeem. Eén waarheid. Eén lichaam’ (Z [329,] the System. One System. One truth. One body)). Mister J/H’s Virutopian virus, by contrast, stands for radical play, the ‘permutation or the transformation of elements’ (Derrida 2005, 352) that resists and challenges this center. The confict between the Foundation and Mister J/H can,

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in other words, be read as an allegory of Derrida’s epistemological critique of Western metaphysics. From this perspective, Mister J/H’s resistance not only aims to undo National Socialist biopolitics but also to install a new epistemology that prescribes the play of multitude, perpetual transformation, and permutation. This event is visualized by the explosion that destroys the Silver-Colored Complex: ‘het barst open in een zwerm vogels die hoger en hoger klimt, krijsend, wemelend, tot in de stratosfeer, miljoenen vogels, miljoenen opengesperde snavels’ (Z −1, it erupts in a swarm of birds that climb higher and higher, shrieking, teeming, as high as the stratosphere, millions of birds, millions of wide-open beaks wide). The swarm of birds acts, frst of all, as a metaphor for the huge mass of debris that is ejected by the explosion and collapse of the Silver-Colored Complex. Simultaneously, it signifes the transformation from unity and singularity into radical multitude and permutation, caused by the Virutopian virus. With the demise of the Foundation (or the ‘center’), the elements of the structure are given (back) free play, and they (re)gain the capacity to move like a swarm of birds, like ‘een glinsterende wolk, samengesteld uit miljoenen en miljoenen scherfjes’ (Z −1, a glittering cloud, consisting of millions and millions of shards) and like ‘een sneeuwstorm van neerdwarrelend papier en stof’ (Z −3, a snowstorm of furrying paper and dust) into the atmosphere. Zwerm, however, does not only provide us with a fctional allegory of Derrida’s poststructuralist epistemology; it also connects the destruction of the Foundation with the inauguration of a radically new mnemonic culture. In the effort to dissolve the melancholic feedback loop that hindered World War II from being consigned to the past in this dystopian society, the shape of memory itself is changed by this event. The following passage, which describes the public witnessing of the destruction, illustrates this: ‘Wij zijn het die de beelden hebben geschoten met onze mobiele telefoon. Beelden van mensen die ons aankeken terwijl ze hun laatste adem uitbliezen. Wij hebben de beelden zelf op het Web geplaatst’ (Z −3, We are the ones who shot these images with our mobile phones. Images of people who were looking at us while drawing their last breath. We have put these images on the Web ourselves). Further along, the narrator describes how these images disseminate throughout the internet: Nog tijdens de evacuatie verschijnen foto’s en ooggetuigenverslagen op het Web, woorden en beelden die al een nieuw leven leiden, die zich al losmaken van de gebeurtenissen zelf. Ze haken zich in het geheugen vast, want waarom schrikken we weken later nog wakker? Dingen die we zien of lezen als we door het Web dwalen, besmetten ons. Vanaf nu is de virtuele wereld onlosmakelijk een deel van ons. Genetisch materiaal. (Z −2) During the evacuation, pictures and testimonies already appear on the Web, words and images that already lead a new life, that already

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In this passage, Zwerm links three elements together: the Virutopian ideology of endless mutation on the diegetic level, Derrida’s epistemology of ‘play’ on a conceptual level, and the topical impact of new digital technologies on collective memory. Concretely, the free play of memory in this postFoundation era, expressed by such metaphors as the virus, the swarm, or the cloud, serves as an allegory of the changing shape of memory in the age of digital culture. Memory, this passage suggests, consists of what Anna Reading calls ‘memobilia’: ‘wearable, shareable multimedia data records of events or communications […] captured on the move, easily digitally archived and rapidly and easily mobilised’ (2009, 81). Once posted on the Web, such memobilia – whose self-propagating moves Reading incidentally compares to that of a virus (see 2009, 82) – ‘start to lead a new life’. They gain independence from the particular temporal and spatial context from which they stem, move in accordance with the deregulating logic of ‘play’, and form what Andrew Hoskins has referred to as a ‘living archive’ (2014, 661). By using the swarm, Zwerm coins a metaphor that articulates, not only in form but also in movement, the shape of collective memory today. ‘Miljoenen vogels’, the reader learns, ‘zullen over de wereld neerstrijken – de binnenkant van de snavels glanst – miljoenen wondjes’ (Z 657, Millions of birds will alight over the world – the inside of their beaks shimmers – millions of little wounds). The birds can be read as those mnemonic traces or signifers that detach themselves from the event in digital form and spread out over the world – an event fttingly expressed by Reading’s term ‘globital’ (2011, 241). In turn, the wounds in the birds’ beaks turn into metaphors for the voices and testimonies of the traumatic event. Verhelst shows us how the collective memory of a traumatic event is, in other words, no unifed or homogenous response or master-narrative, but a collection of small testimonies – a notion that echoes Jean-François Lyotard’s concept of ‘petits récits’ (1984, xxiv). Its moves are no longer tied to a certain group or territory, but – like in the swarm – are strictly determined by the micro-movements of the group’s individual entities. Rather than a clear-cut and tangible entity, the concept of memory becomes a shorthand for a dense network of interconnected, de-territorialized, and ever disseminating memorial traces that move in an extremely fast, unpredictable way. As a result of these globital travels, memories become intertwined with other mnemonic frameworks, which allows them to take on a radically polyphonic character. Zwerm illustrates this, for example, in the search of one of its protagonists, Abel, for his father, Josef Mengele, on the internet: ‘Verlicht door het scherm tikte Abel jaren later de naam in van zijn vader.

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De zoekmachine bleef maar data uitspuwen’ (Z 391, Lit by the screen, Abel typed his father’s name years later. The search engine kept spitting out endless data). Apart from the multitude of data in the internet archive (‘endless’) as well as its live agency (‘spitting out’), the novel hints at the intrinsic disparity between these data and the historical fgure of Mengele: ‘[v]ier overlijdensberichten van zijn vader, iedere keer in een ander continent, iedere keer een andere doodsoorzaak’ (Z 391, four obituaries for his father, each time on a different continent, each time with a different cause of death). Furthermore, each of these obituaries is connected to other traumatic memories. The Asian version, for example, links Josef Mengele to the fgure of Kurtz from both Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899) and Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation Apocalypse Now (1979). In this manner, the memory of World War II is linked to Belgian colonial history and the Vietnam War, but also to the media through which these memories are shaped in cultural memory. As a result, the memory of the Holocaust becomes part of a diffuse, intersectional memory network, which, among others, also includes the confict between Palestine and Israel, the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, and various other events. In that sense, the mnemonic signifer ‘Holocaust’ is positioned at a juncture where different mnemonic signifeds meet. This view of memory links Zwerm with a number of theoretical concepts that have been developed over the last decade – all largely agreeing that the homogeneity of commemorating groups and the tangible manifestation of a territory-based concept of memory is outdated. Memory is, by contrast, increasingly understood in terms of semantic connectivity and spatial deterritorialization. Hirsch’s concept of connective memory engages with its internal functionalities, similar to Gabrielle Schwab’s notion of ‘haunting legacies’, in which memories are conceived of as ‘always already composites of dynamically interrelated and conficted histories’ (quoted in Hirsch 2012, 21), Rothberg’s concept of ‘multidirectional memory’ (2009) or Georg Feindt’s (and others’) notion of ‘entangled memory’ (2014). Each of those also conceives of cultural memory as transgressing the borders of national memory, an element made even more explicit in Andreas Huyssen’s concept of ‘memory without borders’ (Huyssen 2003, 4), ‘cosmopolitan memory’ and ‘memory unbound’ by Daniel Levy and Natan Sznaider (2002), Astrid Erll’s ‘travelling memory’ (2011), and Anna Reading’s already often mentioned ‘globital memory’ (2011). All of these theories track the breakdown of geographical or social confnes put upon cultural memory and express a resistance against the axiom ‘that a straight line runs from memory to identity and that the only kinds of memories and identities that are therefore possible are ones that exclude elements of alterity and forms of commonality with others’ (Rothberg 2009, 4–5). Zwerm shares this view of memory as an intangible, disembodied, and constantly changing fux, marked by plenitude, a dynamic interconnectedness between its individual constituents and a constant interaction

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with what lies beyond it. By referring to the virus, the swarm, or the cloud, the novel presents cultural memory as revoking boundaries and ideological rifts, and following its unpredictable paths through the world – be they virtual or not. These concepts then function as apt metaphors for the complex, non-human topologies of digital networks that speed up memory’s travels and which, so Levy and Sznaider, ‘facilitate a shared consciousness and cosmopolitan memories that span territorial and linguistic borders’ (2002, 91).

The Paradoxes of Memory on the Move A question that remains to be addressed in this analysis is how Zwerm relates to this concept of memory. Does it endorse, merely accept, or dismiss the view of memory as an intangible, disembodied, and constantly changing fux, marked by multitude, a dynamic interconnectedness between its individual constituents and a constant interaction with what lies beyond it? The answer to that question is rather ambiguous. First of all, I argue that Zwerm largely endorses this mnemonic concept of fux, because the novel, as a textbook case of literary postmodernism, places itself in the tradition of Derrida’s poststructuralist epistemology and its stress on the necessity of ‘play’. This positioning is evident from the novel’s diffuse form, its use of the swarm as leitmotif, the way it links various traumatic memories together in the text, and the negative image of the Foundation. This image serves both to criticize how this corporation does not allow World War II to be consigned to the past in this dystopian society, and – metaphorically – to illustrate the limits imposed by a center that restricts mnemonic play. The perspectives of Mister J/H’s alternative society, which champions multitude, permutation, and progress, seem to offer, by contrast, a far more attractive mnemonic culture. Here, memory’s moves are visualized like an ever-moving swarm of birds or bees, and its multitude implies that it is heterogeneous rather than homogeneous, plural rather than unilateral, multi-perspectival rather than normative, heteroglossic rather than monoglossic, and – to give it a political dimension – democratic rather than authoritarian. Furthermore, its contact with other memories in this process allows them to get connected, thereby precluding a zero-sum struggle for pre-eminence. The spatial coherence and the synergetic interconnectedness of the swarm’s constituents create an image of cultural memory as a fundamentally non-hierarchical event and, in ethical terms, as one that may facilitate a shared consciousness across national, cultural, or ethnic boundaries, and one in which trauma itself, as it intersects and interacts with other traumas, may provide the link between cultures, as Cathy Caruth suggests (1995, 11). At the same time, the novel hints not only at the diffusing and connective effect of memory on the move, but also at its confusing and possible detrimental implications. Just like the novel confronts the reader with an almost undecipherable plot and a teeming mass of information, Abel is engulfed

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by the sheer volume of information about his father on the internet. Rather than getting nearer to the object of his search, he fnds that the memory of his father dissolves into an ‘abstractie’ (Z 389, an abstraction), something ‘onbenoembaars’ (Z 389, ineffable), ‘geen man van vlees en bloed […] maar een wolk die boven het landschap hangt’ (Z 389, not a man of fesh and blood […] but a cloud hanging over the landscape). The metaphor of the ‘cloud’ in this passage expresses the status of globital memory quite aptly. As a widespread visual metaphor for the internet itself, the cloud fts the logic of memory’s constant shape-shifting dissemination that I have described above. As with the swarm, it embodies only form and lacks any kind of deeper essence – like a transcendental signifed – that may steer its movements. Yet the cloud can also be clouding. The absence of a reliable, unifying, and ‘grounding’ signifed may be deliberate, yet its fipside is mnemonic excess or what Andreas Huyssen refers to as a ‘hypertrophy of memory’ (2003, 3–4). The swarm may, in other words, also turn out to be a swamp. In this context, Zwerm also hints at the destabilizing effects of life in a ‘foundation-less’ society. To illustrate this, the narrator uses the fgure of the rhizome. In a scene that describes the aftermath of the collapse of the Silver-Colored Complex, the authorial narrator tells of someone who ‘struikelt over een van de dingen die in de loop van de nacht door het met rijp bestrooide gras zijn gedrongen’ (Z 665, trips over one of those things that pushed through the frosted grass during the night). A tramp, who fulflls in the novel a similar function to that of the chorus from Greek tragedy, comments: Er zullen dingen uit ons komen – ze duwen het vel omhoog en het duurt enkele uren voor ze zich erdoorheen hebben geboord. Er zullen resten van gebouwen kilometers ver van hun oorspronkelijke plek uit de grond komen, meegesleurd door een ondergrondse stroom’ (Z 665) Things will come out of us – they push against the skin and it takes several hours before they have pierced through it. Remainders of buildings will emerge from the ground miles away from their place of origin, dragged along by an undercurrent. The underground distribution of these things and their unsettling and random appearance, either through the skin or through the grass, are unmistakable references to Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s concept of the rhizome. In their view, the rhizome – a botanical term referring to a continuously growing horizontal underground stem that puts out lateral shoots and adventitious roots at intervals – mirrors the way in which culture (and the world at large) is organized as a non-hierarchic, unpredictably developing communicative organism in which knowledge rearranges itself

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continuously. It is marked by connection, heterogeneity, multitude, a lack of hierarchy, and a constant change of territory (1987, 3–25). In this scene, however, the rhizome is not only a reworking of the swarm metaphor. It also embodies a threat. These things not only endanger the physical integrity of the characters (‘Things will come out of us’), they also cause total bewilderment, blindness, and death. This is clear from the scene in which the person who tripped over one of the things, cuts his fnger when hitting it in anger: Hij knipt het verband los, kijkt naar de gekartelde wondranden, ontsmet de vinger en gaat naar de slaapkamer. Misschien, denkt hij, duurt het iets langer dan normaal voor het wondje is dichtgegroeid. [...] De man gaat op bed liggen. Tijdens zijn slaap gaan de pupillen onder zijn oogleden tekeer. Als hij wakker schiet kan hij niets meer zien. […] Hij ziet niet wat hij is geworden: een man die in een loggia aan de rand van de rivier naar adem snakt. Rondjes draaiend. Met open ogen. In de ban van een sneeuwstorm in zijn hoofd. Denkt: ik moet zo vlug mogelijk gaan liggen. Doet een stap in de richting van de sofa, maar vergist zich en loopt dwars door de glazen deur. Die komt niet op een kamer uit, maar op het water. (Z 653) He cuts the bandages, looks at the wound with its serrated edges, disinfects his fnger and goes to his bedroom. Maybe, he thinks, it will take a bit longer than usual for the wound to heal. [...] The man lies down on his bed. While he sleeps, his pupils move furiously behind his eyelids. When he wakes up, he is unable to see. […] He does not see what he has become: a man gasping for air in a loggia near the riverside. Turning in circles. With eyes wide open. Under the spell of a snowstorm in his head. Thinks: I have to lie down as soon as possible. Moves a step toward the sofa, misjudges and runs straight through a glass door. This door does open onto a room, but onto the water. I read this scene as an illustration of the confusion caused by the lack of foundation or stabilizing signifed in this new society. Rather than fnding its bearings on a controlling – but also reassuring – foundation, society becomes governed by the logic of the rhizome, in which the ‘ground’ is no longer a foundation but a place of unrest, out of which things come out in a random fashion. The effect of this change, according to the novel, is traumatizing. Just like with trauma, the character’s wound does not heal; confusion – in the form of a snowstorm – seizes his mind and leads to blindness and total perplexity. As a result, all security vanishes, the spatial environment becomes insecure, and some of the subjects in this post-foundational society helplessly tumble into the water, like Icarus fying too close to the Sun.

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In this passage, Zwerm sketches the ambiguities of the new Virutopian reality. While offering a positively connoted alternative to the tyranny of National Socialist doctrine (on the diegetic level), the Virutopian idea establishes a new foundational idea and repeats the mechanisms of violence and repression it seeks to counter. From an allegorical point of view, while showing the necessity and the liberating effects of removing the epistemological concept of the foundation or ‘center’, the novel hints at its disruptive and – with regard to memory – clouding effects. But is there a way back? Or do we have to ‘Accept the VIRUS’, as the manifesto decrees? In both form and content, Zwerm certainly endorses the liberating perspectives of a foundation-free memory on the move, yet it also alerts us to its possible fipside: mnemonic mobility and hypertrophy as conditions of a ‘memory culture of amnesia, anesthesia, numbing’ (Huyssen 2003, 17) – one that obscures, rather than reveals how the past keeps a frm and ominous grip on the present.

Notes 1 All references to the novel are from Peter Verhelst, Zwerm. Geschiedenis van de Wereld (Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij, 2005) and are abbreviated as ‘ZW’. The English translations are mine and all emphases in the Dutch quotations – either in the form of italics or capitals – are from the original, unless indicated otherwise. 2 Bart Vervaeck argues that the novel crosses ‘the boundary of paraphrasability’ (2011, 1087). Many critics have complained that Zwerm is too hermetic. For a discussion of this critique, see Vervaeck 2010, 5–6. While pointing at the diffculties to paraphrase, Vervaeck himself offers one of the most comprehensive efforts at deducting a story from the novel’s complex plot structure. See Vervaeck 2010, 2–4. 3 For an insightful categorization of Zwerm within Flemish literary postmodernism, see Vervaeck 2011. Hans Bertens and Theo D’haen differentiate between four kinds of literary postmodernism: existentialist postmodernism, which mainly problematizes identity and language; an avant-gardist variant, containing mostly the op- and pop-art of the sixties; an aesthetic variant, in which internal and technical literary play is at stake; and a poststructuralist variant, which actively deploys poststructuralist theories and concepts (see Bertens and D’haen 1988, 7–8). Although Zwerm includes elements of all four variants, its adaptation of poststructuralism in its political and poetic dimensions governs its postmodern character. 4 The Foundation in Zwerm resembles a number of historical corporate foundations that funded the American eugenics movement, such as the Carnegie Institution, the Rockefeller Foundation, and several Harriman railroad companies. For a history of eugenics in the United States and its links to Nazism, see Kühl 2002. ‘The Foundation’ also acts as a typical trope of popular culture, in which corporations are depicted as relentlessly chasing fnancial gain, political power, and social control. For a discussion of this trope, see Allan 2016. 5 Josef Mengele (1911–1979) was a German SS offcer and physician in the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. He was notorious for the selection of victims to be killed in the gas chambers and for performing unscientifc and often lethal human experiments on prisoners. After the war, he fed to South America, where he evaded capture for the rest of his life. For more information regarding Josef Mengele, see Lifton 1986.

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6 Besides Mister J/H, several other characters in Zwerm suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or a melancholic longing for an ideal or pre-traumatic past. Angel, one of the novel’s central characters in the resistance against the Foundation, is haunted by traumatic memories of the Vietnam War, where he experienced the extinction of the village My Lai on 16 March 1968. ‘Ik heb dingen gezien’ (Z 656, I have seen things), he claims, followed shortly afterwards by: ‘Ik ben die dingen blijven zien’ (Z 650, I kept seeing these things). His experience of the present is, in other words, constantly punctured by the return of the past. The same goes for the character Kimpoek, whose name echoes that of Phan Thị Kim Phúc, the naked Vietnamese girl from Trang Bang depicted in Nick Ut’s famous photograph of the Vietnam War. She knows that her life boils down to ‘[é]én lange oefening in vergeten’ (Z 102, one long exercise in forgetting), but she is caught up in a melancholic entanglement with her past that prevents her from working through trauma. 7 I have bracketed the page numbers that refer to the Virutopian manifesto, because the page numbers have been omitted in this part of the book. The numbering, however, continues regardless of this omission. 8 Quoted in Agamben 1998, 147. This treatise explicitly thematizes the politicization of biological life. Von Verschuer received a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) to execute eugenic research at the concentration camps – research that was then conducted by Josef Mengele, Von Verschuer’s best-known assistant. Von Verschuer also appears in Zwerm as one of the protégés of the Foundation. 9 My discussion of the generic elements of the manifesto is based on Puchner 2002. 10 See, for example, Van Dam 2015 and Vervaeck 2010. 11 For an elaborate discussion of this aspect of the novel, see Vervaeck 2010. 12 At this point, my reading of Zwerm differs from Bart Vervaeck’s ethically inspired interpretation of the virus as the instance of historical trauma that has to be integrated in order to be worked through (see Vervaeck 2011). Vervaeck bases his argumentation on Frank Ankersmit’s idea of the necessary introjection of traumatic experiences into the self’s identity in order to prevent them from roaming the present. According to Ankersmit, the Holocaust concerns a particular kind of traumatic event, since ‘it cannot be neutralized by a refusal to let it be part of the traumatized subject’s identity’ (2005, 18). True, it is claimed that the virus changes mankind in a positive way, but the novel at no point links it with the notion of trauma. The Virutopian manifesto’s rhetorical and ideological ambiguities, moreover, obviously work against such a wholesome reading, and the plot development suggests a horrifc repetition of the past, rather than a working through of it. The ‘systematic’ character of Mister J/H’s methods, as hinted at before by the Foundation’s representative, is an unmistakable reference to the administered and genocidal character of the Holocaust. VIRUTOPIA, meant to constitute a radical alternative to National Socialism, wears the marks of its opposite. 13 Compare the phrase ‘Welcome to the desert of the real’, delivered by the character Morpheus in The Matrix, directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski (USA: Warner Brothers, 1999).

References Agamben, Giorgio. 1998. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Stanford: Stanford UP.

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Allan, Angela. 2016. ‘How the “Evil Corporation” Became a Pop-Culture Trope’. The Atlantic, April 25, 2016. www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/04/ evil-corporation-trope/479295/. Ankersmit, Frank. 2005. Sublime Historical Experience. Stanford: Stanford UP. Baccolini, Raffaella, and Thomas Moylan. 2003. ‘Introduction: Dystopia and Histories’. In Dark Horizons: Science Fiction and the Dystopian Imagination, edited by Raffaella Baccolini and Thomas Moylan, 1–12. New York/London: Routledge. Bertens, Hans, and Theo D’haen. 1988. Het postmodernisme in de literatuur. Amsterdam: De Arbeiderspers. Caruth, Cathy. 1995. ‘Trauma and Experience: Introduction’. In Trauma: Explorations in Memory, edited by Cathy Caruth, 3–12. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP. Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. 1987. Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: Minnesota UP. Derrida, Jacques. 2005. Writing and Difference. Translated by Alan Bass. London/ New York: Routledge. Erll, Astrid. 2011. ‘Travelling Memory’. Parallax 17 (4): 4–18. Feindt, Gregor, Félix Krawatzek, Daniela Mehler, Friedemann Pestel, and Rieke Trimçev. 2014. ‘Entangled Memory: Toward a Third Wave in Memory Studies’. History and Theory 53: 24–44. Hirsch, Marianne. 2012. The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture after the Holocaust. New York: Columbia UP. Hoskins, Andrew. 2014. ‘The Mediatization of Memory’. In Mediatization of Communication, edited by Knut Lundby, 661–679. Berlin: De Gruyter. Huyssen, Andreas. 2003. Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory. Stanford: Stanford UP. Kühl, Stefan. 2002. The Nazi Connection: Eugenics, American Racism, and German National Socialism. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press. LaCapra, Dominick. 2001. Writing History, Writing Trauma. Baltimore/London: Johns Hopkins UP. Levy, Daniel, and Natan Sznaider. 2002. ‘Memory Unbound: The Holocaust and the Formation of Cosmopolitan Memory’. European Journal of Social Theory 5 (1): 87–106. Lifton, Robert Jay. 1986. The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide. New York: Basic Books. Lyotard, Jean-Francois. 1984. The Postmodern Condition. Translated by Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi. Theory and History of Literature. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/book s/the-postmodern-condition. Puchner, Martin. 2002. ‘Manifesto = Theatre’. Theatre Journal 54 (3): 449–465. Reading, Anna. 2009. ‘Memobilia: The Mobile Phone and the Emergence of Wearable Memories’. In Save As… Digital Memories, edited by Joann Garde-Hansen, Andrew Hoskins, and Anna Reading, 81–95. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ———. 2011. ‘Globalisation and Digital Memory: Globital Memory’s Six Dynamics’. In On Media Memory: Collective Memory in a New Media Age, edited by Motti Neiger, Oren Meyers, and Eyal Zandberg, 241–252. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

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Rothberg, Michael. 2009. Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization. Stanford: Stanford UP. Van Dam, Beatrix. 2015. Geschichte und Literatur: Historisches Erzählen in niederländischer und deutscher Literatur des 21. Jahrhunderts. Berlin: De Gruyter. Verhelst, Peter. 2005. Zwerm: Geschiedenis van de Wereld. Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij. Vervaeck, Bart. 2010. ‘Peter Verhelst: Zwerm’. In Kritisch Lexicon van Literaire Werken, edited by A.G.H. Anbeek van der Meijden, Jaap Goedegebuure, and Marcel Janssens, 1–15. Groningen: Martinus Nijhoff. ———. 2011. ‘In Search of a Critical Form: Postmodern Fiction in Flanders’. Modern Language Review 106 (4): 1073–1090.

Part III

The Play with Memory

The third part of this book deals with a feature of meta-memory that recurs in all of the novels discussed in this book, i.e. ‘play’. As I have indicated in my general introduction, the notion of play involves a search for or the expression of an autonomous way of dealing with the past of World War II. This (striving for) autonomy is linked to the authors’ temporal and generational distance to the historical events and entails a self-conscious urge to fnd a strictly personal relation to this memory – one in which imaginative investment in the use of history and literary form play a major role. In my introduction, I pointed out that fctions of meta-memory are explicitly marked by the idea that memory is mediated, and that history is generally conceived of as a story. This idea appears frst of all in the form of literary references to material carriers by means of which information about the past is transferred to the present. This happens most often by staging the confrontation of characters from the post-witness generations with the past of World War II through letters, diaries, photographs, recordings, works of art, and others. Such references serve to remind the reader that the past is available only in a mediatized form, stressing the limited nature of its access. The second feature is the attention for the attribution of meaning to these forms. Characters persistently struggle to fully understand and interpret these media by lack of knowledge of the past and because of the unsatisfactory explanations that surround them. In cases where these media stem from a history of perpetration, such incomprehension incites a quest for knowledge and historical truth. In those of victimhood, we see the descendants’ postmnemonic need to fll the spaces left by the silence of the traumatized through ‘imaginative investment, creation, and projection’ (Hirsch 2012, 5). In ways similar to those motivations in respectively the Väterliteratur and fctions that thematize postmemory, there is a strong urge to make sense of the past. While such conceptual similarities can surely be found between fctions dealing with postmemory and fctions of meta-memory, I believe that the latter type puts quite a bit more stress on creative appropriation of the past and its memories, than on the search for historical insight. As I aim to show in my analyses, rather than focusing on questions of truth and transparency,

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fctions of meta-memory display a strong urge for ways of dealing with the past that defy established mnemonic routines and practices – not just with regard to social decorum on how to approach the past but also with regard to literary form. On the diegetic level, we often fnd characters that aim to create their own version of it; on the poetic level, fctions of meta-memory aim for a playful resignifcation of mnemonic traces and for an enhanced investment in literary form. In the analyses in the third part of this book, I will focus predominantly on this poetic, rather than indexical, dimension, which has been central to the frst two parts of this study. To understand the notion of playfulness, Paul Ricoeur’s three-level mimesis model is helpful. In this model, Ricoeur differentiates between three levels of presentation, which he defnes as mimesis I, II, and III. For him, the literary ‘evocation of the world’ is based on dynamical processes of transformation: the interaction between the text’s prefguration, i.e. the prior extratextual reality it relates to (mimesis I), its constructive confguration into a fction (mimesis II), and its hermeneutic refguration by the reader (mimesis III). From that perspective, the literary dealing with the ‘world’ is presented as an active, constructive process in which cultural systems of signifcation, literary mechanisms, and practices of reception are simultaneously at work – not just to refect reality, but to create them poetically, and then to iconically enrich them. The symbolical orders of the extratextual reality and that of the newly evoked world in the medium of fction are in this way caught up in a relation of mutual infuence and transformation. In fctions of meta-memory about World War II, this process of mutual infuence and transformation takes the form of a playful process of repetition and revision. The notion of ‘repetition’ refers to the texts’ evocation or recycling of the prefgurative content of past events – a content that comes to us only through mediation. ‘Revision’ involves the transformative, fctional confguration or ‘remediatization’ of that prefgurative content.1 My use of the term ‘revision’ signals that this confguration involves an active renegotiation of the past through an open-ended play with formal devices and narrative artifce. This transformative confguration can serve as a purely poetic statement, yet in most cases, it also has an indexical function, as it aims to unsettle established ways of dealing with the past. To conceptualize and understand the function and critical potential of the process of repetition and revision of World War II memory in fctions of meta-memory, it is useful to look at the notion of ‘play’ in poststructuralist thinking. In his essay ‘Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences’ (1967), Jacques Derrida defnes ‘play’ as something inherent to each type of structure, as a crucial element in the organization of its coherence and in the relation between the elements in the structure’s total form. Derrida favors this notion of ‘play’ in his essay and critically remarks that this play is neutralized or closed off by a process of giving the structure ‘a center or of referring it to a point of presence, a fxed origin’ (Derrida 2005, 352). This center, Derrida continues, is ‘the point at which

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the substitution of contents, elements, or terms is no longer possible. At the center, the permutation or the transformation of elements […] is forbidden [or] interdicted’ (ibid., emphasis in original). He refers to this center as ‘a full presence which is beyond play’ and that is built on the notions of ontological ‘Being and truth’ (2005, 353–354). Derrida critiques such notion of a center and of its function as a ‘transcendental signifed’ (2005, 354) in favor of understanding structure as primarily governed by the play of signifcation (‘the abandonment of all reference to a center, to a subject, to a privileged reference, to an origin, or to an absolute archia’ (2005, 361)). I consider the logic behind Derrida’s critique as instructive for understanding how fctions of meta-memory relate to the historical prefgurations they engage with. Just as Derrida aims to demonstrate the absence of a privileged center that stipulates the form of the structure and the limits of its play, contemporary novelists seek to decouple the construction of memory from two elements that conventionally regulate this process: the events of the past (Ricoeur’s notion of prefguration or Derrida’s notion of ‘Being’) and the mnemonic technologies and agents that promise us historical ‘truth’: the archive (which contains and preserves the facts) and the frst-hand witnesses to the events (with their experience of historical ‘Being’ as the supposedly necessary condition of that truth). The arguments to defend this ‘center’ mostly focus on notions of ‘historical correctness’ (what can/should be said, or what Andreas Huyssen calls ‘the orthodoxy of historical accuracy’ (2003, 19)) as well as on the forms used to represent the past (how it should be represented, a discussion governed by questions about the ethics of memory and the limits of representation). As a result of this mnemonic decoupling from the prefguration and from the media that have shaped it, references to the past are treated as what Gregor Feindt and others call ‘mnemonic signifers’ (2014, 31). Analogous to Ferdinand de Saussure’s model of the sign, which stresses the arbitrary relation between signifer and signifed, such references are not considered to establish a direct and transparent link with the past. Based on the understanding of the past as a discursive, mediated construct, collective memory is approached as a collection of material, semiotic objectifcations. Under such a form, references gain independence from the particular temporal and spatial context in which they have been used before, are transferred into a new (con)text, and subjected to a process of resignifcation. To use Derrida’s terms, their ‘permutation or [the] transformation’ is no longer interdicted by the conventions of historical authenticity or by established, canonized signifeds. It becomes the very essence of the semantic dynamics behind the novels’ engagement with memory. Put more simply, fctions of meta-memory play with the meanings of mnemonic signifers. Arguably, the process of resignifcation is intrinsic to dealing with the past in a narrative form and is, hence, no less relevant in any other fction of memory. However, as I have suggested above, in the process of repetition and revision, fctions of meta-memory put a particular weight on the

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moment of revision and on the semantic differentiation that takes place in that process. More than seeking historical proximity and insight by recycling mnemonic signifers, these fctions demonstrate a desire to divert from established signifeds. They stress the act of the present creation of meaning, rather than offering a window on the past through historical referencing. Such playful differentiation does not necessarily imply the erasure of previous signifeds or the denial of past events and experiences. In resignifying mnemonic signifers, so I suggest, fctions of meta-memory confrm the signifcance of earlier versions of memory and their meanings while affrming the need and potential of their fctional revision. To conceptualize this dual structure of resignifcation, I fnd Renate Lachmann’s notion of the palimpsestic structure of meaning and Linda Hutcheon’s views of irony useful. Lachmann conceives of intertextuality as the process in which the constitution of meaning comes about through the palimpsestic collusion of two different contexts: that of the referring text (which she calls ‘Zweitschrift’) and that of the invoked text (‘Erstschrift’) that at all points remains readable through the referring text.2 In our case, the Zweitschrift is the fctional text that quotes or refers the Erstschrift (mnemonic signifers) of World War II. Through this transposition and integration, the original signifed of the Erstschrift is repeated but instantly subjected to a self-conscious process of resignifcation. Because of that, this palimpsestic constitution of meaning is inherently ironic in structure. For Hutcheon, irony is ‘relational, inclusive and differential’ (1994, 58), with an asymmetrical relation between both signifeds in favor of the differential. It is exactly in this asymmetrical way that mnemonic signifers are resignifed in fctions of meta-memory. They are repeated and included while being confgured, revised, and differentiated. This play with signifcation is, however, more than just an innocent game. It partakes in the politics of memory that marks the continuing postwar renegotiation of the meaning of World War II. ‘Irony removes the security that words mean only what they say’, so Hutcheon claims (Hutcheon 1994, 14). The same goes for the culturally established signifeds that fctions of meta-memory produce through ironic resignifcation. By integrating and appropriating mnemonic signifers (historical references, names, texts, etc.) into their fctional fabric, these novels signal two crucial political statements. First, they aim to challenge or trouble conventional meanings and the practices that underlie their constitution. In signaling the need to rethink their status, fctions of meta-memory encourage readers to engage in what Ricoeur calls its ‘refguration’ (Mimesis III) and to activate a process of mnemonic renegotiation in which matters of historical, ethical, and political nature are addressed. Second, such playful dealing with the mnemonic signifers functions to express artistic ownership over the past. This claim on the memory of World War II was expressed most aptly by the German author Julia Franck in 2009:

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Wer kann erzählen, wer will sich erinnern, wer möchte seine Stimme erheben […], wem gehört eine Geschichte? […] Wer kann, wer darf, wer muss – und wer erteilt wem ein Verbot? (2009, 21) Who is able to narrate, who wants to remember, who would like to raise her voice […] who does history belong to […] Who can, who is allowed to, who has to – and who issues a prohibition on whom? Franck’s questions articulate a frm resistance against the indictment that only those who witnessed the events of the past have the authority to speak about them. Expressing a refusal to accept this authority and any form of mnemonic prohibition, Franck asserts the authority of post-witness generations not only to remember and narrate this history, but also to own it, i.e. to appropriate it and make it their own. How this play of repetition and revision manifests itself concretely in the individual novels varies greatly and depends on matters of genre and form. It ranges from rather faithful inclusions of material media and signifers, over ironic rewriting, to radical resignifcations in counterfactual narrations such as Christoph Ransmayr’s Morbus Kitahara (1995), Peter Verhelst’s Zwerm (2005), or Andy Fierens and Michael Brijs’s Astronaut van Oranje (2013).3 In the following, I will discuss a number of techniques where I see this meta-mnemonic playfulness at work in contemporary fctions of meta-memory. The most visible form in which novels show the desire, as well as the ability, to appropriate the past and the media through which it is transferred is situated on the level of plot and narration. Here, characters are unexpectedly confronted with such media. The inadequate explanations spark a search for knowledge, but the inability to constitute truth value eventually leads to a highly personal, idiosyncratic way of dealing with it. A telling example is Per Leo’s 2014 autofctional novel Flut und Boden: Roman einer Familie (2014), in which the protagonist’s historic mission is quickly replaced by a search for a personal relationship to the past and an ironic rewriting of the media through which it is communicated to him. Rather than pursuing factual truth, he seeks – in Hayden White’s terms – ‘what the truth means to living people’ (White 2010, xi, emphasis in original). With the help of its textualized remains, the past is perceived and revised according to the parameters of present needs, purposes, and attitudes. The effect of this revision is equally highly diverse. While some novels maintain a close relation to the staged media, others divert widely from them. In Erwin Mortier’s Marcel (1999), for example, we witness a rereading of an NS-soldier’s letter in an effort to reconsider previous conceptions of his perpetrator identity and to search for transgenerational empathy. In Leo’s Flut und Boden, the effect of revision is highly satirical and serves to denunciate the NS-past. Yet, more crucial to the act of meta-mnemonic play

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is how these revisions are rendered on the poetic level. In both novels, the appropriation of the textualized remains of the past serves as a resistance against ossifed mnemonic practices and leads to the implementation of a playful, literary form, marked by irony, heteroglossia, and poetics, which expresses differentiation and mnemonic detachment. In other novels, this mnemonic detachment is fully exploited in their literary play with memory. We fnd this, frst of all, under the form of formal experimentation in narrating about the past, as for example in Kevin Vennemann’s Nahe Jedenew (2005) and Mara Kogoj (2007), Jenny Erpenbeck’s Heimsuchung (2008) and Aller Tage Abend (2012), or in experimental historical novels such as Peter Verhelst’s Zwerm (2005) or Peter Verhaeghen’s Omega Minor (2004). For these authors, narrating (about) the past is not about cognitive transparency and historical insight, but about the differentiation from narrative modes that promise exactly that. Techniques such as narrative fragmentation, multiple points of view, stream-of-consciousness, or incoherent plots serve to indicate that collective memory cannot be approached as a homogenous and comprehensible, but only as a disseminating collection of mediated traces, whose meanings remain unfxed at all times. This logic applies to the prominent use of stylistic ornamentation or ‘poetics’ as well. As the imaginative takes on the function of a shaping, performative force in dealing with the past, the medium onto which it is grafted equally becomes exempt from its duty to grant or guarantee transparency. Such exemption is not just a matter of foregrounding the poetic function of language in the Jakobsonian sense of the word, but of staging a friction between form and content. While the narration of historical themes conventionally leans on the premises of transparency and preciseness, the use of poetics upsets such conventions and underscores the formal autonomy as well as the illusion of historical cognition. While demonstrating the limitations of our knowledge of the past, novels exploiting this literariness are primarily interested in the opportunities that the mediated form of memory makes available for their literary engagement with it. If cognitive transparency and historical truth are precluded, so they assume, all becomes possible in the play of repetition and revision. In its most extreme form, this leads to counterfactual narration (see above) or the use of radical anachronisms, such as the naming of protagonists after those of fgures from the history of Flemish-Nationalist collaboration in the science fction satire Astronaut van Oranje (2013) by the Flemish authors Andy Fierens and Michael Brijs. Most frequently, such appropriation of the past takes place in the form of an intermingling of historical fact and fction. With this, I mean the simultaneous and overt presence of historical referencing and fctional invention in one and the same text, as for example in Marcel Beyer’s novel Flughunde (1995). Its setting and plot are grafted onto the historical events surrounding the Goebbels family and fctional elements appear as an imaginative embellishment of the past. Yet, such intermingling is quite different from

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the poetics of the traditional historical novel or from narratives of postmemory in which, as Hirsch suggests, ‘imaginative investment, projection, and creation’ (2012, 5) play a major role. In fctions of meta-memory, the imaginative element does not serve as a supplement to create what Gérard Genette terms ‘a mimetic illusion’ (1983, 145) with the purpose of speculatively feshing out the circumstances of the past. The intermingling serves rather as a self-referential comment on the mediated status of memory and the equivalent status of fction and historiography in the narration and construction of the past. If historical truth no longer determines the horizon of our historical interest, so the logic goes, all kinds of textual means can serve to construct the past. By intermingling fact and fction, fctions of meta-memory challenge the traditional division between historiography as a source of historical truth and fction as a mode of imaginative speculation. This cultivation is most poignantly expressed through the riffng on the German notion of ‘Geschichte’, which in English signifes both ‘history’ and ‘story’ in Vennemann’s Nahe Jedenew. At some point in the novel, the protagonist talks about one of her father’s supposedly true stories, yet it might as well be concocted: ‘After we discover the story in a book in Father’s library, we’re uncertain for a long time whether Father is indeed making it up’ (CJ 117). The protagonist does not experience this ambiguity as a problem, but willingly accepts it as one story within a large collection of narratives of their family life: ‘that this story that he pilfers from here and there and devises as his is now, for us, his story, just as everything else around us is only a story that can just as well be an invention as Father’s’, CJ 90–91). The protagonist’s acceptance of this generic indeterminacy functions as a self-referential comment on the relationship between fact and fction. Just as she has no choice but to accept the factual insecurity that marks her father’s story (‘we have no other choice’, CJ 91), Vennemann – as someone who did not experience or witness World War II – shapes his account according to the conditions of this insecurity. For him too, the past is made up of a multitude of stories whose historical truth value is diffcult to gauge. Whether they assume the form of historiography or fction, all are linguistic constructs that derive their legitimacy in speaking about the past not from objective truth but from verisimilitude. In that sense, they are ‘Geschichten’, in which the epistemological categories of truth and imagination coincide, and Nahe Jedenew exploits this coincidence by simultaneously evoking historical events and undermining its own historiographical ambitions. Yet, this parallel status does not automatically mean that they are equal. Since fctions of meta-memory persistently accentuate the element of revision in the process of mnemonic signifcation, the fctional gains ground over the referential in the construction of the past. While referentiality functioned as the narrative’s ‘shaping force’ in the traditional historical novel (Hutcheon 1988, 113), then fctional invention and the literary artifces that partake in that playful revision take over. The mimetic illusion created

156 The Play with Memory through reference is approached as an illusion and willfully resignifed in a narrative framework that acts only according to its own fctional logic. In doing so, novelists claim ownership over the past, in the way hinted at by Julia Franck. In discussing the way some fctions of meta-memory mimic the historical novel while diverting from it, I have come to the last feature that I consider to be typical of fctions of meta-memory, i.e. parody. Since fctions of metamemory display such intense awareness of the mediated nature of memory, it should come as no surprise that they also play with the artistic forms through which this memory has been shaped before. As Linda Hutcheon has shown repeatedly, parody is a form of ‘inter-art discourse’ (1985, 2) in which the parodying text repeats and revises the parodied text ‘with a variety of tones and moods – from respectful to playful to scathingly critical’ (1985, xii). Similar to the ironic structure at work in the playful resignifcation of mnemonic signifers, fctions of meta-memory uphold a duality of inclusion and differentiation in relation to these forms. Many novels use parody to challenge forms that promise cognitive insight and transparency of the past. The way in which Beyer, Vennemann, and others use the historical novel is a clear example of such parody. While moving back in time and posing like a historical tale, they riff upon the genre conventions of the historical novel. Techniques such as internal focalization and camera-eye perspective function in that regard as means to promise readers insight into the events of the past and in the minds of the people involved at that time. However, by intermingling fact with fction and including selfreferential comments about media and the insecure status of factual truth, they undermine the very project of historical comprehension and transparency. In that sense, the use of multiple points of view, unreliable narration, irony, and formal experimentation which I have discussed above equally ft in with this parodic intent. They show collective memory not to be a unifed, monoglossic collective narrative, but a collection of ‘petits-récits’ (Lyotard) that can be told in different voices and different stories. Other fctions of meta-memory parody specifc works. In Grote Europese roman, Koen Peeters mimics Primo Levi’s The Periodic System from 1987 by dividing his novel into small chapters named after European capitals where war memory remains unremittingly present. Peeters’s parody is reverent to Levi’s book, yet the latter’s notion of system dissolves because of the multitude of traces that collective memory is made of. Grunberg’s satirical novel De joodse messias (2004) parodies Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, as it embodies its rewriting from a Jewish perspective. In the latter case, the parodic intent is not to value that work, but to raise questions about its credibility and to heed for historical naiveté. Invoking such texts through parody serves to raise questions relating to contemporary political and ethical matters, yet they also mark a distinctive artistic self-positioning in engaging the memory of World War II. By parodying these works, fctions of meta-memory do not only make us aware of the canonized forms in which

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memory is transmitted to us; they also demonstrate how these forms continue to be up for artistic renegotiation. Indeed, the play with memory in Flut und Boden, Astronaut van Oranje, and Nahe Jedenew and the other novels discussed in this study, does not mean that these novels engage in a revisionist rewriting of history. These fctional refgurations of the archive certainly do not aim to violate the principles of historical verifability. What is at stake is their questioning of the value of historical reference and historical truth for their very own construction of memory and the implication that these elements do not function as normative centers that are ‘beyond play’ (Derrida 2005, 353). By distancing themselves from these normative centers, they establish what I call a ‘mnemonic free space’ for themselves; a space in which the construction and the negotiation of World War II memory are no longer governed by incentives connected to the past itself, but by rules and choices of those who remember and reconstruct this past today. It is within this space that the self-conscious play with memory – in content and in form – is fully deployed. ‘Wem gehört die Geschichte?’ (To whom does history belong?), Julia Franck asks provocatively. In my analyses, I aim to demonstrate that the novels of Leo, Fierens, and Brijs, and Vennemann establish, each in their own specifc way, this mnemonic free space and that they point towards themselves to answer Franck’s question.

Notes 1 For a discussion of the concepts of ‘mediation’ and ‘remediation’, see Bolter and Grusin 1999; Grusin 2004; Erll and Rigney 2009. 2 ‘die Zweitschrift, durch die hindurch die Erstschrift lesbar ist, [interpretiert] die Sinnkonstitution eines Textes, in dem Zeichen zweier Kontexte aufeinander treffen’ (Lachmann 1990, 59). 3 For an insightful discussion of counterfactual narration, see Widmann 2009.

References Bolter, Jay David, and Richard Grusin. 1999. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge: MIT Press. Derrida, Jacques. 2005. Writing and Difference. Translated by Alan Bass. London/ New York: Routledge. Erll, Astrid, and Ann Rigney. 2009. ‘Introduction: Cultural Memory and Its Dynamics’. In Mediation, Remediation, and the Dynamics of Cultural Memory, edited by Astrid Erll and Ann Rigney, 1–11. New York: Walter de Gruyter. Feindt, Gregor, Félix Krawatzek, Daniela Mehler, Friedemann Pestel, and Rieke Trimçev. 2014. ‘Entangled Memory: Toward a Third Wave in Memory Studies’. History and Theory 53: 24–44. Franck, Julia. 2009. ‘Die Überwindung der Grenze liegt im Erzählen’. In Grenzübergänge: Autoren aus Ost und West erinnern sich, edited by Julia Franck, 9–22. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer.

158 The Play with Memory Genette, Gérard. 1983. Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method. Translated by Jane E. Lewin. Ithaca: Cornell UP. Grusin, Richard. 2004. ‘Premediation’ Criticism 46 (1): 17–39. Hirsch, Marianne. 2012. The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture after the Holocaust. New York: Columbia UP. Hutcheon, Linda. 1985. A Theory of Parody: The Teachings of Twentieth-Century Art Forms. Chicago: University of Illinois Press. ———. 1988. A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction. New York: Routledge. ———. 1994. Irony’s Edge. London/New York: Routledge. Huyssen, Andreas. 2003. Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory. Stanford: Stanford UP. Lachmann, Renate. 1990. Gedächtnis Und Literatur: Intertextualität in Der Russischen Moderne. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. White, Hayden. 2010. The Fiction of Narrative: Essays on History, Literature, and Theory, 1957–2007. Edited by Robert Doran. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP. Widmann, Andreas Martin. 2009. Kontrafaktische Geschichtsdarstellung: Untersuchungen an Romanen von Günter Grass, Thomas Pynchon, Thomas Brussig, Michael Kleeberg, Philip Roth Und Christoph Ransmayr. Heidelberg: Winter.

7

‘Irgendwo zwischen Müllverbrennungsanlage und dem bleistiftförmigen Fallturm der Universität’ Personal Memory and Autofction in Per Leo’s Flut und Boden (2014)

Flut und Boden: Roman einer Familie (2014) by the German writer and historian Per Leo offers an account of the author’s private investigations into the war past of his grandfather, Friedrich Leo.1 During the war he had been an SS-Obersturmbannführer, appointed as Division Commander at the ‘Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt’ (FB 161) in Berlin and responsible for assessing the ‘Eindeutschungsfähigkeit’ (FB 322, Germanization potential) of communities bordering Germany. At the end of the war, Friedrich Leo was arrested and interned in an American prison camp, but he managed to escape and return to his hometown of Vegesack, near Bremen, where he lived discrete[y]until his death in 1993. Like Erwin Mortier’s Marcel, discussed in Chapter 2, Flut und Boden is a mnemonic Bildungsroman, narrated in the autodiegetic mode: an older narrator tells the story of his younger self and how he evolves from a passive and uninvolved relation to the legacy of Nazism in his family history to an active negotiation of it. This development is initiated when, during a visit to his grandmother in January 1995, she unexpectedly grants him access to the library of her deceased husband, which is flled with National Socialist literature: ‘Nimm dir, was du willst, sagte sie noch’ (FB 23, Take whatever you want, she said). Friedrich’s SS membership, we learn, had not been a secret, but hardly any of the protagonist’s family members had publicly addressed the issue, and the narrator, in a similar fashion, maintained an ambiguous relation toward it: ‘Natürlich wusste ich, dass Großvater ein Nazi gewesen war. Und ich wusste es nicht. Warum hatte mich das nie interessiert?’ (FB 23, Of course I knew that grandfather had been a Nazi. And I did not know it. Why had it never interested me?). With access to the books, the protagonist recognizes that this ‘gift’ forces him to engage with his grandfather’s legacy. Because of its autodiegetic structure, the novel works on two levels. First, on the diegetic level (its indexical thrust), we follow the story of the protagonist’s search for a way to relate to his family past. This search involves, among other things, his decision to engage with his family’s war history,

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his perusal of archive material, his interviewing family members, and an acquisition of insight into how this past affects him personally. Secondly, there is the extra-diegetic, narrative dimension (the poetic thrust of its meta-mnemonic approach), i.e. how the narrator – the older version of the protagonist – presents the story to the reader. Both levels are closely intertwined: while the narrator determines the tone and description of his mnemonic quest, the quest itself determines the shape of the narration. In my analysis, I will argue that this shape is directly linked to the protagonist’s search for a narrative form by means of which he can relate to and about the past. Rather than being solely intent on fnding factual truth, the protagonist expresses a desire for what – in the words of Hayden White – ‘the truth means for living people’ (White 2010, xi, emphasis in original), in this case for the protagonist as a present-day subject. This is clear from the fact that, during his search for historical knowledge about his family history, he is more interested in the form of its mediation than in its content. He develops a particular fondness for emplotment and personal involvement in the narrations he encounters, rather than for the bare facts of history, and this will eventually lead him to embrace the vivid narrations of his oldest uncle as access points to a past he did not experience. Furthermore, I suggest that this type of narration functions as the guiding principle for his own narrative project. My reading of Flut und Boden will proceed in three steps. First, I will analyze two metaphors in the novel that serve as extreme poles in the protagonist’s dealing with the past of his grandfather: the university and the incinerator. While the frst stands for the archiving of data and the scholarly study of historical material (the act of ‘objective’ remembering), the incinerator represents its indiscriminate obliteration (the ‘objective’ forgetting). The narrator presents both approaches as necessary steps in his handling of the past, yet they function only as starting points. In the second part, I will focus on how the protagonist learns to understand what enables him to relate to his grandfather’s past – and to his family history in general – in a personal way. For that, I will explore the protagonist’s encounters with the narrations of Ulrich Herbert, professor of history at the University of Freiburg, and of his oldest uncle. In their narrations about World War II, the protagonist acknowledges the value of emplotment and personal involvement. Based on these fndings, I will – in a third step – bring the protagonist’s goal to fnd personal access to the past in direct relation with Flut und Boden’s narrative shape. More specifcally, I aim to show that the text embodies a form of history writing that aims to establish and express the protagonist-narrator’s personal relation to his family past. While offering an elaborate historical account of this past – replete with factual details and historical descriptions – the narrative itself is marked by a highly subjective tone, a complex emplotment, an outspoken imaginative investment, and a poetic style. The vivid and personal mediation of historical knowledge is,

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in other words, made possible through literary form. From that perspective, the author’s choice for the genre of autofction is crucial, as it enables the interconnection between the historical and the fctional. Furthermore, I see the protagonist’s fnding of both this access (on the diegetic level) and its narrative construction as expressions of what Hayden White terms ‘selfmaking’ or autopoiesis in Niklas Luhmann’s terms (see White 2010, xi). Flut und Boden is, indeed, a mnemonic Bildungsroman that presents the protagonist’s mnemonic emancipation from his grandfather’s haunting legacy and the formation of an autonomous identity through the construction of his very own, vivid version of history.

Hysterical Text: The Struggle with the NS Legacy When the protagonist’s grandmother unexpectedly grants him access to his grandfather’s NS tracts, he responds in a highly emotional and panicky way: Wie in einem dieser Filme, in denen ein Schatz in genau den Augenblick gefunden wird, in dem die ihn bergende Höhle sich mit Wasser füllt, raffte ich den gesamten Inhalt des Giftschranks hinter dem Vorhang an mich, murmelte ein paar Sätze zu meinem Interesse an der Zeitgeschichte und packte den Stoff in Kisten, die ich sofort im Auto verstaute, als fürchte ich, Großmutter könne jeden Moment zu sich kommen und begreifen, was sie mir da erlaubt hatte. […] Die Fahrt in die Bremer Innenstadt […] kam mir vor wie eine Flucht. (FB 24–25) As in one of those movies in which a treasure is found exactly at the moment when the cave in which it is buried is flling with water, I grabbed the entire contents of the poison cabinet from behind the curtain, mumbled a few phrases about my interest in the history of that period and packed the material in boxes, which I immediately stowed in my car, as if I feared that grandmother could at any moment come to her senses about what she had just allowed me […] The drive to the center of Bremen […] struck me as a fight. The access to the books affects the protagonist deeply and causes strong mental disorientation, which is expressed in a dream-like vision of the protagonist during his drive home with the books in his trunk: Jetzt trägt Großvater eine graue Uniform, er sitzt auf einem hellen Pferd, das in wildem Galopp über das Blockland jagt, gefolgt von einer Horde anderer Reiter – immer gen Ost. Und jetzt löst sich auch meine Anspannung. Die Beine zittern, das Gesicht heult, der Kopf ist voll von hysterischem Text. Nichts als gestanzte Wörter und pathetische Halbsätze. Dschingis Khan! Mongolen der Moderne! Er hat sie aus der

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This passage demonstrates the protagonist’s emotional shock after the sudden confrontation with his grandfather’s past. The notion of ‘hysteria’ hints at his inability to control his emotions and at a total shattering of his sense of self. Furthermore, this vision also reveals the status of the grandfather within the collective memory of the protagonist’s family – a status marked by suppression, confusion, and mythologization (through the comparison with Genghis Kahn). This passage suggests, in other words, the total lack of a rational apprehension of the grandfather’s Nazi legacy, as a result of failure or refusal to actively engage with it. Following this vision, the protagonist decides to remedy this mnemonic impasse by means of ‘ein langer Kommentar’ (FB 28, an extended commentary) to this history. This commentary, which functions as what Aleida Assmann calls an ‘Anamnese unbewältiger und unbesprochener Familientrauma’ (2009, 49, an anamnesis of unmastered and silenced family traumas) connects the disparate elements of his family history, which the protagonist experiences in terms of narrative fragmentation: ‘Familienwappen, Humanismus, Schiffbau, Villa, Heide, Scholle, Bücher, Blitzkrieg, Sturmbannführer. Da komme ich also her. (FB 28, Family coat of arms, humanism, ship building, villa, heath, native soil, books, Blitzkrieg, Sturmbannführer. So that’s where I come from). These fragments, he indicates, ‘stehen herum wie Bruchstücke eines Textes’ (FB 28, stand around like fragments of a text) and his engagement with this past implies their performative re-membering or reconnection (‘verbinden’, FB 28) through the writing of this commentary. Engaging with this past is therefore, frst of all, a discursive event and the phrase ‘Da komme ich also her’ suggests that it is connected to an impulse for identity construction. Remarkably, while describing this scene, the narrator also hints at the parameters that will defne the shape of his commentary. His vision, as well as his decision, occur during his drive home, ‘[i]rgendwo zwischen Müllverbrennungsanlage und dem bleistiftförmigen Fallturm der Universität’ (FB 26, somewhere between the incinerator and the pencil-shaped drop tower of the university). I believe that these spatial markers function as

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allegories for two opposite ways of dealing with the grandfather’s past in the novel: the scholarly approach to history and its indiscriminate destruction. The protagonist executes both approaches in his search for a relation to his grandfather’s past, yet the construction of a personal narrative itself takes place, frst and foremost, somewhere in between (‘irgendwo zwischen’). In my analysis, I will frst describe the meaning and role of these spatial markers as part of the protagonist’s dealings with his family history and then describe how this personal narrative, located ‘somewhere between’ these poles, comes into being and how it is manifested in the form of Flut und Boden.

The Outer Poles of Historical Assessment The university’s drop tower metonymically signifes the academic approach of the past through the study of historical facts and theoretical refection. This approach is commonly associated with personal detachment and a desire for an objective assessment of the past. The drop tower is meant to produce a controlled period of weightlessness for an object under study and symbolizes this detachment. The object of history is put into a ‘weightless condition’, implying that it becomes detached from the emotional and political involvement of the remembering and reconstructing subject. Subjectivity is, in other words, canceled out in favor of a distanced focus on historical facts. In Flut und Boden we fnd this approach in the protagonist’s archival research, the writing of his dissertation about Ludwig Klages, and in the way his father and his uncle (referred to as ‘M44’) communicate their experiences of the past to him. The frst step in the protagonist’s search for his grandfather is the acquisition and study of archival material about Friedrich Leo from the ‘Berlin Document Center’ (FB 31), the ‘Zentralen Stelle der Landesjustizverwaltungen in Ludwigsburg’ (FB 31), and the ‘Berliner Bundesarchiv’ (FB 31). This investigation entails a search for factual material in order to achieve an understanding of his grandfather’s SS involvement and to counter the confusion and taboo governing this memory in his family. This search initially offers the narrator-protagonist great satisfaction and helps him cope with the personal crisis he faces at that moment. The positive effects of his private investigations on his psyche are, however, short-lived and his search fails to live up to the ambition of providing him with a thorough understanding of his grandfather’s character and deeds: Und dann waren die Akten ausgelesen. In groben Zügen stand das Bild meines Großvaters im Dritten Reich. Aber ich konnte mich kaum noch auf den Beinen halten. Der Nazi war erlegt – und nun? [...] erschrocken stellte ich fest, dass es gar keine Worte gab für das, was da seit Wochen mit mir los war. (FB 32)

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The phrase ‘Und dann waren die Akten ausgelesen’ hints at the abrupt halt of the protagonist’s investigation and at the fact that the relevance of the fles for his identity does not extend beyond the moment of reading them. They might contain useful historical information, yet the protagonist is unable to turn that information into something meaningful to him. They do not alleviate his psychological crisis and deliver nothing but a rough, incomplete image of his grandfather. This critical assessment of this analytical focus on historical facts returns in the accounts of his father (called ‘M42’ or ‘Zweili’) and his uncle ‘M44’ (or ‘Vierli’) about their relationship to their father, Friedrich Leo.2 In a statement about M42’s account, the narrator notes: Unerschöpfich sprudelte der privathistorische Datenquell aus ihm, ebenso ruhig und stetig wie die exzellente Nachhilfe, die er mir zuweilen in mathematischen Notlagen gab. […] Doch aus seinem Kopf kam in meinem Kopf nur eine unüberschaubare Menge aus Namen, Orten und Ereignissen an, nicht aber ihr Zusammenhang. (FB 52) A data spring of private history inexhaustibly welled up out of him, as serene and steady as his excellent tutoring in case of mathematical emergencies […] But what reached my head from his was only a vast number of names, places, and events, but not how they related to each other. The father’s narration about his youth is described here in terms of pure data (‘Datenquell’), the enumeration of specifcs (‘Namen, Orten und Ereignissen’), and vastness (‘unüberschaubare Menge’). What the narrator is missing is ‘ihr Zusammenhang’, i.e. correlation and internal causality – features that were also missing in the results of his own archival research. The same applies, the narrator observes, to how M42 remembers his own youth and the fgure of his own father, which consists of a ‘präzise’ (FB 316, precise) recollection of the ‘kleinste Einzelheiten’ (FB 316, the smallest details). ‘In seiner Welt’, the narrator indicates, ‘setzt sich jeder Ort aus der Summe seiner Details zusammen’ (FB 317, In his world, every place is the sum of its details) and his descriptions provide ‘eine illustrierte Enzyklopädie des Landlebens’ (FB 317, an illustrated encyclopedia of country life). Again, however, the narrator suggests that there is little he can do with all these data. The protagonist has a similar experience when interviewing his uncle M44. While praising the transparency of the latter’s historical accounts,

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he notes that they do not constitute a narration as such: ‘Vierli […] erzählt eigentlich gar nicht’ (FB 316, Vierli does not really narrate). What rather emerges from this account is ‘eine subjektive Landkarte, der Soziologe würde sagen: eine mental map. Auf dieser Karte gibt es klar voneinander geschiedene Abschnitte, nahe Wege, ferne Straßen, Orte, Kreise und Sphären’ (FB 317, a subjective geographical map; the sociologist would say a mental map. On this map, one fnds neatly divided sections, nearby roads, remote streets, places, districts, and spheres). Like M42’s account, it contains ample details and facts and there is much to be learnt from it, yet ‘man sieht nichts darin’ (FB 317, one does not see anything in it), the narrator comments. The notion of ‘sieht […] darin’ suggests the narrator’s search for insight and understanding, that allows him a vertical movement into the depths of history. For the protagonist, Vierli’s map is a two-dimensional grid, while the account of the narrator’s father is ‘unüberschaubar’. In both cases the narrator uses the concept of a clouded vision to express his inability to access the history conveyed to him – a characteristic which we have encountered before as mnemonic hypertrophy (see Huyssen 2003, 3–4) in my analysis of Peter Verhelst’s Zwerm (see Chapter 6). A third instance of the academic, dispassionate approach to history is the protagonist’s writing of a dissertation about Ludwig Klages (1872–1956), a German philosopher, psychologist, and theoretician in the feld of handwriting analysis, whose works the protagonist fnds in his grandfather’s library. Although he was not a Nazi himself, Klages was honored by many National Socialists, and the narrator calls his work ‘das “metaphysische Fundament” des Nationalsozialismus’ (FB 186, the ‘metaphysical foundation’ of National Socialism). Klages used graphology to research differences between humans, and Friedrich Leo used these fndings in his assessment of people’s suitability for Germanization. The narrator experiences this scholarly engagement with the past as dissatisfactory. This has to do both with the nature of Klages’s work as with his own scholarly approach. First of all, he considers Klages’s work as unsophisticated: ‘Letztlich ließ es sich aber genau wie alle anderen durchschauen’ (FB 185, In the end, however, it was as easy to fgure out as the rest of the books). Secondly, he presents the scholarly analysis of Klages’s tract as a rather unjoyful and time-consuming effort (‘Mühe […] und sechs Jahre Lebenszeit’ (FB 185, effort […] and six years of my life). Thirdly, the phrase ‘Letztlich ließ es sich aber genau wie alle anderen durchschauen’ demonstrates his efforts to be unrewarding. Even if ‘durchschauen’ hints at the fact that the protagonist reached his scholarly goal of thorough understanding, in its literal sense it implies that the scholarly gaze passes ‘through’ the object of research and the history it embodies, without attaching itself to it. This means that, just like with the archival material, the historical object has no personal signifcance beyond the point of apprehension. This illustrates again the limited value and relevance of factual truth for the protagonist’s project of relating to his grandfather’s past and for his project of self-making.

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Similar to the university’s drop tower, the incinerator – the second landmark mentioned during his fight with his grandfather’s archive – functions as an allegory for one of the protagonist’s approaches in handling his grandfather’s past. Once at home, he radically thins out the latter’s archive: Was musste passieren, damit einem der Bücher, die hinter dem blauweißen Vorhang von der Bundesrepublik versteckt worden waren, der Gang in die Müllverbrennungsanlage erspart blieb? Nichts Besonders, es musste mich nur faszinieren. Ganz plump faszinieren, spontan und intuitiv. Was mich nach ein oder zwei füchtigen Blicken nicht anmachte, wanderte in die Todeskiste. Tschüs, Walther Darré. Tschüs, Arno Breker. Tschüs, Hans F.K. Günther. Insgesamt schafften es vielleicht fünfzehn Bände, sich in meinem Koffer zu retten. In einigen habe ich später tatsächlich hin und wieder herumgeblättert. Bei anderen fragte ich mich, ob ich nicht zu milde gewesen war. (FB 185) What would it take to save one of the books that had been hidden from the eye of the Federal Republic behind the blue-white curtain from the garbage incinerator? Nothing in particular, it just had to fascinate me. Very clearly fascinate me, spontaneously and intuitively. What did not appeal to me after one or two glances landed in the death bin. Bye, Walther Darré. Bye, Arno Breker. Bye, Hans F.K. Günther. All in all, ffteen books made it into my suitcase. Later on, I did occasionally leaf through some of them. With others, I asked myself whether I had not been too mild. The reference to the incinerator is interesting in itself, as it suggests a playful revenge for the infamous Nazi book burnings, while also constitutes an act of defance vis-à-vis the grandfather and his private archive. I will come back to this defant attitude and its expression through satire later in my analysis. Crucial at this point is that the disposal of the books is based solely on a rather arbitrary criterion, i.e. the fascination of the remembering subject. Rather than the past being placed in a condition of detached weightlessness, its assessment becomes entirely determined by (or ‘grounded’ in) the subject. The object of the past is, in other words, not determined by some sacred notion of history and the need for conservation, but by a highly self-conscious attitude in which the engagement with the past is strictly motivated by personal reasons. Although the incinerator is indeed highly suggestive of personal choice and subjective criteria, it shares with the scholarly approach the subject’s conscious detachment from the object of history. A focus on the facts entails the subject’s effort to cancel out personal involvement in assessing them; the act of thinning out the archive involves an absolute refusal to engage with (parts of) it. Both approaches are important for the protagonist’s treatment of his grandfather’s legacy, yet the construction of his ‘extended commentary’ primarily depends on a number of features that are situated between these poles.

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In Search of a Personal Relation to History A crucial moment in the protagonist’s mnemonic Bildungsprocess is his participation in a seminar about World War II by Ulrich Herbert at the University of Freiburg. As a representative of the university pole, Herbert emphasizes the need for precise historical knowledge, yet what sets his approach apart from being strictly guided by facts is his propensity for narration or, in Hayden White’s terms, ‘historical emplotment’ (White 1975, passim): ‘Herbert wusste viel, er dachte scharf – und er konnte erzählen’ (FB 44, Herbert knew many things, his thoughts were incisive – and he could tell a story). For the protagonist, history becomes relevant exactly because of the narrative form in which it is presented. Furthermore, he claims that Herbert’s stories do not serve a purpose of their own but form a crucial part in the mediation of historical knowledge: ‘Die Schilderung war kein Selbstzweck. Sie vermittelte Wissen’ (FB 44, The narrative had no purpose in itself. It mediated knowledge). The protagonist learns to understand that, for him, access to the past becomes possible through a storyteller who mediates knowledge via narrative emplotment. Rather than presenting the facts in a dispassionate, distanced way, they become linked in a subjectively constructed narrative. The protagonist appreciates this involved form of history narration for its ability to open up an affective, visceral understanding of the past: ‘Und dabei erlebten wir am eigenen Leib (FB 44, And we experienced this for ourselves). At the same time, this approach entails the abandonment of the more abstract approach of history – an approach which the protagonist initially endorsed: Herbert wusste, dass es vor allem die philosophische Dimension der Holocaust war, die uns reizte: dass wir vor allem diskutieren wollten und dazu, neben etwas Füllvokabular, am liebsten nur die Adjektive ‚systematisch‘, ‚industriell‘, ‚staatlich‘ und ‚singulär‘ verwendet hätten. Doch gleich in der ersten Sitzung machte er uns klar, dass das mit ihm nicht zu haben war. (FB 42–43) Herbert knew that we were mainly interested in the Holocaust’s philosophical dimension: that we wished above all to debate and to that end, besides using some bulky vocabulary, that we would prefer using only the adjectives ‘systematical’, ‘industrial’, ‘governmental’, and ‘singular’. But as early as the frst session, he made it clear that he would not have it.) Not unlike his abandonment of the strict focus on factual knowledge in trying to access his grandfather’s past, the protagonist now becomes critical of his own philosophical approach to history. This also explains his later annoyance with M44’s accounts of the past, which are marked by a

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mix of sociological and psychological vocabulary (‘allerlei soziologischen und psychologischen Vokabulars’, FB 316) and a philosophical tendency (‘Neigung zur Philosophie’, FB 316). It is precisely this sense of historical proximity and concreteness that he will eventually fnd in the accounts of his uncle M41. ‘M41’ or ‘Einsi’ is in many regards the opposite of his younger brothers M42 and M44. While the narrator describes the latter’s outlook as based on notions of order, control, and professional success, M41 is an exuberant character who at frst seems the least reliable historical source. In contrast to his professionally successful brothers, he is a jack-of-all-trades, and the narrator endows him with grotesque features. By accentuating his excessive weight, his clumsiness (‘Wackelig, um nicht zu sagen wankend, kam er auf mich zu’, FB 295, He came up to me unsteadily, not to say staggering), and his loud voice, the narrator depicts him as someone who does not abide by or conform to social decorum. His grotesque body, like Bakhtin’s concept of the grotesque body, represents ‘degradation, that is, the lowering of all that is high, spiritual, ideal, abstract; it is a transfer to the material level, to the sphere of earth and body in their indissoluble unity’ (Bakhtin 1984, 19–20). And it is exactly these qualities that also determine his narration about Friedrich Leo. The narrator calls M41’s accounts ‘unbehauen und offen’ (FB 306, crude and open), an unfltered account of his memories, ‘ohne Umweg’ (FB 317, without a detour). In contrast to the accounts of the protagonist’s father and M44, Einsi’s narration lacks ‘Kontrolle’ (FB 304, control), ‘Terminologie und […] Ordnung’ (FB 318, terminology and […] order). ‘Seine Geschichte’, according to the narrator, ‘ist unbestimmter, absichtsloser. Die rohe Erinnerung spricht aus ihr, eine Bildermasse, die sich noch keiner Idee und keiner Botschaft gebeugt hat’ (FB 305, His story is more indeterminate, without purpose. Raw memory speaks from it, a pile of images that have not yet infected to an idea or a message) and ‘ein unberechenbares Nebeneinander’ (FB 318, an erratic juxtaposition). The notions of rawness and unruliness suggest that Einsi’s memories lack the abstract processing and systematic structuring of the scholarly approach – aspects that irritate the narrator in the accounts of M44 and M42: Die Gespräche mit seinen beiden Brüdern, M44 und meinem Vater, sind beim erneuten Hören vor allem informativ. Sie verraten etwas über ihren Vater, über ihre Kindheit in der Heide, über sie selbst; mal sagen sie es direkt, mal indirekt, mal absichtlich, mal unabsichtlich, aber immer erzählen sie ihre Geschichte, einen Text, den sie offensichtlich nicht zum ersten Mal loswerden und auf eine fast irritierende Weise unter Kontrolle haben. (FB 304) When I listen to it again, the conversations with both his brothers, M44 and my father, seem primarily informative. They reveal something

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about their father, about their childhood in the heathland, about themselves; sometimes they say it directly, sometimes indirectly, sometimes on purpose, sometimes not, but they always tell their story, a text, which apparently they were not getting rid of for the frst time and which they have under control in an almost irritating way. Here, the narrator is disturbed by two elements: he notices that M42 and M44’s stories are more about themselves than about the past (‘immer erzählen sie ihre Geschichte’) and he is irritated by the controlled and constructed nature of their accounts, which stands in marked contrast to the spontaneity of M41’s narrative. Furthermore, M42 and M44’s accounts are – in form – remarkably similar to Friedrich Leo’s account of his escape from the prison camp: Jedenfalls war die Erzählung mit dem Titel ‘Die Flucht’ sein kostbarster Besitz. Mehr hatte er nicht zu geben, darum handhabte er sie mit äußerster Sorgfalt. Jahrelang hatte er sie geputzt und poliert. [...] Als ich die Geschichte von Großvaters Flucht endlich zu hören bekam, stand ihre Form so fest wie ein liturgischer Text. Kein Wort, das nicht schon all meine Onkels und Cousins an genau der gleichen Stell gehört hatten, nach genau der gleichen Kunstpause, mit genau der gleichen Betonung’ (FB 132) In any case, the story entitled ‘The Escape’ was his most precious possession. He did not have more to offer, which is why he handled it with utmost care. For years he had scrubbed and polished it. […] When I fnally got to hear the story of grandfather’s escape, its form had solidifed like a liturgical text. Not a word my uncles and cousins had not already heard in the very same spot, after precisely the very same artifcial pause, with exactly the same intonation. The narrator presents the grandfather in full control of the narrative of his past, using the story of his escape as a screen to cover up his SS involvement. By rehearsing the story in the very same form over the course of years, Friedrich Leo cemented this story in the memory of his children. His grandson (the narrator-protagonist), however, refuses such a prescriptive, liturgical reading of the past, which he detects in his father’s and his uncle M42’s narrations as well. While sensing their rehearsed nature, the protagonist recognizes that the accounts are not directed at him in particular and that he is merely part of a large, undefned audience. This critical assessment indicates how he aches for a personal conversation about the past – one that is not marked by routine and reiteration (‘eine Reihe vertrauter Sätze aus dem Gedächtnis’, FB 320, a series of familiar phrases from memory), but that comes across as spontaneous, unmediated, and narrated in a manner that refects personal involvement.

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The protagonist conceives of this personal connection most strongly in physical terms. For the protagonist, the spontaneous nature of M41’s narration enables – as is the case for Herbert’s narrations – a corporeal experience of the past. He describes M41’s account as coming ‘direkt aus dem Rückenmark, roh und schön’ (FB 318, straight from the spinal marrow, raw and beautiful) and as appealing to the senses, which suggests an immediate closeness to the narrated history: Aber man riecht den Moder der Pilzstelle […]; man hört die Angel ins Wasser platschen und die Schwarzspechte klopfen; man spürt die einsetzende Dämmerung […] man friert wenn er im Winter in kurzen Hosen rodelt; ist erfrischt, wenn er im Sommer in den Everser See oder unter dem schattigen Brücke in die Aue springt, […] man schmeckt […] man spürt seine Freunde […] so wie man die Prügel der Dorfjungen am eigenen Leib spürt’ (FB 319, my emphasis) But you smell the decaying mushroom ground […]; you hear the fshing rod splash into the water and the woodpecker tap; you feel the twilight falling […] you freeze when sledging in short pants during the winter; refreshed when jumping in summer in the Everser lake or in the Aue in the shade of a bridge, […] you taste […] you feel one’s friends […] just like you bodily experience the beating of the village boys) Because of this physical proximity, the narrator considers M41’s histories ‘viel lebendiger als bei seinen Brüdern’ (FB 317, far more vivid than his brothers’). It is precisely by means of this life metaphor that the narrator articulates the ability of connecting himself – as a living subject – to a distant past and to turn it into a usable past for his project of individual self-making. In favoring vivid narration and mnemonic renewal while refuting the routine rehearsal, the narrator grounds his vision of memory in the opposition between a dynamic and open-ended memory, and a static, fxed one. This vision does not, however, just entail the desire to transpose oneself into the past and experience it through identifcation and sensory experience – something that could be described with Johan Huizinga’s concept ‘historical sensation’ or Frank Ankersmit’s notion of ‘historical experience’.3 It also has an ideological and aesthetic function. The protagonistnarrator praises both Herbert’s and M41’s accounts as not infected by the presence of fxed ideas and messaging (‘die sich noch keiner Idee und keiner Botschaft gebeugt hat’, FB 305). Furthermore, he identifes the presence of an unrelenting ‘fragende Haltung’ (FB 317, a probing attitude) in their narratives, which puts ‘das eigene Urteil unter einen letzten Vorbehalt’ (FB 317, the personal judgment always into question). By praising this mnemonic conduct, the protagonist hints at how it functions as an example for

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his own view of memory, and as a plea against mnemonic routine and the unquestioned transgenerational mediation of historical knowledge. More specifcally, it signifes a resistance against the mnemonic dominance of the frst and the second generation and how their narratives are governed by such interrelated concepts as certainty, authority, unity, system, homogeneity, and hierarchy. Based on his experiences with M41 and Ulrich Herbert, he increasingly leans toward a memory marked by narrative diversity, personal investment, openness, authorial modesty, and bilateral communication – one that, in contrast to the reiterative memory routines, is not threatened by ‘Zusammenbruch’ (FB 318, collapse). In line with M41’s physical grotesque and the nature of his narrations, one could conceive of his account as the expression of a ‘mnemonic grotesque’. This characteristic does not only pertain to its form, but also to its value as transgenerational mediation. To understand this, we need to pick up Bakhtin’s vision of the grotesque again, in which he locates a duality at play between decay and birth. While understanding the grotesque in terms of physical and social degradation, as I have indicated above, the ‘leading themes of [the grotesque’s] bodily life’, Bakhtin asserts, ‘are fertility, growth, and a brimming-over abundance’ (1984, 19). The narrator in Flut und Boden situates both elements in M41. While the latter’s body represents decay (suggested by the various depictions of his person and magnifed by the naturalistic description of his corpse),4 the protagonist perceives his uncle’s narrations about the family past as marked by constant change and a perpetual mnemonic re-creation. In contrast to the hypertrophic mobility or quantitative excess of memory we fnd in Verhelst’s Zwerm, these characteristics are invoked to contrast the routine narrations of his other family members. In the narrations of his uncle M41, he fnds a memory that is alive and that he can understand. Ultimately, it is this narration that allows him to access and appropriate the past as well as fnd a way of taking it into the future by means of his own narrative.

A Mnemonic Playground The preference for notions such as narrative emplotment and personal involvement in the mediation of history is not just relevant to how Per – as protagonist and historian – can relate to the past, but also how he – as narrator – can relate about it. In the third part of this analysis, I will explore how the protagonist’s experiences with the various narrations determine the shape of his ‘extended commentary’ and how these work toward constructing the protagonist-narrator’s very own version of history. The choice for the genre of autofction is crucial to understanding the epistemological aims in Flut und Boden. This autofctionality results from the combination of the novel’s autobiographical form, evident from the fact that the protagonist is named after the author (see FB 238) and the story’s transcriptive and documentary character, as well as from the label ‘Roman

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einer Familie’ on the book cover, which invests it with fctionality. When delimited in its narrowest sense, autofction may be understood as a narrative modality that inhabits the referential space likewise colonized by autobiography proper, but at the same time offers a patently enriched and treated, hence, fctionalized, and metamorphotic, version of the life-story of the autofctionneur. (Hughes 2002, 567, emphasis in original) This is why John Ireland has called this genre ‘a “monstrous” production, weakening generic borders and boundaries and eroding “natural” narrative divisions’ and working toward ‘surplus’ and ‘multiple narrative threading’ (qtd. in Hughes 2002, 567). Flut und Boden’s generic hybridity is situated in the entanglement of a documentary approach, a highly self-refective story, and its poetic form. It gives shape to the complexity that arises at the meeting point between historical subject matter and personal experience. The abundance of historical information gives the impression that the book is a non-fctional ‘geschichtsphilosophischer Essay’ (a historico-philosophical essay), as one critic called it (Schröder 2014). Besides describing the narrator’s search for the truth of his grandfather’s SS involvement, it presents an overarching family history, replete with elaborate exposés about family life, Bremen, the shipbuilding industry in Vegesack, Ludwig Klages’s graphology, a formal analysis of his uncle Martin’s personal diary, etc. This disinterested, almost administrative form is powerfully illustrated by the system of classifcation used by the narrator-historian to mark the various tapes of the interviews with his relatives. Instead of referring to them by name, he identifes them with shortened codes referring to their gender and year of birth only: M41, M42, M44, etc. The designators do not, hence, refer to persons, but to historical sources. Here, the narrator mimics a detached system of classifcation that suggests professional historiographical research rather than a personal story about his family. Arguably, this form refects an uninvolved attitude that has often been associated with the writings of third-generation authors and that enables what Bernhard Giesen critically refers to as a ‘disembodied, abstract, and detached’ memory construction (2004, 135). As I have shown before, the protagonist resists this form of historical approach, yet the narrator’s discursive positioning of the text between university and incinerator still implies that it is in some ways affliated with them. Critical detachment and conscious selectiveness are part of the novel’s mnemonic project. The narrator undeniably displays – even more than in his role as protagonist – an emotional detachment from the events of the past, yet this detachment is inversely proportional to his subjective involvement in writing their history. Rather than a neutral annotation or explanation of the pieces of historical information he is confronted with, his ‘extended

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commentary’ is a performative interpretation that involves a substantial degree of imaginative investment and literariness. Even if both features are crucial to the discipline of historiographical narration and to narratives of postmemory, I claim that in Flut und Boden they have a value that is not just epistemological but – and maybe even primarily – aesthetic and metamnemonic in nature. They aim to create a vivid memory that refects a close relation between past and present, and they function as a critique of the vapid language of National Socialism. In the following, I will elaborate on both functions. The imaginative dimension of the story emerges through a variety of techniques. First of all, through an autodiegetic narrative perspective, the narrator imposes meaning on the surfacing memories from a current point of view. With regard to their content, it is not so much the explanation of the facts that is at stake, but the way the narrator interprets and represents them. In the terminology of Roman Jakobson’s communication model, we can say that the referential function of the text becomes secondary to the emotive function. Here, the focus shifts toward the source of the communication – in this case, the autodiegetic narrator – whose presence emerges through the use of an I-narration and the persistent evaluation of historical events and actors. This evaluative element involves, for example, the ironic assessment of himself as the younger protagonist, the sarcastic disapproval of his grandfather’s NS involvement (see below), and the romanticized assessment of his great-uncle Martin. Furthermore, the interpretation often seems to involve the creation of an imaginary surplus, for example in the narrator’s rendition of his ancestors’ inner lives. Rather than as a distanced historian, he approaches them as an omniscient narrator who imagines thoughts, fantasies, and dreams. His characterization of both Friedrich Leo and the latter’s brother Martin is consistently interspersed with elements that are unlikely to be the product of historical research. Yet in both cases, these elements are not implemented in search of historical truth, but rather to imagine their lives from the perspective of the present. The imagination functions like a glue that puts back together the ‘Bruchstücke’ of the past, allowing the narrator to appropriate and ‘own’ the history he is researching, and to fnd the satisfaction he did not achieve from his archival research. In that sense, through this performative use of the imagination in the writing of history, the author seems to produce a memory for himself. With regard to form, this autodiegetic narration involves the constant use of retrospection or analepsis. Rather than a chronological explanation of the events of the past, the narrative perspective acts as a reference frame in which, as Birgit Neumann clarifes, ‘each event is related to others in both a forward and backward direction’ (2008, 336). The result is ‘ein unberechenbares Nebeneinander’ (FB 318, an erratic juxtaposition), in which historical fact and retrospective interpretation become increasingly more diffcult to disentangle. Enhanced by the ample use of paraphrase and free indirect speech

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in the rendition of historical facts as well as of the interviews with family members, story and discourse continually interact with and against each other. For that reason, the novel adheres to contemporary views of memory, to the effect ‘that meaningful memories do not exist prior to the moment of remembering and of narrating the past, but that they are constituted by the active creation of self-narrations’ (Neumann 2008, 338). Indeed, while the past is actively constructed in this act of self-narration, the narration of history entails the construction of the self. The autodiegetic mode, which involves what Genette has described as a ‘completing analepsis’ (1983, 51), in which the gap between the past of experience and the moment of remembering and representation is gradually bridged, is particularly conducive to representing the parallel process of mnemonic production and White’s concept of self-making. None of these features are particularly innovative with regard to the genre of the generational novel, yet what sets Flut und Boden apart is the combination of autobiographical documentary approach and explicit literariness. Throughout the text, we fnd a variety of literary devices that indicate poetic refnement, such as alliterations, assonance, parallelisms, passive-constructions, and metaphorical speech. An illustrative example is the description of the fabric that covered the grandfather’s library: Dicker, blauweiß bedruckter Stoff: Das Bild dürfte zu meinen ältesten Erinnerungen an die Weserstraße gehören. Der Vorhang war ja für das kleine Kind, wenn es den langen, raumartigen Flur zwischen Wohnungstür und Wintergarten entlangging, einer der wenigen Anblicke auf Augenhöhe. Doch dem Boden entwachsen, beugte ich mich nie mehr tiefer hinab als bis zu den Bildbanden über Fauna und Erdgeschichte. (FB 24) A thick fabric with blue-and-white print: this image probably belongs to my earliest memories of the Weserstraße. To a small child, walking along the long, spacious hallway between the entrance door to the apartment and the conservatory, the curtain was one of the few things to behold at eye level. Grown up, I never bent lower than the shelf with the illustrated books on fauna and geology. The memory is clearly not formulated in the words of a child. The scene gains a strong poetic character, frst of all through the metaphorical description ‘Doch dem Boden entwachsen’ (literally: grown up from the ground) and the dominant presence of consonance. We fnd this, for example in the alliteration in the passage ‘Dicker blauweiß bedruckter’, which contains a repetition of the consonants ‘d’, ‘b’, ‘r’, and ‘ck’ as well as the parallel structure between the syllables of ‘icker’ and ‘uckter’ in ‘Dicker’ and ‘bedruckter’. The ‘b’ is continued in the word ‘Bild’ of the following phrase

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and other alliterations can be found in ‘kleine Kind’, ‘Wohnungstür und Wintergarten’, ‘Doch dem’, ‘beugte … bis … Bildbanden’. Striking in that regard is also the use of the repetition of the ‘-en’ syllable, which gives the entire passage a melodic character: ‘zu meinen ältesten Erinnerungen … gehören’; ‘wenn … den langen raumartigen … zwischen’; ‘Boden … entwachsen … den Bildbanden’. This effect is enhanced by the syllable ‘en’ in ‘entlangging’ and ‘entwachsen’, the use of ‘n’ sounds in the word sequence, as in ‘kleine Kind’; ‘Wohnungstür und Wintergarten entlangging, einer der wenigen Anblicke auf Augenhöhe’; ‘Boden entwachsen’; ‘den Bildbanden’; and the persistent use of assonance: ‘meinen ältesten Erinnerungen’; ‘Vorhang war ja für das’; ‘wenn es’; ‘auf Augenhöhe’; ‘mich nie’. All these elements evoke a stylistic refnement that mimics the mystifed perspective of the narrator as a small boy, while also stressing the act of literary writing. By drawing attention to itself, the text emphasizes its poetic function, drawing attention to the creative process of history writing as well as on literary language as a means to do so. Together, these elements move the text away from the ‘university’ pole into the hybrid and ‘unberechenbares’ terrain, somewhere between university and incinerator, to create the vivid and poetic history that evokes the historical connection the protagonist was looking for as a young man. This imaginary element is also present, moreover, in how M41 envisions memory, i.e. by reference to literature: ‘“Wenn du wissen willst, wie sich meine Kindheit anfühlte,” sagt M41, “dann musst du dieses Buch lesen”’ (FB 319, If you want to know what my childhood felt like, then you should read this book). The novel that M41 refers to is Ehm Welk’s Die Heiden von Kummerow (FB 319). Again, the narrator indicates that the novel, even though he does not consider it to be of high literary quality (‘Vierhundertseitenroman des Fontane-Epigonen’, FB 320, a four-hundredpages novel by a Fontane epigone), charms (‘Bezaubert’, FB 319) him more than its scholarly preface. Through all these elements, the autofction of Flut und Boden moves away from the university pole and proclaims a mode of historiography that is outspokenly literary in form. The poetic element in the creation of this family history is not just a matter of aesthetic pleasure. It also serves as a radical distancing from the vapid language of National Socialism. This language is, for example, simulated in the following passage: Im Frühjahr 1938 ordnen die Nazis an, dass Dr. Martin Leo, wohnhaft Dessau, Schlageterallee 58, zu sterilisieren sei. Vorladung. Skalpell. Wahrscheinlichkeit chronischer Folgeschmerzen bei 6 Prozent. (FB 121) In the spring of 1938, the Nazis ordered the sterilization of Dr. Martin Leo, living in Dessau, Schlageterallee 58. Summons. Scalpel. Likelihood of chronic pain: 6 percent.

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Through the passive construction and the use of the subjunctive ‘sei’, the text mimics the impersonal tone of National Socialist politics. The subject, here Martin Leo, is not treated as a human subject, but as a meaningless object. The single-word sentences express the inescapable sequence of events, hinting at how the subject is defenseless against offcial regulations. One thing after another just happens in a forced rhythm, according to the logic of Nazi biopolitics: ‘Man ist einfach nicht bereit, den Morbus Bechterew noch länger im Volkskörper zu dulden’ (FB 121, The Morbus Bechterew can simply no longer be tolerated in the nation’s body’). With this phrase, the narrator parodies the simplistic and dry explanation of the cruel mindset behind this logic. This poetic response to National Socialism is also present in the novel’s title. ‘Flut und Boden’ is a riff on ‘Blut und Boden’ (Blood and Soil), one of the central elements of National Socialist ideology insisting on demarcating national belonging on the basis of genealogical descent and cohabitation. The substitution of ‘Blut’ by ‘Flut’ is more than a simple wordplay. By undoing the alliteration, the title indirectly exposes the static and limited register of the National Socialist phrase, expressed by the staccato rhythm of the alliteration. Replacing the voiced bilabial stop of the b-consonant with the voiceless labiodental fricative ‘f’ does not only produce linguistic variation, the substitution also enacts an articulatory change from stasis to movement, as the fricative produces an airfow that was blocked before by the bilabial stop. This movement is then underscored on the level of content by the meaning of the word ‘Flut’. This change in form and content is symbolic of the change the narrator wants to bring to family memory. The routine-like and ossifed memory is set back into motion by the protagonist’s mnemonic initiatives. Furthermore, the implication of the riffng in the title is directly related to the content of the novel. Throughout the narrative, the narrator evokes a strong opposition between his grandfather and the latter’s older brother Martin: ‘[M]eine Familiengeschichte’, the narrator states, ‘hat zwei Gesichter und zwei Körper’ (FB 47, My family history has two faces and two bodies). While Friedrich Leo is consistently associated with earthiness – literally through his predilection for gardening and foresting and metaphorically through his lack of imagination and mental rigidity – Martin however is ‘das Kind eines sich öffnenden Flusses unter weitem Himmel’ (FB 123, the child of a widening river under a vast sky). The narrator fashions Martin’s person in relation to the semantic feld of water, signifying fexibility, movement, and progression. Martin is depicted in a hagiographical way as an intellectual with integrity, eager for knowledge and experience, and as someone with whom the narrator can identify. Tellingly, Martin’s bookshelf is not flled with pseudoscientifc NS tracts, but with ‘eine fünfundvierzigbändige Werkausgabe, die jeder gebildete Zeitgenosse schon von weitem an ihren charakteristischen Halblederrücken erkannte […]: dem alten Goethe’ (FB 73, a ffty-four-volume edition, which every educated contemporary would

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recognize from its characteristic half-leather spine […] the old Goethe). Through this contrast, the novel sketches two diverging paths coming out of the tradition of the German Bildungsbürgertum, in which the Leo family is deeply rooted – one leading to its demise under National Socialism, the other to its continuation. By using the title ‘Flut und Boden’, the narrator gives shape to both sides of his family history. It is in the sketch of this opposition that the literary aspect of the family history is most manifest. While producing a hagiographic image of the intellectual Martin Leo, whose unpublished autobiography forms one of the pillars of his family history, the narrator’s intense contempt for his grandfather and for his active involvement in Nazism is expressed through the genre of satire. Here, the story moves closely to the pole of the incinerator again, as the grandfather’s legacy is metaphorically burnt to the ground. It is also through the sketch of this opposition that the protagonist’s process of selfmaking takes a defnitive shape. As I have indicated at the beginning of this chapter, Flut und Boden is a mnemonic Bildungsroman. It describes the protagonist’s emergence from a passive and uninvolved relationship with his grandfather’s past to an active negotiation of it, turning it from a tabooed and subliminal memory into a historical text that is meaningful for his own life project. This process requires research (the archive), witnessing (family stories), and creativity (writing autofction). A crucial part of the process of self-making is the narrator’s radical distancing from his grandfather’s legacy and its continuing infuence on the family’s collective memory. Stylistic refnement is one way of overcoming that legacy in literary form, the other is a biting satire of the grandfather and his generation, executed in a highly sarcastic and contemptuous tone. On his way home from his grandmother’s house at the start of the novel, the protagonist recalls another memory of his grandfather offering him a coin to buy some cake: Und mit dem schwarzen Lederportemonnaie, das Großvater nach dem Öffnen endlos langsam wieder schüttelt, bis er schließlich ein einzelnes Geldstück herausnimmt, es noch einmal wendet und mir dann, als vollzöge er ein Sakrament, zum Kauf eines Butterkuchens überreicht. Ganz langsam hebe ich den Blick, Knopf für Knopf an Großvaters Strickjanker entlang, bis ich sein Gesicht erreicht habe. Was ich sehe, entsetzt mich: ein fremdes Lachen. Lautlos, kalt und böse. (FB 27) And with the black leather wallet, which grandfather endlessly keeps shaking after opening it, until at last, he takes out one single coin, turns it over once more and passes it to me, as if performing a sacrament, to buy a piece of butter cake. Very slowly I raise my gaze, button by button along grandfather’s cardigan, until I reach his face. What I see terrifes me: a strange smile. Soundless, cold, and evil.

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This scene shows the narrator at his grandfather’s mercy. The latter’s gestures, his spatial pre-eminence, and his malevolent appearance portray him as a sacred power to the protagonist as a small boy. Now, in the present, the vision expresses the protagonist’s distraught awareness that he is that small boy again, for whom the ‘gift’ of the books causes a sense of subordination and submissiveness. In the course of the novel, this relationship is, however, inverted. The frst act of defance toward the infuence his grandfather continues to exert on him after his death is the protagonist’s irreverent treatment of his legacy, which I have discussed above. This irreverent act is followed by a satirical attack on the grandfather’s character and his involvement in the Nazi party. In the fourth chapter of the novel, called ‘Kein Geheimnis’ (‘No Secret’), the narrator elaborates on Friedrich Leo’s NS career, describing the successive steps between joining the SS in the fall of 1934, his appointment as leader of the ‘RuS-Hauptamt-SS’ (FB 76) on 29 April 1938, his admission to the Waffen-SS in 1943, and his escape from an American prison camp. A sharp irony permeates the tone and the choice of words in this account. A telling illustration of this is the narrator’s description of his grandfather’s swift rise on the NS career ladder: ‘Friedrich nimmt allmählich Fahrt auf. Das erste und letzte Mal in seinem langen Leben’ (FB 76, ‘Friedrich gradually picks up speed. The frst and last time in his long life’). Not only is the reference to Friedrich Leo’s professional rise to fame relevant (as one only made possible through nepotism), it is also revealing of how the narrator treats the grandfather’s frst name. At frst sight, he uses it to refer to the identity of his grandfather at that specifc moment in time: the Nazi as a young man, as an ordinary youngster at the start of his career in the National Socialist regime. Yet it is also a rather unusual way of speaking about a grandfather. The avoidance of a genealogical denominator, such as ‘grandfather’ or ‘Opa’, suggests distance, turns him into an interchangeable character, and puts him outside the community in which the narrator includes himself. In doing so, the authority commonly associated with the fgure of the grandfather on account of age, life experience, and the knowledge that is commonly perceived in terms of ‘wisdom’, disappears. The narrator continues this demotion by ridiculing his grandfather’s intellectual abilities and lack of personality. While reading his application for the ‘Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt’ (FB 161) in Berlin, the narrator fnds ‘[s]ieben Rechtschreibfehler auf einer Seite’ (FB 76, seven spelling mistakes on one page), which he considers a remarkable number ‘[f]ür eine Bewerbung in die Reichshauptstadt, deren Erfolg das erste Schrittchen auf einer Karriereleiter bedeuten würde, jedenfalls erstaunlich viel’ (FB 76, for an application to the Reich’s capital, the success of which would mean the frst little step on the career ladder, an astonishing number). This remark does not only target Friedrich Leo, it also criticizes the National Socialist system for the way it flled offcial functions. To underscore the interaction

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between this system and his grandfather’s possible rise in it, the narrator playfully imagines the job description in question: Eine Stellenausschreibung für Rassenprüfer, deren Aufgabe die Auslese eindeutschungsfähigen Menschenmaterials war, hätte so lauten können: ‘Visionäre mit Sinn fürs Praktische gesucht. Sind Sie halbwegs gebildeter Bauer, Gärtner, Förster, Winzer oder Bienenzüchter mit ein wenig Gefühl für deutsche Kultur im Leib? Oder ein Theoretiker mit Neigung zur Praxis, ein arischer Bildungsbürger mit Haustieren, mit Spaß an der Beerenlese oder Erfahrung beim Pilzesammeln, der vielleicht sogar Biologie oder Germanistik studiert hat? Dann sind Sie richtig bei uns!’ (FB 81) An advertisement for the position of race inspector, whose job consisted of selecting suitable human material for the Germanization process, might have read like this: ‘Wanted: Visionary with a sense for the practical. Are you a half-educated farmer, gardener, forester, vintner, or beekeeper with a bit of innate sense for German culture? Or a theoretician with an inclination for practical experience, an Aryan Bildungsbürger with pets, who enjoys picking berries or who has experience with collecting mushrooms, and who may even have studied biology or German language and literature? Then you are our man! This passage contains a mix of critique and ridicule. The critique lies in the narrator’s adoption of Nazism’s cynical view on humankind contained in the term ‘human material’. It expresses how people whose fate lay in the hands of his grandfather were stripped of their humanity during this screening process and reduced to abjection. This is amplifed by the reference to the applicant’s required ‘visionary’ qualities, which are strictly limited to fauna and fora. This critique is underscored by a mockery of the required intellectual abilities for the job. It only requires an average to low degree of schooling (‘half-educated’, ‘with some sense’, ‘may even have studied’), limited practical skills (‘with a sense for the practical’, ‘with an inclination for practical experience’), a narrow cultural background, and a bourgeois, provincial mentality (‘Bildungsbürger with pets’). In other instances, the narrator calls his grandfather ‘ein kleiner Provinzangestellter der nationalsozialistischen Agrarbürocratie’ (FB 76, small provincial clerk in the National Socialist agricultural bureaucracy), who only obtained his position through nepotism. This intellectual degradation, however, does not exempt Friedrich Leo from accountability in the narrator’s eyes. If his grandfather was no more than a docile puppet during the procedure of his appointment as Rassenprüfer – a depiction that is reminiscent of Hannah Arendt’s seminal concept of ‘banality of evil’ in her description of Adolf Eichmann – his responsibility for assessing the potential for Germanization of people living

180 The Play with Memory in regions bordering Germany implied an active role in executing National Socialist biopolitics and its racial prosecution: ‘Es waren diese unmittelbar tödlichen Nichteindeutschungsfähighkeitsbescheide, die Friedrich näher als je an Taten brachten, die man getrost als Mord bezeichnen darf’ (FB 86, His instantly lethal no-potential-for-germanization-reports brought Friedrich closer than ever to acts which one can confdently call murder). Yet, while he may have been a shallow bureaucrat, the narrator clearly hints at Friedrich Leo’s National Socialist beliefs. Quoting from a report from the American secret service, which states that the SS units consisted ‘oft komplett aus überzeugten Nationalsozialisten’ (FB 89, often deeply convinced National Socialists), the narrator sarcastically concludes: ‘Gute Arbeit, Großväter’ (FB 89, Good work, grandfathers). In doing so, he openly indicts his grandfather and those of his generation involved in National Socialism. The text contains more sarcastic comments about Friedrich Leo. For the purpose of my analysis, let me here focus on one specifc example of this critique concerning his grandfather’s writings. Throughout the narrative, the narrator repeatedly hints at the writing tradition in his family. Much of the information about the family is based on the autobiographical writings of his revered uncle Martin; he admires M44’s ‘von Hand geschriebenes Reisejournal’ (FB 294, a handwritten travel journal), and mentions the educational pamphlets his great-grandfather, Heinrich Leo, wrote. The latter had also drafted a small memorandum before the outbreak of World War I, meant to serve as a life guide for his sons in case he died during the war. Friedrich Leo had done the same at the end of the war, while being imprisoned in an American camp for war prisoners. While praising his greatgrandfather’s sincerity and authority, the narrator is highly contemptuous of his grandfather’s document: ‘Der Vater hatte über fast alles geschrieben. Der Sohn dagegen schrieb über fast nichts’ (FB 262, The father had written about almost everything. The son, by contrast, about almost nothing’). The document, the narrator continues, is a moralistic rewriting of the Decalogue, marked by ‘irrlichternde Abfolge von Imperativen, ein Dauerappell zu idealischer Gesinnung, der sich wie eine bis aufs Knochengerüst ausgezehrte Parodie der protestantischen Gewissenanrufung liest’ (FB 265, an aimlessly meandering sequence of imperatives, an unrelenting call for idealism, which reads like an emaciated parody of the protestant appeal to the conscience). ‘Wie ist dieser Moralexzess der Moralbrecher zu verstehen?’ (FB 267, How can we comprehend the excessive moralism of this breaker of morals?), the narrator wonders. In the process of distancing himself from his grandfather and his legacy, the act of writing plays a crucial role. Writing (family) history is a task the protagonist recognizes in the work of his great-grandfather, his great-uncle Martin, and that of several other members of his family, yet not in his grandfather’s. The latter’s intellectual and moral short-sightedness and his political involvement with the SS, the narrator remarks, entail ‘dass Geschichte nicht von ihm, sondern über ihn geschrieben wird’ (FB 76, ‘that history is

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not written by, but about him). The protagonist’s initial passiveness toward the dominant, mythologized grandfather-fgure turned around. In the process of self-making through writing, it is no longer the protagonist who is at the mercy of his grandfather, but the latter becomes a passive object to his grandson’s narration of irreverence. In doing so, Per Leo inscribes himself in the intellectual history of his family (‘vier Jahrhunderten Lutheranen mit Bildungstiteln’, FB 19, four centuries of evangelicals with academic titles) by writing its history. This happens at Friedrich Leo’s expense, who is, if not exorcised, at least ridiculed in that history. Despite his imperial aspirations, Friedrich Leo does not make history. He does not write history, it is written about him. His agency is annulled and that of the narrator fully installed – an act that is part of what Julian Reidy in the context of the German generational novel has referred to as a ‘kämpferische Selbstinszenierung’ (2013, 96, spirited self-staging). This move is also conveyed by the novel’s title. By replacing ‘Blut’ by ‘Flut’ the narrator signals a genealogical break – refusing his grandfather’s immediate bloodline and substituting descent with the fow and the movement that marks the tradition of Bildungsbürgertum in which his family was once rooted, and which – by writing this history – he inscribes himself into. Because of this double movement of genealogical disruption and continuation, the novel defes established views on generational literature, as put forward by Aleida Assmann and others. Characterizing German Väterliteratur ‘im Zeichen des Bruchs [und] Abrechnung’ (2007, 73, as motivated by rupture and settling of accounts), Assmann lists these elements to distinguish this body of literature from that of contemporary generational literature which she sees ‘im Zeichen der Kontinuität. Hier geht es um die Integration des eigenen Ichs in einen größeren Familien- und Geschichtszusammenhang’ (2007, 73 under the sign of continuity. It is about the integration of the self in a larger familial and historical unity). Yet in Flut und Boden disruption and continuity are, instead of opposites, two simultaneous elements in the process of the protagonist’s self-making. Resurrecting his family’s intellectual tradition and defying its Nazi legacy are two simultaneous and intensely entangled attitudes through which the protagonist-narrator formulates his relation to the past and establishes his identity. The playful tone, the satirical assessment of his grandfather, the stylistic refnement, the strong authorial presence – all these elements speak for the manifestation of posttraumatic identity that constructs the history of Nazi involvement in the family not as a means to work through it, but to produce a highly personal version of it. In that sense, Flut und Boden is not a tale about coming to terms with the Nazi past in his family, but it transcends the boundaries of postmemory. Through scholarly dissection, irreverent incineration, narrative emplotment, and poetic investment, the narrator takes ownership of his family history through playful appropriation and performative interpretation, while at the same time ‘disowning’ its National Socialist abrasions through satirical denunciation. This narration,

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constructed with elements that range from the university to the incinerator, between conservation and obliteration, and the various stages in between, has taken the shape of a mnemonic playground, governed not by the orthodoxy of historical accuracy (see Huyssen 2003, 19), but by fow and play. It has become a place where the protagonists from the past are no longer ruling the game.

Notes 1 All references to the novel are from Per Leo, Flut und Boden (Stuttgart: KlettCotta, 2014). All translations from quotes are mine. 2 Throughout the narrative, characters of the second generation are referred to by a combination of their gender (‘M’ for male and ‘F’ for female) and their year of birth. This type of reference mimics the language of bureaucracy and refects a highly distanced positioning toward these family members. I will come back to the meaning of this use at a later stage in my analysis. 3 Huizinga describes the ‘historical sensation’ or ‘historical contact’ as ‘accompanied by the absolute conviction of complete authenticity and truth’ (quoted in Ankersmit 2005, 121). Ankersmit elucidates this concept as something ‘prior to conscious refection of the historian; it is not to be related to any process of thought’ (121). It is rather a matter of ‘ekstasis … a movement by the historian with which he moves outside of himself and reaches for the past’ (121). This move toward the past seems similar to the way the protagonist relates to the past through the stories of M41. I will not elaborate on this matter any further here, because it lies outside the scope of my analysis. See Ankersmit 2005, 119–128 and Confno 2009. 4 Before relating his conversations with M41, the narrator draws a naturalistic sketch of his uncle’s death, more specifcally in the form of a forensic report. This image matches the latter’s overall grotesque character (see FB 291).

References Ankersmit, Frank. 2005. Sublime Historical Experience. Stanford: Stanford UP. Assmann, Aleida. 2007. Geschichte im Gedächtnis: Von der individuellen Erfahrung zur öffentlichen Inszenierung. Munich: C.H.Beck. ———. 2009. ‘Unbewältigte Erbschaften: Fakten und Fiktionen im zeitgenössischen Generationenroman’. In Generationen: Erfahrung - Erzählung - Identität, edited by Andreas Kraft and Mark Weißhaupt, 49–69. Konstanz: UVK. Bakhtin, Michael. 1984. Rabelais and His World. Translated by Hélène Iswolsky. Bloomington/Minneapolis: Indiana UP. Confno, Alon. 2009. ‘Narrative Form and Historical Sensation: On Saul Friedländer’s “The Years of Extermination”’. History and Theory 48 (3): 199–219. Genette, Gérard. 1983. Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method. Translated by Jane E. Lewin. Ithaca: Cornell UP. Giesen, Bernhard. 2004. ‘The Trauma of Perpetrators: The Holocaust as the Traumatic Reference of German National Identity’. In Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity, edited by Bernhard Giesen, Jeffrey C. Alexander, Ron Eyerman, Neil J. Smelser, and Piotr Sztomka, 112–154. Berkeley: California UP.

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Hughes, Alex. 2002. ‘Recycling and Repetition in Recent French “Autofction”: Marc Weitzmann’s Doubrovskian Borrowings’. The Modern Language Review 97 (3): 566–576. Huyssen, Andreas. 2003. Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory. Stanford: Stanford UP. Leo, Per. 2014. Flut und Boden: Roman einer Familie. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta. Neumann, Birgit. 2008. ‘The Literary Representation of Memory’. In A Companion to Cultural Memory Studies, edited by Astrid Erll and Ansgar Nünning, 333– 344. Berlin/New York: De Gruyter. Reidy, Julian. 2013. Rekonstruktion und Entheroisierung: Paradigmen des ‘Generationenromans’ in der deutschsprachigen Gegenwartsliteratur. Bielefeld: Aisthesis. Schröder, Christoph. 2014. ‘Gutes Haus, schiefe Bahn, SS-Karriere: Per Leos Roman “Flut und Boden”’. Der Tagesspiegel, February 24, 2014. White, Hayden. 1975. Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth Century Europe. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP. ———. 2010. The Fiction of Narrative: Essays on History, Literature, and Theory, 1957–2007. Edited by Robert Doran. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP.

8

‘Wir stören uns nicht daran’ Stylistic Refnement and the Play with Referentiality in Kevin Vennemann’s Nahe Jedenew (2005)

The meta-mnemonic engagement with the memory of World War II in Kevin Vennemann’s novel Nahe Jedenew from 2005 is situated in its outspoken experimentation with literary form and its play with historical referentiality. It tells the story of the killing of the families of two Jewish veterinarians by local farmers in the vicinity (‘nahe’) of the fctional village of Jedenew, which in the story is located somewhere in the ‘südlitauischen Heide’ (NJ 34, south-Lithuanian heath). The story suggests that the motive for the atrocity is the farmers’ suspicion that the forced slaughter of their animals by the veterinarians is not a measure to contain an outbreak of hog cholera, but a random act of sabotage ordered by the Russian military authorities. This suspicion is reinforced by a latent anti-Semitic sentiment. The decamping of the Russians and the arrival of German soldiers are reminiscent of events during World War II, yet the precise circumstances of the events are unclear, as the text reveals little about the historical context. The events are internally focalized through the perspective of a teenage girl who, together with her sister Anna, has managed to escape the onslaught and is now hiding in a tree house, located in a forest that borders the houses of both families. Over the course of fve days and six nights, they observe the farmers and German soldiers ransacking the houses. The focalizer’s perceptions are interspersed with memories of her childhood, of life in the countryside, of the relations of the family with the farmers, of family stories, and of the evening of the attacks. Each night the girls leave their shelter to look for food in the felds, occasionally eavesdropping on the farmers. This eventually leads to their discovery. Anna is shot while sleeping on the foor of the tree house; the fate of the ‘I’ remains unclear, as the story ends at the moment that she faces her persecutors. Because of this internal focalization, Nahe Jedenew does not present a transparent account of a historical event, but a view into the narrator’s confused and traumatized mind and her perceptions. The text consists of an obsessive, associative fow of observations, thoughts, and memories, resembling a stream-of-consciousness narration. This fow is formally refected through the absence of paragraphs, the use of long sentences, the oftenrelentless enumeration of information, a lack of conventional punctuation,

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unexpected transitions in time and space, and the persistent use of the present tense. Because of that, readers are confronted with an amorphous and diffuse image of the events, and they are left to decipher the course, the cause, and the meaning of the events. Because of these textual features, the novel is open to a number of readings. Firstly, Nahe Jedenew can be read as a mimetic image of the focalizer’s confused and traumatized mind. The lack of punctuation, the focalizer’s perpetual and hurried changes in subject matter, and the incessant repetition of scenes, phrases, and individual words aim to convey her inability to control her thoughts as a result of fear and shock. From this perspective, the novel functions as a form of documentation about the emotional experience of a traumatic event. Secondly, because of its unconventional form, Nahe Jedenew challenges such a mimetic reading, since this form works against transparency and comprehension but also against the idea that a representation of such a traumatic experience is possible at all. In this sense, the novel can be read as a refection on the limits of literary representation. In my analysis, I will frst look at how the novel can be read as aiming at documentation and reference, and I will investigate its formal characteristics and their functionality in mimicking the traumatized mind of its protagonist. Secondly, I will probe these formal characteristics as a self-referential, critical refection on its representational capacities. To articulate the link between these readings, I will make use of Michael Rothberg’s concept of traumatic realism, which refers to texts that ‘search for a form of documentation beyond direct reference and coherent narrative but do not fully abandon the possibility for some kind of reference and some kind of narrative’ (2000, 106). In a third reading of the novel, I approach Nahe Jedenew as a self-conscious refection on the implications of its author’s temporal and generational remoteness from the historical event of the Holocaust. Many critics of the novel have argued that its suggestive referentiality and idiosyncratic form are expressions of a decidedly literary take on this event, marked by imaginative investment and formal playfulness. For Vennemann’s generation, Georg Diez suggests, history is ‘vor allem eine Geschichte’ (2006) suggesting that it is primarily a fctional story. Here, Nahe Jedenew functions as another fction inscribed into that overall fctional framework of history. In such a reading, the need for documentation and factual accuracy, expressed by what Aleida Assmann terms the ‘historic mission’ (2006, 192) in many earlier memory narratives about World War II, gives way to a purely fctional production of historical events. This reading may seem to contradict my frst two readings, yet I argue that it is precisely the tension evoked by the entanglement of the need for documentation (reading 1), the refections on the impossibility of such documentation (reading 2), and abandoning this binary in favor of a decidedly fctional take on the historical events (reading 3), that constitutes Vennemann’s literary engagement with the Holocaust in Nahe Jedenew.

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Representing the Experience of Trauma Nahe Jedenew can, frst of all, be read as a mimetic rendition of the focalizer’s traumatized mind. To that end, the text takes the shape of a stream of consciousness, which suggests that ‘the basic emphasis is placed on the exploration of the pre-speech levels of consciousness for the purpose, primarily, of revealing the psychic being of the characters’ (Humphrey 1962, 55). Indeed, the text presents a focalizer who is in total shock after the brutal assault on her family and who now fears for her own life. The frst line of the novel, which opens the story in medias res after the girls have fed the scene of the crime to the tree house, expresses this fear: ‘Wir atmen nicht’ (NJ 9, We do not breathe (CJ 13)).1 In a metaphorical sense, the phrase indicates how the focalizer and her sister hold their breath while tensely waiting for what is to come and how they try to remain silent in order not to betray their hiding place to the farmers. The phrase returns frequently in the text, confrming the ongoing impact of shock, fear, and caution on the narrator’s body, her mind, and her observations of the events. This impact resembles what is called ‘Acute Stress Reaction’ in psychiatry. The term refers to a psychological and physiological condition that arises in response to either undergoing or witnessing a traumatic event. It symptoms are bewilderment, confusion, restlessness, the disruption of normal social functioning, and a refex of dissociation from the traumatic event.2 To mimic these symptoms and to produce what Cathy Caruth calls ‘the language of trauma’ (1996, 9), the novel implements a variety of literary techniques. First of all, to evoke the focalizer’s confusion and her increasing diffculty to get a grip on her thoughts in this fearful situation, the novel presents the reader with a collage-like montage of observations, refections, and memories that alternate in an unpredictable way. The following scene illustrates this: Wir sitzen und stehen für Augenblicke nur auf, um uns zu strecken, und hocken uns Rücken an Rücken und legen uns auf den Rücken und legen uns auf den Bauch und legen uns auf die Seite und legen uns auf den Rücken und ziehen liegend die Knie an die Brust und stehen vorsichtig auf und sehen vorsichtig über die Ähren hinweg und sehen Wasznars und Antoninas Hof brennen, nicht einmal allzuweit entfernt, und liegen wie ein X auf dem Rücken übereinander und liegen wie ein T abwechselnd mit dem Kopf auf dem Bauch der anderen und kriechen an den Rand der Lichtung, um etwas zu sehen, und kriechen vorsichtig ein paar Meter weit in das Korn hinein, um etwas zu sehen, und prüfen, wer von uns beiden sich weiter hineintraut ins Korn (NJ 19) We sit and stand up only for a few moments to stretch, and crouch back to back and lie down on our backs and lie down on our bellies and lie

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down on our sides and lie down on our backs and draw our knees to our chests as we lie, and stand up carefully and look carefully across the grain and see Wasznar and Antonina’s farm burning not even all too far away, and lie across each other like an X on our backs and lie like a T taking turns laying our heads on each other’s bellies, and crawl to the edge of the clearing so as to see something and test which of us two dares go farther into the grain (CJ 22) This description contains a long enumeration of the girls’ actions and the elements of the enumeration are strung along in a purely additive manner by the use of ‘und’. This type of description is uncommon, because enumerations are usually constructed by using commas (with ‘und’ as the connector between the last two elements of the enumeration). This additive linking, also referred to as a polysyndeton in classical rhetoric, refects her inability to process the traumatic experiences and suggests her loss of feeling for time and causality. A second element of the focalizer’s behavior that is reminiscent of an acute stress reaction is her total confusion. This mental state is refected in the relinquishing of conventional formal patterns and structures in the text. The unsystematic use of punctuation, the absence of paragraph breaks, and the constant and abrupt changes between stories, memories, and observations suggest that the girl’s mental fow has become highly unstructured and erratic. On the level of content, this confusion is expressed through the semantic leveling of elements that are usually considered to be distinct. The use of polysyndeton already suggests that the string of elements in the enumeration quoted above receive equal value and accentuation, the unpredictable change in topics throughout the text indicates their interchangeability, and the systematic use of the present tense entails the disappearance of temporal hierarchy, hinting at the girl’s disorientation in time. She persistently switches back and forth between events in the present and memories from her past, such as life in the countryside, playing in the felds surrounding the houses, building the tree house, the family’s friendly relationship with the farmer Krystowczyk who eventually plays a leading role in the killings, and most frequently – the idyllic atmosphere just before the attack, when both families were sitting near the pond in the garden and enjoying the warm summer evening. The seamless transitions between these observations and her memories, often triggered by mere association, suggest a lack of focus and control over her thoughts and demonstrate what Caruth refers to as ‘the breach in the mind’s experience of time, self, and the world’ (1996, 4). Besides showing temporal confusion, the use of the present tense hints at the narrator’s inability or refusal to remember the traumatic event, as it signals the absence of a past in her experience of time. As Dori Laub remarked, the impact of massive trauma causes ‘the observing and recording mechanisms of the human mind [to be] temporarily knocked out, [to] malfunction’

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(1992, 57). Through the girl’s perspective, we learn about the fight from the farmers and the sisters’ situation in the tree house, yet the attack and the killing of the parents are not mentioned at all. In her recollection, these events are reduced to her sister Antonina’s ominous announcement ‘Sie kommen’ (NJ passim, ‘They are coming’ (CJ passim)) and the family’s subsequent attempt to fee the scene. The moment of the farmers’ arrival and the attack itself are absent from the narration. The next temporal sequence in the story reports how the girls hide in the kitchen, together with their older brother Marian, his wife Antonina, and their baby Julia. From there the group fees to the tree house, but Marian, Antonina, and Julia are captured before they can reach the shelter. The description of Marian’s killing contains a similar ellipsis in narrated time. While escaping through the garden and trying to reach their father’s car, the group meets the farmer Krystowczyk: ‘wir folgen Marian aus dem Feld heraus auf den offenen Feldweg und über den Feldweg ein gutes Stück den Feldweg entlang und folgen ihm auch dann noch, als er schon auf den uns tropfnaß lachend erwartenden Krystowczyk einschlägt’ (NJ 18, ‘we follow Marek out of the feld onto the open dirt road and across the dirt road, a good stretch along the dirt road, and are still following him even as he pummels dripping wet, laughing, waiting Krystowczyk’ (CJ 21)). This passage hints at Marian attacking Krystowczyk, but there is no further reference to the fght. When at a later moment both girls pass along the country road again and see Marian dead on the ground, the narrator does not engage with his fate: ‘[wir] wagen uns in das Korn hinein, fast bis ganz an die Stelle des Feldwegs heran, an der Marian liegt, und versuchen, uns im Korn fortzubewegen, so leise wie möglich’ (NJ 19–20, [we] venture into the grain almost as far as the place on the dirt road where Marek lies, and try to move along in the grain as quietly as possible’ (CJ 22)). Marian’s death is, in other words, not touched upon at all. Here, her dissociation from the traumatic events can be seen in her avoidance of the traumatic memory of violence and in her refusal or inability to be emotionally invested. This state impacts her entire narration and produces an uninvolved and emotionally numb view on the events. The consistent use of alliterations and assonances – which I shall examine shortly – and polysyndetic structures create a formal monotony that underscores this numbness.3 While the narrator circumvents the moment of the killings, she constantly invokes and compulsively reiterates the same memories from before the attack, often in identical form or with small variations. This reiteration is consistent with the girl’s efforts to repress the traumatic experiences by sustaining the illusion of an idyllic past. Through this process of reiteration, she does not only seek to drown out the painful experience, but also to consolidate the good memories in order to prevent them from slipping into oblivion – along with the lives of her family members. Because of this, the text becomes what Martin Modlinger calls ‘a stream of memory’ (2013). Yet the fact that these memories are, just like her observations about the

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occurring events, set in the present tense indicates that they belong to a past that is forever lost. Even if she were able to actively recall these memories, the act of remembering is always – as Andreas Huyssen reminds us – ‘in and of the present, while its referent is of the past and thus absent’ (2003, 3–4). Her ‘stream of memories’ to invoke and consolidate the past is, in this regard, futile. The reiteration of memories also hints at the increasingly limited scope of her world. The narrowing down of her social circle (to herself and her sister after the killing of her family members), of her time experience (to the ‘now’ because of the absent past and the lack of a future), and her spatial radius of movement (to the tree house and parts of the garden) causes a containment of her mental repertoire. Her mind is no longer fed with new experiences and fresh impulses, but perpetually runs in circles, repeatedly bringing up the same images and rendering them in the very same vocabulary. The manifold use of alliterations and assonances in the text illustrates the limited character of her mental repertoire on the level of lexical morphology. In presenting the psychological and physiological effects of the traumatic shock in narrative form, Nahe Jedenew functions, in Caruth’s words, as ‘the story of the unbearable nature of its survival’ (1996, 7), offering its readers a look into the impact of violence and murder on the mind of the witness. As with Marcel Beyer’s Flughunde, the use of internal focalization seeks to evoke what Monika Fludernik terms ‘experientiality’ (Fludernik 1996, 12); a narrative mode that invites the reader both to witness and to co-experience the situation as it is perceived by the focal character. More specifcally, these techniques aim to draw readers into her traumatic experience, letting them, as Laub indicates, ‘partially experience trauma […], to feel the bewilderment, injury, confusion, dread and conficts that the trauma victim feels’. This immersion in the victim’s stories, defeats, and silences, Laub continues, allows the reader to ‘know them from within, so that they can assume the form of testimony’ (1992, 58). Reading this mental fow as a form of testimony means that readers become active recipients of the focalizer’s witnessing of the events. In this role, they are challenged to acknowledge this account of trauma and its idiosyncratic form. This acknowledgement implies recognizing this form as the diffcult emergence of that traumatic experience as well as the effort to understand its impact. In an ideal scenario, this process elicits what Dominck LaCapra calls ‘empathetic unsettlement’ in the listener or reader, involving ‘a dialogic exchange with it […] wherein knowledge involves not only the processing of information but also affect, empathy and questions of value’ (LaCapra 2001, 35). The question is, however, with which kind of knowledge and information readers have to set up this dialogic exchange. We are presented with a quite clear notion of the traumatized mind, yet the origin and nature of the trauma cannot be determined as clearly. Through some vague indicators, the novel points toward a historical context, i.e. that of World War II and,

190 The Play with Memory more specifcally, to the pogrom in the Polish town of Jedwabne on 10 July 1941, when the local Polish community killed at least 340 Polish Jews with the help of German soldiers.4 This is clear from the presence of Germanspeaking soldiers at the scene, while the suggestive references in the girl’s memories to the family’s Jewish identity and the latent anti-Semitism in what seems to be a Catholic community indicate a Holocaust context. The Polish names of the farmers narrow it down to Poland, and the name ‘Jedenew’ echoes the actual town of ‘Jedwabne’. In that regard, it is not surprising that the critics associate the story with the Jedwabne pogrom. While these elements do indeed suggest a connection with the Jedwabne pogrom, the text contains no clear reference to this event. The use of a young, personal narrator produces an unknowing, narrow perspective on the events and the historical context remains obscure. Furthermore, situating the event in the south-Lithuanian heath suggests some geographical proximity of Jedenew to Jedwabne, which is located in the northeast of Poland, but the reference to this heath confrms that the fctional and the real town do not coincide with each other. Furthermore, during the actual event, the local population, with the approval of the German Ordnungspolizei, murdered the local Jewish community in the center of the town, not in its vicinity. References to biblical storytelling in the narrator’s memories, such as the stories of ‘Ephraim’ (NJ 58) and ‘Jeftas Gileaditern’ (NJ 58) hint at a Jewish-religious background, but none of this is explicit enough to confrm their Jewish identity. The events in the story seem, in other words, related to the pogrom, but not explicitly so. I suggest that this referential uncertainty has two functions. Firstly, by letting the story hinge on this uncertain referential link, the novel challenges the readers’ need for a recognizable historical reference frame. More in particular, it challenges our refex to automatically associate suggestive hints that ft in with the image that we, as readers, have of the Holocaust, with this historical event. By keeping this referential link loose and uncertain, however, the novel works against such routine identifcations and, subsequently, against the use of the Holocaust as an all-explanatory master narrative in our cultural memory. Secondly, the suggestive nature of the text aims to resist a referential reading, suggesting an ontological inability to represent and comprehend the experience of trauma. I will discuss this type of resistance against representation in the next part of my close reading of Nahe Jedenew.

The Limits of Representation The style of Nahe Jedenew, which in a mimetic reading aims to close the gap between the Holocaust past and the reader’s present in order to allow the trauma to emerge in a way that allows for understanding and empathy, simulates not only proximity (‘Nahe’), but also defamiliarization and distance. As Axel Dunker notes, Vennemann uses a language ‘die den Leser

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ganz nah an das Geschehen heranführt und ihn doch ganz fremd und verstört davor stehen lässt’ (2006, which brings the reader very close to the events, while leaving her alone with it, alientated and irritated). The use of stream-of-consciousness narration, the unconventional stylistic features, and the constant shifts in time and space, seeking to reproduce the narrator’s mental disorientation, also aim to disorient the readers – not in the sense of letting them co-experience the narrator’s disorientation, but in providing them with what Caruth terms an ‘enigmatic testimony’ (1996, 6) – a testimony of a traumatic event that resists mimetic transparency and simple comprehension for outsiders. The novel’s critical refection about its representational capacities is at work, frst of all, on a diegetic level. As I have indicated above, the readers receive no insight into the traumatic experience of the girls’ witnessing of the killings. This event can either not be recalled due to the malfunctioning of the human recording and observing mechanisms (see Laub) or its impact is not yet fully known to the narrator. This lack of comprehension causes the impossibility of its representation. This situation is not only relevant for understanding the girls’ mental state on a diegetic level; it also makes the traumatic event inaccessible to the readers. The absence of reference to this traumatic event is expressed in the girl’s description of the night of the killings. In this scene, they are enjoying some quiet time near the pond in their garden, when they suddenly hear the distant sound of the farmers, and frantically try to escape following Antonina’s ominous phrase ‘Sie kommen’. The following passage describes the moments before and after the attack: Abends sitzen wir hinterm Haus in der Hochsommerabendsonne auf dem schmalen Holzsteg, der auf den Teich hinterm Haus hinausführt, und sitzen und liegen und schwimmen in der Sonne und sitzen lesend zusammen und trinken die erste und letzte Sommerbowle des Jahres, schwimmen und bespritzen uns gegenseitig mit Wasser, nachts hocken wir in Badeanzügen in die Speisekammer gedrängt. Abends sitzen wir zu neunt, nachts sind wir sechs. (NJ 9) In the evening we sit behind the house in the midsummer evening sun on the narrow wooden dock that leads out into the pond behind the house, we sit and lie and swim in the sun and sit together reading and drink the frst and last summer punch of the year, swim and splash one another with water, at night we crouch in our bathing suits, crammed into the pantry. (CJ 13–14) The repeated cross-reference to ‘evening’ and ‘night’ in this quote expresses the closeness between idyll and horror, yet since both temporal indicators

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follow each other in immediate sequence, there is no moment that lies ‘inbetween’ them. The only element that indicates the immediate consequences of the attack is the decrease of the number of family members from nine to six. The circumstances that have led three people – the father of the family, the mother, and their neighbor Wasznar – to be no longer part of the group, are not addressed. The moment of their disappearance is eclipsed in the transition between ‘evening’ and ‘night’. The unrepresentability of trauma is also expressed by means of a number of paradoxes at the level of narration. Because of the exclusive use of internal focalization, as readers we have no choice but to construct the identity of the focalizer on the basis of her observations, thoughts, and memories. There is no heterodiegetic narrator or any other focalizing instance to offer concrete information about her and she remains anonymous throughout the narrative. This internal fow entails the technique of what Genette calls ‘simultaneous narration’ (1983, 218), in which – similar to the narrative situation in Marcel Beyer’s Flughunde (see Chapter 1) – ‘the temporal hiatus between the narrating and the experiencing self […] is reduced to zero: the moment of narration is the moment of experience’ (Cohn 1999, 107).5 By omitting this heterodiegetic instance, the novel suggests that there can be no representing subject in the rendition of traumatic events, only an experiencing subject. There is no external instance to bring order to the erratic nature of her observations and thoughts, and this leaves readers with the impression of a formless mass of consciousness in movement, devoid of any concreteness. Therefore, rather than evoking empathy and identifcation, this type of character triggers defamiliarization and resists simple comprehension. Another element that problematizes our access to and knowledge of the narrator is her self-description in the frst sentence: ‘Wir atmen nicht’ (NJ 9, ‘We do not breathe’ (CJ 13)). If we read this phrase not metaphorically (as I did in my frst reading), but literally, indicating the permanent absence of breathing, then we are confronted with a dead focalizer/narrator – a technique also referred to as ‘posthumous narration’ (Boxall 2013, 31). This situation may seem to contradict the rest of the story, which suggests that she is not dead yet at the beginning of the narration. However, because the story is set in the present tense, the narrative works against the idea of temporal progression and suggests that all the narrated events take place simultaneously in the present. In other words, even if the story presents us with an acting character, she may be dead at the same time. All these elements undercut her agency as focalizer or narrator and express the impossibility of her testifying about what happened near Jedenew. Building on this argument, I suggest that her death makes it impossible for the reader to know her trauma from within, i.e. to experience what she experiences. As Geoffrey Hartman indicates, the dead cannot be the objects of an everyday realism, because they embody ‘something more real that the reality we ordinarily inhabit’ (1995, 542). Rothberg associates this reality

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with the Lacanian notion of the real which, as Slavoj Žižek points out, ‘is impossible to occupy’ (qtd. in Rothberg 2000, 135). As readers of the focalizer’s stream of thoughts, we are put in a similarly diffcult position: we cannot approach or inhabit her traumatic experience. This inaccessibility is emphasized by the use of the present tense, which indicates that this experience is enclosed in the moment of its occurrence, in what Rothberg calls ‘a traumatic temporality’ (Rothberg 2000, 13). The past of the protagonist is a perpetual present that cannot move into the future, toward the present of the reader, or as Dunker notes: ‘Der Moment, der Augenblick der Gegenwart saugt die Zeit in sich auf und gibt sie nicht mehr frei. Es gibt keine Zeit danach’ (2006, The moment, the instance of the present sucks up time and does not release it anymore. There is not time after). By locating the traumatic experience in an inaccessible past, the novel does not, however, exempt readers from the duty to act as empathetic witnesses. If it is impossible for outsiders to occupy the position of the traumatized subject, as Žižek suggests, ‘it is even harder to avoid it’ (qtd. in Rothberg 2000, 135). The use of the present tense is, again, crucial here. While installing a space and time in the novel that is entirely ‘pre-existent’ to the present of the reader, it simultaneously hints at the inseverable link between the traumatic events of the past and the readers in the present. A thought-provoking indication of this link is the adjectival participle ‘verbrennender’ (‘burning’) in the narrator’s observation of ‘Wasznars und Antoninas verbrennender Hof’ (NJ 38, Wasznar and Antonina’s burning farm’ (CJ 39)). In line with the use of the present tense, the novel does not use past participles but present participles, which emphasize an active, infnite, or progressive activity rather than one that is fnished. In this case, the novel’s referentiality does not so much aim at instructing readers about the nature of the traumatic experience (as suggested in my frst reading), but about their relationship to these events. By lacing together the past of the novel with the present of the reader through the use of the present tense, the novel suggests that the narrated events continue to be highly relevant today, evoking the ongoing need for empathetic witnessing as well as the acknowledgement that the past remains a ‘verbrennender Hof’, a burning farm; an event that can neither be approached too closely, nor extinguished. The two readings of Nahe Jedenew that I have proposed here may contradict each other, but they do not exclude each other. By simultaneously creating proximity and distance to the traumatized subject, the novel provides us with an aesthetic and cognitive scenario to the conficting demands inherent in representing and understanding trauma, which by defnition ‘defes and demands our witness’, as Caruth reminds us (1996, 5). I suggest that Rothberg’s concept of traumatic realism is helpful in formulating this relation. This type of realism seeks to provide ‘an aesthetic and cognitive solution to the conficting demands inherent in representing and understanding genocide’ (2000, 9) – demands which Rothberg terms ‘realist and antirealist’ (2000, 3). With ‘realist’, he refers to the epistemological

194 The Play with Memory claim that the Holocaust is knowable as well as the representational claim that this knowledge can be translated into a familiar language – a view that I have followed in my frst reading. By ‘antirealist’, Rothberg means both the claim that the Holocaust is not knowable or would be knowable only under radically new regimes of knowledge and that it cannot be captured in traditional representational schemata. This claim ‘removes the Holocaust from standard historical, cultural, or autobiographical narratives and situates it as a sublime, unapproachable object beyond discourse and knowledge’ (2000, 4) – a claim that I have applied in my second reading of Nahe Jedenew. By opening itself up to these two readings, Vennemann’s novel exceeds the frameworks of both classical realism and the poststructural critique of representation. Its suggestive and ambiguous referentiality constitutes ‘a form of documentation beyond direct reference and coherent narrative’, yet without fully abandoning ‘the possibility for some kind of reference and some kind of narrative’ (2000, 101). Nahe Jedenew also deviates in important ways from the concept of traumatic realism. What is typical of Rothberg’s concept is that it refers to texts that wish to keep the friction between the mimetic and the unrepresentable visible. Yet Nahe Jedenew is less overtly mimetic than the texts that Rothberg uses to support his concept of traumatic realism, such as Ruth Klüger’s Weiter leben: Eine Jugend (1992) and Charlotte Delbo’s Auschwitz and After (1997). Even if the text invites a mimetic reading of the traumatic experience, its suggestive character and the narrative situation compel readers to construct an image not through passive mimesis (the reader as a passive recipient of the narrative presentation), but through actively piecing that experience together. As a result, the text actually draws attention away from the referential and turns this attention toward itself. In Roman Jakobson’s terms, it performs a move from the referential to the poetic function, and I propose that this move is crucial in understanding the novel’s meta-mnemonic engagement with memory and trauma. To investigate this move, I will now focus on the novel’s fctional dimension and its formal refnement, for which I use the term ‘stylistic refnement’.

Eine Geschichte Due to its limited referentiality and stylistic refnement, certain critics have stressed the fact that Nahe Jedenew is, frst of all, a literary construct. Helmut Böttiger, for example, claims: ‘Die Botschaft heißt: Hier geht es um Literatur’ (Böttiger 2005, The message is clear: This is about literature). Such claims are not surprising in light of the text’s strong poetical character. Consider, for example, the following passage, which I discussed earlier: Abends sitzen wir hinterm Haus in der Hochsommerabendsonne auf dem schmalen Holzsteg, der auf den Teich hinterm Haus hinausführt, und sitzen und liegen und schwimmen in der Sonne und sitzen lesend

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zusammen und trinken die erste und letzte Sommerbowle des Jahres, schwimmen und bespritzen uns gegenseitig mit Wasser (NJ 9) In the evening we sit behind the house in the midsummer evening sun on the narrow wooden dock that leads out into the pond behind the house, we sit and lie and swim in the sun and sit together reading and drink the frst and last summer punch of the year, swim and splash one another with water (CJ 13–14) In this passage in the German original, we notice the heavy use of alliterations (‘hinterm Haus […] Hochsommerabendsonne […] Holzsteg […] hinterm Haus hinausführt; ‘sitzen lesend zusammen’; ‘schmalen Holzsteg’) and assonance (‘Hochsommerabendsonne’; ‘erste und letzte Sommerbowle’). Together with the polysyndetic use of ‘und’, these stylistic techniques, which in my ‘realist’ reading act as elements to express the protagonist’s numbed emotions and melancholic longing for an idyllic past, create a text that is – just as the farmers’ songs after the killings – ‘auf wundersame melodiös’ (NJ 9, ‘in a strangely melodious fashion’ (CJ 13)).6 Alongside stylistic refnement, the text also repeatedly draws attention to its very own fctional nature. In this respect the opening phrase ‘Wir atmen nicht’ (‘We do not breathe’) is instructive again. Other than inviting a mimetic reading in which the phrase functions as an index of fear or as an expression of the novel’s paradoxical narrative situation, ‘Wir atmen nicht’ can also be read as a statement about the fctional, non-human identity of the characters who do not need air in order to exist. In such a reading, the novel implies from the very start that the text is not concerned with historical events involving historical persons – as in the mimetic reading and the various references to the Jedwabne pogrom in the novel’s critical reception – but that it is primarily fction. The fctional character of the text is, frst of all, apparent from its ambiguous referentiality and its suggestive tone, which indicate detachment from history rather than engagement with it. Consider, for example, the name of the fctional town of ‘Jedenew’. Although it evokes a morphological and aural resemblance to an existing place, ‘Jedwabne’, the latter is only present as a distant and rather random echo and seems to have been transformed in the process of shifting from historical reality into the realm of fction. The notion of ‘nahe’ in the novel’s title further compromises any precise location, and the actual space of the event becomes even less easy to identify because of the focalizer’s perception of the impenetrable fog surrounding their family houses: dichter und dichter zieht sich der Nebel um das Baumhaus herum, und gegen Mittag klebt das wenige, das wir noch sehen von dem, was sich

196 The Play with Memory in unserem Haus und um unser Haus herum abspielt, frei im Nebel schwimmend vor uns als spiele es sich weder hier und jetzt noch irgendwo und irgendwann sonst ab. (NJ 80) getting thicker and thicker the fog envelops the treehouse, and toward noon the little that we still see of what’s taking place in our house and around our house hangs, swimming freely in the fog, before us, as if it’s taking place neither here and now nor anywhere and anytime else. (CJ 75) This passage confrms the unintelligible and unrepresentable character of the events, but it also confrms that the world of the story cannot be located historically, either in place or in time. This has prompted some critics to read the novel in terms of allegory or universality, as if refecting on human behavior and social mechanisms rather than on specifc historical incidents (which I have also hinted at in my frst reading). Yet this spatial isolation should also be considered as a metaphor for the story’s fctional, non-referential character. A second element that points to the text’s fctional character is the persistent attention to stories. As mentioned above, the focalizer intermingles her observations with memories and stories that pertain both to the protagonist’s childhood and her grappling for an explanation for the events, but also to stories of other family members. References to narration and reading activities feature frequently throughout her account and suggest that it was a central part of her former family life. A central story is the father’s tale of the foundational myth of their family close to Jedenew, which involves him getting lost in a snowstorm with a surly coachman and a frozen corpse. The father has been telling this story for years, yet at some point the children discovered that he probably borrowed it from one of the books in his library: ‘Nachdem wir die Geschichte in einem Buch in Vaters Bibliothek entdecken, sind wir lange Zeit unsicher, ob sie Vater sich nun ausdenkt’ (NJ 127, ‘After we discover the story in a book in Father’s library, we’re uncertain for a long time whether Father is indeed making it up’, (CJ 117)). The children, however, do not experience this uncertainty about the historical truth value of their father’s account as a problem. On the contrary, they willingly accept it as his particular story, partaking in the larger history/story of their lives: Wir stören uns nicht daran. Denn alles, was bei uns nahe Jedenew passiert, ist eine Geschichte, wir stellen fest und beschließen, als wir darüber beraten, wie wir von nun an damit umgehen, daß Vaters Geschichte nur als die seine entwirft und zusammenstiehlt, daß wir nichts über seine wahre Geschichte wissen, und also auch nicht wissen, wie er nun eigentlich wirklich auf die Höfe nahe Jedenew kommt, aber wir beschließen, daß diese Geschichte, die er sich als die seine entwirft und

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zusammenstiehlt, nun für uns seine Geschichte ist, wie auch alles andere um uns herum nur eine Geschichte ist, die ebenso gut erfunden sein kann wie Vaters. (NJ 97) That doesn’t bother us. For everything that happens at our home close to Jedenew is a story, we determine and decide, when we consult about how we’re going to deal from now on with the fact that Father’s story is not his at all, that he only pilfers his story from here and there and devises it as his, that we know nothing about his true story, and so also don’t know how he actually in reality comes to be on the farms close to Jedenew, but we decide that this story that he pilfers from here and there and devises as his is now, for us, his story, just as everything else around us is only a story that can just as well be an invention as Father’s. (CJ 90–91) The girls’ indifference hints at their youthful indulging in fantasy and fction, yet it can also be read as a meta-mnemonic and self-referential statement about the novel’s attitude toward the relation between fction and history.7 Just as the children have no choice but to embrace the fction because the historical course of events can no longer be retraced (‘uns keine andere Wahl bleibt’ (NJ 98, ‘we have no other choice’ (CJ 91)), the engagement with the memory of World War II by a contemporary author such as Kevin Vennemann seems equally tied to this ‘fctional condition’. Here is an author at work who has no choice but to accept the fction in his engagement with memory, since the past is only available in mediated form and unavoidably determined by what Reinhardt Koselleck calls the ‘Fiktion des Faktischen’ (1985, 128). But rather than considering this as a problem, the author – like the girls in Nahe Jedenew – makes use of this ‘fctional condition’ to turn toward the creative potential and the performative power this condition implies. If we speak of language ‘as having no reference to signifed meanings but rather as creating these meanings through the play of signifers’, as Jacques Derrida suggests, then Nahe Jedenew is an unmistakable example of this play. It deliberately opts for a fctional solution to the epistemological problem of the unknowability of the past. Thus, it acts like a form of postmemory, seeking to engage memory with the help of ‘imaginative investment, projection and creation’ (2008, 107) as Marianne Hirsch remarks, yet Vennemann’s engagement goes further in that it actively aims to produce history through the use of fction. To articulate this creative process, Ilka Saal’s concept of ‘historiopoesis’ is useful. In the context of recent artistic engagements with African American slavery, she coined this concept to refer to the ‘making (poiesis) of history through poetic means’ (2015, 68, emphasis in original). While building on Hayden White’s understanding that an event becomes a historical fact by

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being narrated in historiography, she seeks to distinguish ‘historiopoiesis’ by aiming to show that the narrative arts can accomplish such illocutionary acts just as well as scholarly historiography. In Nahe Jedenew I recognize this historiopoetical potential in the girls’ comments about their father’s foundational myth: ob nicht die Geschichte im Buch nur Vaters Geschichte erzählt, nachdem man sie sich vielleicht über Jahre hinweg über die Grenzen unserer Häuser und Höfe nahe Jedenew und vielleicht sogar auch über die Grenzen Jedenews hinaus weitererzählt und schließlich aufschreibt und druckt, damit sie eine echte Geschichte wird. (NJ 128) whether the story in the book doesn’t just tell Father’s story after people perhaps pass it on for years and years beyond the borders of our houses and farms close to Jedenew and perhaps even also beyond the borders of Jedenew and ultimately write it down and print it, so that it becomes a genuine story. (CJ 117) In this passage the focalizer points at the production of history through the act of oral reiteration and writing. The German term ‘Geschichte’, which can refer both to ‘story’ and ‘history’, captures this overlap between imaginative creation and historical reference aptly. The use of the present tense instead of the epic preterite confrms this creative dimension, emphasizing how the narrated events originate solely in the instance of their creation and bear no relation to a ‘past’ referent. By using this tense, history becomes visible, in the words of Walter Benjamin, as ‘the object of a construction whose site is […] time flled by the presence of the now’ (1968, 261). The stream-of-consciousness narration and the unrelenting stream of images, thoughts, and memories suggest that the narrative, in Diez’s words, ‘mehr von der Sprache angetrieben wird als von der Story’ (2006, driven more by the language than by the story). The question that remains at the end of this close reading is whether we can think these three readings together. Is there a way of considering its referential ambitions, its critique of representation, its fctionality and stylistic refnement in terms of a dialectical relation? I propose an answer through Rothberg’s claim that traumatic realism ‘seeks to construct access to a previously unknowable object’ (2000, 140). This formulation brings together a number of concepts that are relevant for my argument. The claim is paradoxical in the sense that his use of ‘previously’ suggests that knowledge of this ‘object’ is possible through the act of narration. Yet it is precisely this paradox that binds the three readings together. The object evoked by the novel is an instance of Judeocide that echoes the Jedwabne pogrom. This object is unknowable in three ways: because of the vague and suggestive

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nature of the text, because the past it echoes is absent, and because the traumatic nature of the experience implies that it escapes comprehension and representation. As readers, we are bound to remain at a distance in relation to it – close but not quite there (‘nahe’). The ‘access’ the text promises may acknowledge this intrinsic inaccessibility (‘seeks to construct’), yet it is still supposed to overcome the object’s ‘previously unknowable’ character. The transition from unknowable to knowable, implied in Rothberg’s phrase, becomes possible through the narrative construction of this object. Yet in Nahe Jedenew this constructive process is not a strictly realistic but rather a fctional undertaking. Gaining knowledge of the object does not entail a referential link to a ‘reassuring ground’ (Derrida 2005, 370), but a self-suffcient, performative, ‘historiopoetical’ act: the traumatic event is produced at the moment that access to it is constructed. In doing so, the text suggests that this knowability is not referential in nature, but discursive and imaginary. It constructs, in other words, its own historical truth, yet this ‘truth’ is merely fctional in nature. This may seem to contradict the scholarly aim of historical verifability, yet, as Avanessian and Hennig remark, the past is ‘nur über das Imaginäre erreichbar’ (2013, 254, only reachable through the imagination). And if this does not bother the children, it should not bother us, so Nahe Jedenew seems to suggest. With this novel, Vennemann does not provide us with a merely fctional version of a historical event but with a narrative that critically engages with the opportunities that his generational position in relation to World War II and the Holocaust offers for the literary engagement with these events today: an outspoken experimental play with literary form and radically embracing the imagination in the construction of history.

Notes 1 All German quotes are from Kevin Vennemann, Nahe Jedenew (Frankfurt-amMain: Suhrkamp, 2005). The English translations of these quotes stem from the novel’s translation Close to Jedenew (2008) by Ross Benjamin. I will refer to this translation as ‘CJ’. 2 I do not claim that ‘Acute Stress Reaction’ is an exact diagnosis of the focalizer’s mental state. I rather use the term for analytical purposes here, since it consists of a number of psychological responses that the text seems to mimic in form and content. The specifcs of this psychological phenomenon lie beyond the scope of this analysis. For a comprehensive discussion, see Bryant and Harvey 2000, 3–40. This stress reaction differs from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, which is usually referred to in Trauma Studies and does not entail an immediate response to a traumatic experience but a delayed and compulsively repeated one. For a discussion of this type of traumatic response in literary studies and cultural memory studies, see, for example, Caruth 1996, Leys 2000, and LaCapra 2001. 3 Some critics have identifed this dispassionate rendition of the narrated events as the result of the camera-eye technique. I am not convinced of this reading, because I see this lack of emotion as being in direct relation to the character’s mental state and not as a technique to achieve a neutral view of the events. Furthermore, the hasty narration and the many interruptions of her observations

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by memories suggest a perspective that is capable of emotions, however, not at this moment. This pogrom is a crucial and traumatic event in Polish national war memory and identity. It led to post-war trials and signifcant public controversy. Between 2000 and 2003, the Polish Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) carried out a large-scale investigation, which unanimously identifed Polish inhabitants of Jedwabne and surroundings as the perpetrators of the crime strictu senso. Responsibility for the crime sensu largo could be ascribed to the German forces that had just taken over command from the Russians. For a detailed discussion of the historical events as well as the controversy they generated, see – among others – Gross 2001 and Chodakiewicz 2005. Because of its use of the present tense, Armen Avanessian and Anke Hennig have categorized Nahe Jedenew – together with, for example, Marcel Beyer’s Flughunde – as an ‘altermodern novel’. For an extensive discussion of the poetic and philosophical dimensions of this contemporary use of the present tense in fction, see Avanessian and Hennig 2013, Avanessian 2013, and Avanessian and Hennig 2012. Nahe Jedenew is, of course, not the only novel that demonstrates an experimental écriture that willfully works against easy understanding. Throughout the post-war period, many authors have implemented stylistic experimentation in their engagement with the memory of World War II. Besides Marcel Beyer’s Flughunde and Per Leo’s Flut und Boden, which I have discussed elsewhere in this book, the novels Heimsuchung (2006) and Aller Tage Abend (2012) by Jenny Erpenbeck, Die Unvollendeten (2003) by Reinhard Jirgl, Omega Minor (2004) by Peter Verhaegen, and Zwerm (2005) by Peter Verhelst are good examples of this tendency in recent fctions of memory. Avanessian and Hennig speak in this respect about ‘ein selbstreferentielles Spiel mit dem Realitätsgehalt des Erzählten’ (a self-referential play with the real in the narration). For a critical analysis of the novel against the background of the genre of what they call the ‘Präsensroman’ (255, present tense novel), see Avanessian and Hennig 2013.

References Assmann, Aleida. 2006. ‘On the (In)Compatibility of Guilt and Suffering in German Memory’. German Life and Letters 59 (2): 187–200. Avanessian, Armen. 2013. ‘(Co)Present Tense: Marcel Beyer Reads the Past’. The Germanic Review 88 (4): 363–374. Avanessian, Armen, and Anke Hennig. 2012. Präsens: Poetik eines Tempus. Berlin: Diaphanes. ———. 2013. ‘Der altermoderne Roman: Gegenwart von Geschichte und contemporaneity von Vergangenheit’. In Poetiken der Gegenwart: Deutschsprachige Romane nach 2000, edited by Silke Horstkotte and Leonhard Herrmann, 245–265. Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter. Benjamin, Walter. 1968. Illuminations. Translated by Harry Zohn. New York: Schocken Books. Böttiger, Helmut. 2005. ‘Zerfallen aller Sicherheiten. Kevin Vennemann: “Nahe Jedenew”’. Deutschlandradio Kultur. December 28, 2005. http://www.deut schlandradiokultur.de/zerfallen-aller-sicherheiten.950.de.html?dram:article_id =133589. Boxall, Peter. 2013. Twenty-First-Century Fiction: A Critical Introduction. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge UP.

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Bryant, Richard A., and Allison G. Harvey. 2000. Acute Stress Disorder: A Handbook of Theory, Assessment, and Treatment. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Caruth, Cathy. 1996. Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP. Chodakiewicz, Marek Jan. 2005. The Massacre in Jedwabne, July 10, 1941: Before, During, After. Boulder/New York: East European Monographs. Cohn, Dorrit. 1999. The Distinction of Fiction. Baltimore/London: Johns Hopkins UP. Derrida, Jacques. 2005. Writing and Difference. Translated by Alan Bass. London/ New York: Routledge. Diez, Georg. 2006. ‘Die schönste traurige Geschichte’. Die Zeit Online, January 12, 2006. www.zeit.de/2006/03/L-Vennemann/seite-2. Dunker, Axel. 2006. ‘Aber immer erinnern: Kevin Vennemann schreibt einen gegenwärtigen Roman über den Holocaust’. literaturkritik.de. http:// literaturkritik.de/id/9523. Fludernik, Monika. 1996. Towards a “Natural” Narratology. London: Routledge. Genette, Gérard. 1983. Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method. Translated by Jane E. Lewin. Ithaca: Cornell UP. Gross, Jan T. 2001. Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland. Princeton: Princeton UP. Hartman, Geoffrey H. 1995. ‘On Traumatic Knowledge and Literary Studies’. New Literary History 26 (3): 537–563. Hirsch, Marianne. 2008. ‘The Generation of Postmemory’. Poetics Today 29 (1): 103–128. Humphrey, Robert. 1962. Stream of Consciousness in the Modern Novel. Berkeley: California UP. Huyssen, Andreas. 2003. Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory. Stanford: Stanford UP. Koselleck, Reinhardt. 1985. Vergangene Zukunft: Zur Semantik geschichtlicher Zeiten. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. LaCapra, Dominick. 2001. Writing History, Writing Trauma. Baltimore/London: Johns Hopkins UP. Laub, Dori. 1992. ‘Bearing Witness or the Vicissitudes of Listening’. In Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis and History, edited by Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub, 57–74. New York/London: Routledge. Leys, Ruth. 2000. Trauma: A Genealogy. Chicago/London: Chicago UP. Modlinger, Martin. 2013. ‘Traumatic Experience, Narrative Possibility, and the Ethics of Perspective in Kevin Venneman’s Work’. Presented at the Thirty-Seventh Annual Conference of the German Studies Association, Denver, CO, October 3. Rothberg, Michael. 2000. Traumatic Realism: The Demands of Holocaust Representation. Minneapolis/London: Minnesota UP. Saal, Ilka. 2015. ‘Of Diggin’ and Fakin’: Historiopoiesis in Suzan-Lori Parks and Contemporary African American Culture’. In African American Culture & Society Post Rodney King: Provocations & Protests, Progression & PostRacialism, edited by Jo Metcalf and Carina Spaulding, 67–81. Farnham: Ashgate. Vennemann, Kevin. 2005. Nahe Jedenew. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. ———. 2008. Close to Jedenew. Translated by Ross Benjamin. Brooklyn/New York: Melville House.

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‘With a stretched arm. Like Superman, not like Hitler’ Irreverent Play with Memory in Astronaut van Oranje (2013) by Andy Fierens and Michaël Brijs

The last novel in this book practices a kind of mnemonic play that is reminiscent of that in Per Leo’s Flut und Boden and Kevin Vennemann’s Nahe Jedenew, but quite different at the same time. In contrast to Leo’s and Vennemann’s sophisticated écritures, Astronaut van Oranje (2013) by the Flemish authors Andy Fierens and Michaël Brijs seems blatantly unliterary. Referred to as a ‘hilarious anarchosciencefctionhorrorsatire’ on its back cover, it brings a science-fction story that is marked by an absurd plot, crude jokes, tingling clichés, grotesque descriptions, ludicrous horror scenes, and a pervasive anti-bourgeois attitude. For these reasons, most critics dismissed it as lacking any aesthetic or other value. However, I believe the novel offers some highly interesting clues to understand how contemporary authors (can) deal with World War II memory today. Before going deeper into this, let me present a brief summary of the story. Astronaut van Oranje is set at the beginning of the twenty-second century and tells of Borms, the captain of ‘Rex’, a spaceship under the authority of the ‘Republiek van Vlaanderen’ (AvO 9, Republic of Flanders). He has been commissioned by the Vatican to transport patients to an unknown destination in a far-off corner of the universe. The mission is highly secret and Borms does not know what is wrong with the patients, to whom he has no access. He is unaware that the mission is a set-up by an ominous character, called the Cardinal. The latter wants to fnd a boy named Gunther, whom the Cardinal – we learn later on – fathered with Borms’s lieutenant Laplasse. The Cardinal suspects Gunther to have supernatural, messianic powers and sees him therefore as a threat to his ambitions of becoming Pope. The mission allows the Cardinal to shadow Laplasse, who is also in search of her son after he was taken from her after childbirth by a priest called Damiaan in order to protect him from the Cardinal. During a stop on the asteroid Böling, the Cardinal’s men fnd and kidnap Gunther, whom Damiaan had hidden there nine years earlier. Borms and Laplasse, who resist the kidnapping, are arrested and transported as prisoners to the planet Molokai, the fnal destination of the mission. Upon arrival, the Cardinal orders their execution, which is however thwarted by Damiaan. Remarkably, the latter has become a man of metal – a result of

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a mutation process triggered by being exposed to a volcanic substance on Earth. He succeeds in liberating Borms and Laplasse, along with a group of captive children, but they have to leave Gunther behind with the Cardinal. During their fight, the Cardinal’s men kill Damiaan, but Borms and Laplasse manage to lead the children through the wilderness to the homines metallici – a people that slowly transform into metallic beings and whose leader was Damiaan. They hide there from the Cardinal who is after the silver and gold contained in their bodies. The novel’s climax is an apocalyptical battle between the Cardinal’s men and the metallic people, led by Laplasse and Borms. With the help of some supernatural creatures, they manage to stop the ongoing genocide, destroy the concentration camp in which the metallic people are imprisoned and tortured, and unmask and kill the Cardinal. Gunther also dies, but not without announcing the coming of a utopian empire on Molokai. Peace is restored on the planet, which becomes a place of virtue and righteousness under Borms’s rule and an antipode to the Republic of Flanders on Earth, where corruption and evil continue to thrive. For readers unfamiliar with the history of the Second World War in Belgium, the novel’s relevance with regard to its memory construction is puzzling at best. The story is not situated in the past or the present, but in a fantastic future, and it lacks any mimetic relation to the war events. The history of World War II is, however, very present in the story, namely in the characters’ names, which are almost all identical to those of people that took part in the collaboration with the German occupier in Belgium during World War II. Yet, rather than referring to their historical counterparts, the names become tied up in a new, fctional universe that has little or nothing to do with the evoked historical reference frame. From that perspective, their use is primarily poetologically, rather than historically motivated. It is here that I see the novel’s potential as a fction of meta-memory. Through this anachronistic dislocation, Fierens and Brijs essentially use these names as unbound mnemonic signifers. As I will argue in my reading, in Astronaut van Oranje, history is frst of all appropriated for fctional purposes, which expresses a view of cultural memory not just as a collection of (hi)stories (as in Grote Europese Roman, Zwerm, Flut und Boden, or Nahe Jedenew), but also as a discursive reservoir from which one can select and implement freely and without reverence to historical accuracy, political sensitivities, or mnemonic rules. In Astronaut van Oranje, those signifers, representing the past of collaborationism in Flanders and Belgium, have become the authors’ property, signaling how its authors assertively and fully indulge the mnemonic playground evoked by Per Leo in Flut und Boden, while also pushing its walls outward.1 In addition to this appropriation, I consider the novel a highly relevant example of meta-memory because of the process of intense re-semanticization to which it subjects these mnemonic signifers. In a radically imaginative creation – constituting the novel’s poetic dimension in its meta-mnemonic

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engagement – the fctional appropriation entirely determines the signifcation of these names, however, the historical frame of reference is not entirely erased. As I will show in this analysis, it is exactly through the intersection of fctional and historical signifeds that Astronaut van Oranje performs its indexical thrust. While the novel is indeed a ludic piece of science fction, its dystopian undercurrent refects an anxiety about how contemporary Flemish Nationalist politics continues to be rooted in the various ideologies that drove the Flemish Nationalist collaboration during World War II. Yet, rather than expressing fear, the comical refraction serves as a means to produce a satire about contemporary Flemish Nationalism. This combination of dystopia and satire refects meta-memory’s double thrust and shows how the novel’s playful use of history becomes frmly tied up with presentday concerns. While none of this is in itself radically new, it is the way the authors push the play with these signifers to the extremes that illustrates their irreverent ownership of memory and what has become possible today in fctions of memory. My reading will proceed in three steps. First, after providing a brief overview of the novel’s plot, I will gauge the nature and implications of the authors’ fctional use of historical names. Second, by means of Renate Lachmann’s concept of the palimpsest, I will explore how the historical reference frame inevitably shines through in the characters’ names. As I will show, this evocation does not serve the purpose of engaging this war past, but it projects it into a fantasy future to produce a dystopian image of Flanders as ruled by those that rose to power thanks to their collaboration with the German occupier. This dystopia, however, is a fallible one, serving the purpose of satire. The ultimate purpose of this satire, for which the novel uses literary techniques of irony, stereotype, coarse humor, and the grotesque, serves to provide us with a warning of the presence of fascist tendencies within Flemish Nationalist politics today. In a third and fnal step, I will refect on contemporary uses of humor in fctions about World War II and how Astronaut van Oranje fts in with that strand.

History into Fiction As Jan Assmann has convincingly argued, the transition from communicative to cultural memory causes the ‘objectivation or crystallization of communicated meaning and collectively shared knowledge’ (1995, 130). As a result, historical signifers are increasingly less connected to a secure historical signifed but undergo what Gregor Feindt and others call ‘processes of objectifcation’ (2014, 31). As a result, they ‘gain independence from the particular temporal and spatial context from which they stem’ (2014, 31). In my readings of Peter Verhelst’s Zwerm (Chapter 6) and Kevin Vennemann’s Nahe Jedenew (Chapter 8), I have shown that these novels show a high awareness of this independence. In Astronaut van Oranje, this process of disconnection takes place through the fctional implementation of names of

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historical people. The protagonist’s name ‘Borms’ reminds us of the Flemish Nationalist activist August Borms;2 that of his lieutenant, ‘Laplasse’, of Irma Laplasse3 – both of whom were executed for treason at the end of World War II. The spaceship’s doctor ‘Van Severen’ evokes the fgure of Joris van Severen, founder and leader of the fascist-inspired Verdinaso,4 while ‘Vader Degrelle’ [Father Degrelle] is based on the fgure of Léon Degrelle, who founded Rexism and joined the Waffen-SS. The spaceship in Astronaut van Oranje is, moreover, named after Degrelle’s political party, Rex.5 Other, more marginal characters are ‘Vindevogel’, the spaceship’s radio operator, who refers to Leo Vindevogel, a Flemish war mayor;6 a monk named ‘Moens’, whose name coincides with that of Wies Moens, a Flemish writer notorious for his Flemish Nationalism;7 and ‘Sultan Sergio’ alias ‘Eriksson’, potentate of Vulva, whose name is a reference to the Flemish Nationalist neo-Nazi Bert Eriksson.8 To be sure, the use of historical signifers is not new, and it is, moreover, a distinctive feature of historical fction. Yet, in Astronaut van Oranje these signifers do not serve to shape the story’s setting or to evoke a historical reference frame that gives the story meaning and relevance; well on the contrary. In typically postmodern fashion, the meaning of the characters is frst of all determined by the fction itself, and here, the authors implement the epistemological discourse of constructivism into literary practice. Rather than addressing the matter of reference in terms of ‘to what empirical real object in the past does the language of history refer?’ (Hutcheon 1988, 119), they pose the question ‘to which discursive context could this language belong?’ (idem). They also give a clear answer to that question: their own fctional universe of Astronaut van Oranje. The presence of historical names, the name and shape of Borms’s spaceship, the dominant presence of the clerics, the reference to the color guards and drummers, the use of Diksmuide as the capital of the Republic may – certainly for readers familiar with the history of collaborationism in Belgium during World War II – at frst enact a search for historical meaning. However, from the beginning onward, this referential reading is signifcantly hampered. Firstly, the names’ conventional signifed is incompatible with their new fctional environment, as they fnd themselves in a chronotope marked by dystopia and bizarre science fction. Secondly, while the authors primarily use names that stem specifcally from the historical intertext of Flemish Nationalist collaborationism, with this creating what Broich and Pfster have called a ‘Systemreferenz’ or a matrix of references that are related to each other in that intertext (1985, 53), it does not remain true to this historical constellation. Borms, Laplasse, Moens, Vindevogel, and Eriksson do indeed refer to Flemish Nationalist collaborationism, yet other names do not ft into that history, such as Degrelle, who was politically active in Wallonia, or Van Severen, who fercely opposed collaboration with the German occupier. Such signifers disrupt rather than facilitate a coherent referential pattern to interpret the text historically. Thirdly, although the

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characters’ names insert an explicit text-syntactical link between the text of the novel and the intertext of Belgian war memory, the characters themselves share hardly anything with their historical namesakes. This playful rupture is furthermore amplifed through the science fction setting and the often absurd plot twists. As the narrative evolves, the importance of the historical meaning evoked by the characters’ names disappears completely, and they become entirely defned by the logic of the plot. Such generic choices evince a radical fantastic approach that ties up the signifers in fully ‘new relations to produce something strange, unfamiliar and apparently “new”, absolutely “other” and different’ – a typical feature of fantasy, as Rosemary Jackson has argued (2008, 8).9 This vision of cultural memory as a discursive space from which elements can be drawn, relocated, and resignifed at will, signals an irreverent attitude toward history as a source of fxed meanings or, in Derrida’s terms, as a ‘transcendental signifed’ (2005, 354). One particular passage epitomizes this irreverence aptly, i.e. the heroic description of Borms during his fght against the Cardinal’s soldiers. Here, Borms is presented as fying forward ‘met gestrekte arm. Zoals Superman, niet zoals Hitler’ (AvO 251, the arm stretched. Like Superman, not like Hitler). The distinction between the comic hero and the German Reichsführer emphasizes not only a moral opposition between good and evil in the story; it also explicitly indicates that the historical signifed of the stretched arm (i.e. the Nazi salute) is not at stake in the interpretation of Borms’s character – regardless of the collaborationism of his historical namesake. Rather, the meaning of this gesture is entirely determined by a fctional signifed, implying that the semantic role of the historical referent is ruled out. Fiction explicitly refers to itself in the process of meaning production. What is one to make of this loose relation between fction and history and the ongoing processes of inversion and re-semantization? Are the fctional characters merely transmogrifcations to amuse us? In line with meta-memory’s double thrust, of course, they are not.

A Political Satire of Flemish Nationalism Even if the fctional refraction of the mnemonic signifers cloaks their initial meaning, it would be naïve to think that this meaning disappears. For readers familiar with Belgian war history, their historical reference frame echoes throughout the novel, regardless of the changes they are subjected to. For that reason, the mnemonic signifers take on a palimpsestic structure. As Lachmann explains, in this type of structure, ‘die Zweitschrift, durch die hindurch die Erstschrift lesbar ist, [bestimmt] die Sinnkonstitution eines Textes, in dem Zeichen zweier Kontexte aufeinander treffen’ (2004, 59 the second inscription, through which the initial inscription remains visible, determines the meaning of a text, as signs of two contexts confront each other). In Astronaut van Oranje, the initial inscription is the historical

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context of collaborationism in Belgium during World War II (its intertext), the second one is the meaning they acquire in the diegetic universe of the novel. While the novel’s excessive refraction of the mnemonic Erstschrift through a large range of narrative modifcations and techniques makes it often very diffcult to extricate it from the fctional web, this Erstschrift inevitably remains present (‘lesbar’) through the fctional inscription that is laid over it. The production of meaning happens exactly at the intersection where the historical and the fctional meet (‘aufeinander treffen’). In the following, I will discuss the shape and effects of this confrontation. As frivolous and fantastic as this science fction story may be, it has a concrete and clearly identifable spatial and political setting, i.e. the Republic of Flanders under the rule of the Vatican. The notion of ‘Republic’ suggests a future in which Flanders has separated from Belgium and has gained territorial and political autonomy. It is imperialist, corrupt, reactionary, racist, misogynist, and domineered by the Vatican. This bleak image evokes a dystopia, ‘a non-existent society described in considerable detail and normally located in time and space that the author intended a contemporaneous reader to view as considerably worse than the society in which that reader lived’ (Sargent 1994, 9). The historical references give a clear hint to what has caused this unattractive Flemish Republic to come into being, i.e. the collaboration with Nazi Germany during World War II. This is clear from the characters’ names, which evoke a setting ruled by ex-collaborationists and from the name of the Republic’s capital, ‘Diksmuide’. This WestFlemish town is particularly known for its ‘IJzertoren’ (Yser Tower), a lieu de mémoire originally designed to commemorate the struggle for Flemish linguistic and political rights during both world wars, but which evolved into a gathering place of radical Flemish Nationalists and neo-Nazis from all over Europe after the Second World War.10 These elements evoke an alternative history in which the Nazis have won the war – a course of events which, in accordance with the political objectives of radical Flemish Nationalist collaborationism during World War II, has enabled the Republic of Flanders to become independent from Belgium. Its social structure is moreover deeply National Socialist in nature. As indicated earlier, the Republic is depicted as reactionary, racist, and antiSemitic; it proclaims a pure Flemish bloodline, and its political discourse is strongly indebted to the Nazis’ ‘blood-and-soil’ rhetoric that espouses racism and nationalism. Other elements that support the link with German National Socialism are the Republic’s annexation of French Flanders, which echoes the takeover of Austria by the Germans in March 1938 as well as the decreeing of an ‘Algeheel Cultureel Creatieverbod’ (AvO 12, General Cultural Creation Prohibition) in order to revive traditional folksong music. As Borms remarks, Het Creatieverbod werd niet uitsluitend ingevoerd om de oude Vlaamse klassiekers in volle glorie te laten schitteren, maar ook om al die

208 The Play with Memory arrogante luilakken uit hun vals gestemde artistieke dromen te halen en hen te activeren op de arbeidsmarkt (AvO 13) The Creation Ban was not only issued to revive and glorify the old Flemish classics, but also to get those arrogant lazy bums [artists in a general sense] out of their off-key artistic dreams and get them into the labor market. This verdict unmistakably alludes to the National Socialist onslaught on what is referred to as ‘entartete Kunst’, art considered to be un-German, that is Jewish or Communist in nature. With this image comes the question about the target of this dystopia. As is generally understood, the genre is generally concerned with a situation of the present, and I believe this is no different in Astronaut van Oranje. Rather than a critique of Flemish Nationalist collaborationism, I believe the dystopia refects a fearful suspicion of the fascist roots of Flemish Nationalist politics today and then, more specifcally, of the center-right party Nieuwe Vlaamse Alliantie [New Flemish Alliance] and the radical rightwing party Vlaams Belang [Flemish Interest]. This is apparent from the established Republic in the novel, a state form that these parties have been advocating more fervently than any collaborationist movement during World War II.11 In line with this, the abovementioned ‘General Cultural Creation Ban’ equally targets the populist culture politics that has at times been proclaimed by both parties.12 Furthermore, the yearly meetings at the Yser Tower offered right-wing parties, such as Vlaams Belang, a political forum to call for amnesty for the people who collaborated with the German occupier. A third – and the most obvious – element that points the novel’s critique towards today’s politics is the name of the spaceship’s computer, ‘Annemans’, referring to Gerolf Annemans, former chairman of Vlaams Belang. By intermingling protagonists from historical collaborationism with those from contemporary Flemish Nationalism, the novel subscribes to a line of attack often implemented in response to Flemish Nationalism’s electoral success over the last decades. Here the Flemish Nationalist upsurge in Belgian politics is presented as a melancholic reenactment of a failed past that creeps in through the back door. As in classic dystopia, Astronaut van Oranje functions as what Lyman Tower Sargent describes as a ‘prophetic vehicle’ (2003, 2) and as a warning for contemporary readers against tendencies in Flemish politics that could, if uncurbed, create this unappealing society.13 Yet, while this image may signal profound concerns with a present-day situation and therefore serve as an expression of meta-memory’s double thrust, I believe the novel’s emphasis lies on artistic play, rather than on political commitment. This is clear from the fact that the Flemish Republic

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is far from a perfect construction. While this dystopia in Astronaut van Oranje refects fear and suspicion of the fascist nature of contemporary Flemish Nationalist politics, it also paves the way for mockery and derision, which aims at providing us with a satirical refraction. Key poetic strategies of this satirical approach are irony, the use of commonplaces, the grotesque, and coarse humor. As a result, the novel constructs the independent Flemish Republic of the future as what Darko Suvin calls a ‘fallible dystopia’, a dystopia that is not ‘nightmarishly perfect’ and whose ‘seams may be picked apart’ (2010, 395). In the following, I will discuss these literary devices in the novel, which show the seemingly treacherous character of the Republic as being utterly ludicrous. This duality is, frst of all, implemented through the use of irony. As Linda Hutcheon explains, irony is simultaneously ‘inclusive and differential’ (1994, 58) and emerges through fipping back and forth between what is said and what is unsaid, with the latter being privileged in that process of signifcation.14 This duality is, for example, clearly present in some of the elements that represent the Republic of Flanders in the novel, such as its capital Diksmuide and Borms’s spaceship ‘Rex’. Because of its Flemish Nationalist connotation, the town of Diksmuide seems an obvious choice for the imaginary construction of an independent Flanders. At the same time, its small size and its peripheral location in West-Flanders undercut its credibility as the center of the Republic’s power. Rather, what is at stake in making Diksmuide the capital of the Republic, is hinting at the town’s provincial character. The same duality marks Borms’ spaceship ‘Rex’. Its shape, modeled after the Yser Tower, indicates how the spaceship functions as an emblem of the Republic of Flanders. The tower itself stands for the ideological entanglement of Flemish Nationalism and Catholicism, and Borms’ spaceship acts as a missionary and colonizing vehicle to spread these ideologies throughout the universe. These imperial connotations are confrmed both by the spaceship name ‘Rex’, which is Latin for ‘king’, and its phallic shape. Yet the idea of a tall brickwork building cruising through outer space contradicts both common sense and the conventions of science fction, which commonly entail ‘technological sophistication and advancement’, as Andrew Milner shows (2012, 128) Borms’ spaceship is rather an archaic remnant and a provincial symbol – a meaning that refects on the image of the Republic and aims to undermine its credibility in the eye of the reader. A second technique in Astronaut van Oranje to mock the Flemish Republic is the use of commonplaces about Flemish Nationalism, such as the references to the Yser Tower and Diksmuide, where the tower is located. Although they do indeed refer to the entanglement of Flemish Nationalism and collaboration, the right-wing nature of the Pilgrimages of the Yser is actually a thing of the past. In 2000 its organizing committee, which consists of more moderate people from the Flemish Movement, publicly distanced itself from collaboration and sought to stress its original aims from the time

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of the First World War (No More War, Autonomy, and Truce of God). This allowed the Flemish Movement to restore some of its credibility in Belgian politics and to counter the routine associations of Flemish Nationalism with fascism and the history of collaboration. In the novel, however, the characters’ names suggest that the Flemish Nationalism of the future is tightly intertwined with the history of collaboration. In that sense, these clichés refect an outdated view of Flemish Nationalism – a fact that was met with critique in the reception of the novel.15 Yet I suggest that it is exactly the reiteration of these old clichés that is crucial to the novel’s dystopian and satirical thrust. Firstly, they imply that the actual distancing by the IJzerbedevaart-committee in the year 2000 from radical right-wing and fascist tendencies that have their roots in collaboration was only temporary and that these tendencies are a latent component of contemporary Flemish Nationalism. Secondly, through these clichés, the text suggests that an independent Flemish Republic would be as provincial and predictable as these clichés suggest. The reference to a performance by ‘vendelzwaaiers en tambours’ (AvO 11, fag wavers and drummers) on the ‘Rex’ underlines this provincial image. This ceremonial event in the novel refers to a central element of Flemish Nationalist folklore that is often brought up in Belgian politics to portray Flemish Nationalism as fundamentally folkloristic in nature. A second type of clichés – in line with those tackling Flemish Nationalism – seeks to depict the Flemish community in the novel as narrow-minded, racist, and subordinated to Catholicism. The narrow-mindedness is expressed here through the cliché of the antipathy between the Flemish and the Dutch. In reality, it is a rather harmless form of mutual mockery, but in the novel, it has evolved into an ethnic confict. This is thematized when Borms is unmasked as being partly of Dutch origin and for that reason expelled from the Flemish community. At frst, Borms also experiences this revelation as a disgrace: ‘“Je begrijpt het niet. Ik ben een Hollander. Een Batavier. Een kaaskop. Een tulpenvreter. Een dropkakker.”’ (AvO 92, You don’t understand. I am a Dutchman. A Batavian. A cheese-head. A tulip muncher. A licorice shitter). Yet, rather than confrming these clichés, the novel uses these cliché-views of Dutchness as symptomatic for the petty mentality of the Flemish Republic. Borms eventually embraces his Dutch ancestry and celebrates it by becoming an ‘Astronaut van Oranje’ in order to battle the Cardinal, demonstrating the novel’s critique of the political ideal of Flemish autonomy and a plea for a hybrid Flemish-Dutch identity.16 This critique is further reinforced by references to recurring clichés about what is considered to be typical Flemish behavior, for example, the ‘experimenten met lintbebouwing’ (AvO 23, ‘experiments with ribbon development’) that take place on Vulva and which refer to a typical form of urban development in Belgium.17 These references turn Flemish identity into a caricature in order to show the undesirability and incongruity of its nationalist aspirations.

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Besides its critique of Flemish Nationalism, the novel attacks a second ideological pillar of the Flemish Republic, i.e. the Catholic Church. This critique is voiced explicitly through Borms’s anti-clerical perspective (‘allemaal even schaapachtig en geslepen’, AvO 9, all of them equally sheepish and cunning) and Damiaan, but also through a grotesque presentation of the clerics’ bodies. This is, for example, apparent from the pervasive smell of the monks’ breath and from their constant sweating. A more explicit example can be found in Borms’s observation of Father Degrelle’s face, which contains ‘een knoert van een wrat’ (AvO 28, a huge wart). Borms considers it a ‘monstruositeit (AvO 29, monstrosity) and fears it to be: een strakgespannen, op springen staande zak vol spinneneieren. En wanneer dat gebeurde […] dan zouden miljoenen exemplaren van de venijnige arachnida zich vliegensvlug verspreiden over het schip, de bemanning langs alle lichaamsopeningen binnendringen en het kwade van de hun meticuleus ingeprente leer als een kiemrijp zaadje in de Vlaamse hersenen komen planten. (AvO 30) a taut sack of spider eggs, on the verge of bursting. And if that would happen […] millions of these vicious arachnids would spread swiftly through the ship, penetrating the crew through all bodily orifces and planting the evil of their meticulously inculcated doctrine like seeds ready to germinate in their Flemish brains. The wart can be seen as a clear example of a grotesque depiction, in the sense of Mikhail Bakhtin’s notion of the grotesque, as that which ‘protrudes from the body, all that seeks to go out beyond the body’s confnes’ (1984, 31). A similar transgression is present in Damiaan’s description of the impact of the Church in the novel, which he expresses in physical terms: ‘ze baant zich een weg door onze huidporiën en lichaamsopeningen, doet onze ingewanden bevriezen en heeft onze ziel in de houdgreep’ (AvO 211, it makes its way through our skin pores and body orifces, freezes our insides and keeps our soul in a stranglehold). The effect of this grotesque image is double. As John Ruskin lucidly remarked, the grotesque is ‘composed of two elements, one ludicrous, the other fearful’ (2003, 76). As one or the other element prevails, the grotesque can be divided into two branches: sportive grotesque and terrible grotesque. The ‘ludicrous’ element of the grotesque, its comic, playful, or ‘sportive’ side, Ruskin continues, has obvious affnities with satire, irony, caricature, and cartoon, which stay on the surface of the object and exaggerate or deform their targets with the aim of ridicule. The ‘fearful’ element has a different set of generic affliations (the Gothic, the fantastic, horror, and, most crucially, the uncanny) that hint at a troubled interiority of the grotesque subject and changes the mood from humor to anxiety.

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Ruskin notes how these two elements are frmly entangled. In Astronaut van Oranje, for Borms and Damiaan the grotesque clerical body constitutes above all a threat because of the risk of contamination and infection, physically as well as ideologically. At the same time, this grotesque image also refects their caricatural view of the clergy. It demonstrates how they hold the clergy in low regard and – certainly in the case of Borms – present them as ludicrous and weak. A last group of clichés determining the novel’s satirical take on Flemish Nationalism concerns the Republic’s inherent male chauvinism and misogynist nature. It is a place where men assume the high-ranking positions, where they are generally openly or covertly sex-obsessed, and their speech is riddled with sexual innuendo. The phallic shape of the ‘Rex’ illustrates this masculine imperial dominance, while the biosphere’s name Vulva as well as its architectural construction – a gigantic woman lying on her back pushing her vagina upward – expresses the misogynistic attitude and the psychosexual degeneration that mark the radical Flemish Nationalist mentality in the novel. On the extra-diegetic level, this hyperbolic and disturbing portrayal of male sexual aggression is clearly meant to question the mental health of the Flemish Nationalist state.

Laughing at Everything? All of these elements contribute to the incredulity of the Flemish Republic depicted in the novel. Yet this irreverent appropriation of historical names, gestures, and memory spaces is not merely a game for the sake of playing. It is also highly relevant with regard to the politics of memory about World War II in Belgium. As I have already indicated in my analysis of Erwin Mortier’s Marcel (see Chapter 2), the history of collaboration remains a very fraught matter in Belgian memory culture, which is clear from the way it continues to trigger controversies. Yet Marcel and Astronaut van Oranje tackle this issue in very different ways. As I show in my analysis of Marcel, this novel aims to loosen this tension by presenting a plea for what Lewis Ward has termed ‘transgenerational empathy’ (2008, 58). Building on Dominick LaCapra’s notion of ‘empathetic unsettlement’ as a necessary position when approaching victim testimony, Lewis conceives this form of empathy as ‘an approach to the past that is self-refexive, draws on ideas of time, memory and generations, and moves both toward and away from the victims of the past in a simultaneous gesture of proximity and distance’ (Ward 2008, 58). It is an attitude that refects both affect and objectivity, and its dual meaning of sharing the feelings of others while at the same time understanding or comprehending the historical situation and context. While Ward coins the term to articulate the relation between contemporary witnesses and victims of trauma, I argue in my reading of Marcel that Mortier proposes a similar approach to collaborationism in an attempt to combine objectivity and affect, yet without the necessary care to avoid

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turning perpetration into victimhood. This nuance of the novel’s form can be described with Wayne Booth’s term ‘stable irony’, a form of irony that allows for ‘a reconstruction of meaning’ but does not invite the reader ‘with further demolitions and reconstructions’ (Booth 1974, 5). Astronaut van Oranje defes such an empathetic and reconstructive scenario. Through the use of satire, the novel adopts what Northrop Frye has identifed as the genre’s ‘militant attitude’ (1957, 224) which preempts any form of seeking proximity to and an understanding of the motives of those who collaborated with the German occupier. The politics behind the novel’s engagement with memory clearly aim to dismiss both the fgures of the past as well as the way in which this past – according to the logic of the dystopia – is recuperated by contemporary Flemish Nationalist politicians and carried into the future of Flanders. It does so in ways that defy Mortier’s nuanced approach, and it also does this explicitly. Halfway through the story, Borms needs to locate a secret corridor in an antiquarian bookshop, which – according to inside information – is hidden behind ‘de verzamelde in memoriams van Erwin Mortier’ (AvO 93, Erwin Mortier’s collected in memoriums). The phrase ironically points at Mortier’s intense preoccupation with memory in his literary and non-fctional work, but the reference is more than just a literary-critical assessment. By referring to his oeuvre as a collection of ‘in memoriams’, Astronaut van Oranje openly ridicules Mortier’s pleas for a respectful approach to the past, which is marked by empathy, understanding, and a nostalgic yearning for what is lost in the process of remembering.18 Astronaut van Oranje also defes Mortier’s reconstructive project. In Marcel, reproducing the collaborationist’s letter from the Eastern front suggests the possibility of understanding his motives and his ideological position – an understanding that offers perspectives of transgenerational empathy and maybe even repair. In Astronaut van Oranje this suggestion is absent. The reference to historical names, gestures, and memory spaces from collaborationist history in Belgium during World War II constitutes the core of the novel’s bleak vision of Flanders’s future and, hence, demonstrates continued disapproval of collaborationism. More importantly, the fctional transmogrifcation of the historical fgures indicates that questions of historical comprehension and empathetic understanding are actually not at stake. The novel is simply not interested in the voices of the past, but only in their potential to create a political satire about politics in Belgium. Reading Astronaut van Oranje from this mix of political and aesthetic performativity raises questions about its relevance for discussions on Flemish Nationalist politics today and about its contribution to the continuing negotiations of collaborationist memory in Belgium. Does the novel offer insights that help us attain a better understanding of the dynamics behind today’s political system in Belgium? And does its comical approach towards this war past embody a memory practice that is valuable for Belgian cultural memory today? In light of my analysis, both answers seem to beg for

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a negative answer, but here I also see the key to the novel’s meta-mnemonic relevance. When considering the political attack launched by the novel on today’s Flemish Nationalism, several elements jeopardize its effectiveness. First, this attack is implicit, since it functions via the politics of dystopia and does not contain any direct references to today’s political situation. Second, if the construction of this dystopian narrative is aimed at linking today’s Flemish Nationalist politics to historical collaborationism and, hence, signals a heeding of some fascist core at its heart, the novel serves a political thinking that reduces Flemish Nationalist identity to that of a radical minority that collaborated during both world wars to achieve its political goals. This somewhat anachronistic and certainly biased ideological maneuver, which has often been implemented by anti-Flemish or Belgian political movements since World War I to curb the political credibility of the Flemish Movement, offers not only a serious misrepresentation of political reality, it also contradicts the various instances at which prominent fgures from the Flemish Movement and Flemish Nationalist politics have distanced themselves openly from the past of collaborationism and its fascist roots.19 No doubt, Flemish Nationalist politics in Belgium today is to a certain extent rooted in collaborationist history, however, there is a consensus that the importance of this history for its identity has diminished decisively. Still, this argument does not suffce to discard Astronaut van Oranje’s political credibility completely. In light of various incidents at which Flemish Nationalist politicians have displayed a dubious relationship with the past of collaborationism,20 the novel’s critical heeding for the sincerity of this public distancing seems not too far-fetched. Third, the novel undercuts its own political performativity through its abundant use of clichés about Flemish Nationalism. The references to Dicksmuide as the Republic’s capital, the spaceship shaped like the Yser Tower, and the description of Flemish Nationalist festivities featuring tambours and color guard stem from a repertoire of commonplaces whose critical potential has dwindled signifcantly. A quick look at the critical reception of the novel confrms this. The ‘societal approach’, so one critic remarked, ‘is futile. The novel does not reach much further than a bunch of clichés about Flemish Nationalism and the Church’.21 Another critic commented that the image of Flanders evoked in the novel ‘is as monolithic and choking as the image National Socialist politicians have in mind of it’.22 Other reviews were less negative or did not engage with the novel’s political dimension at all, indicating that it was not even taken into consideration. In light of these clichés, the novel’s comical aesthetics, and its anti-bourgeois politics, however, one could argue that the question about the novel’s political performativity is somewhat misdirected. No doubt, Astronaut van Oranje may upset Flemish Nationalists, as one critic argued,23 but all of these features suggest that the novel’s approach to politics should not be understood in terms of credibility and effectiveness. The anachronistic displacement of historical signifers and their subsequent fctional transformation,

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so I argue, rather signal a complete undercutting of its own performativity through aesthetic excess. As a dystopian, satirical, and picaresque fantasy, the novel ridicules its target, but rather than to urge for reform, it acts as an oblivious renegade in which subversion is enjoyed for itself and where the inficted cruelty by playing with distortions and blatant clichés is frst and foremost a savoring in the very powers of aesthetic freedom. While impairing its political performativity, the choice for aesthetical indulgence in dealing with collaborationist history is intensely relevant for the negotiations of this history in Belgian cultural memory of World War II today. Although its use of satire, fantasy and the comical in representing collaborationist history is far from new in Flemish literature,24 I claim that Astronaut van Oranje goes a whole step further than its predecessors. Through the dislocation of historical signifers and their subordination to the whims of fctional and ironical redescription, it is thoroughly a-mimetic and a-historical. Gone is the idea of defending some political stance or fnding out some historical truth about the war past – so typical for novels from frst- and second-generation authors.25 Sociological or psychological working through the past of collaborationism, as for example in Claus’s Het verdriet van België, is equally not at stake, just like the critical empathy in the construction of collaborationist history as, for example, in the work by Flemish author Erwin Mortier. It is thoroughly driven by what Lachmann has referred to as ‘ars oblivionalis’ (2004, 174, emphasis in original), a playful and provocative assault on the mnemonic tradition that entails ‘the obliteration of accumulated, transmitted knowledge and the creation of a counter-memory, in the “conception” of a tabula rasa’. Indeed, by loosening or even erasing the traditional link between historical signifer and its signifed, the novel claims authority on the use of history. Astronaut van Oranje embodies a self-conscious narrative act of defance vis-à-vis war memory, marked by the claim to speak about the past on one’s own terms without being subjected to the practices and sensibilities that govern discourses about collaborationism today. This does not imply revisionism or a disregard for the signifcance of memory, but a provocative fun-poking knock on the walls of Superman’s ‘stretched arm’ on cultural memory, inspired by the conviction that the time has come, as Michaël Brijs confdently claimed in an interview, to ‘laugh about anything’.26 This may limit the novel’s political impact, however, it can also hint at what has become possible and acceptable today when speaking openly about this diffcult page in Belgian history of the Second World War.

Notes 1 References to the text of this novel will be from Andy Fierens and Michael Brijs, Astronaut van Oranje (Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij, 2013). In the body of the text I will refer to the novel with the abbreviation ‘AvO’. All translations of quotations from the novel are mine.

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2 August Borms (1878–1946) was a controversial key fgure in the development of the Flemish Movement during the interwar period in Belgium. Both in World War I and II he openly sided with the Germans in hope of gaining their support in establishing Flemish independence. He was executed on 12 April 1946 for collaboration, which made him a martyr and a mythical symbol for Flemish Nationalists. For more information on his historical and political relevance, see Herman Van Goethem, Belgium and the Monarchy: From National Independence to National Disintegration (Brussel: Asp/Vubpress/Upa, 2011) and Christine Van Everbroeck, August Borms: Zijn leven, zijn oorlogen, zijn dood. De biografe (Amsterdam/Antwerpen: Meulenhoff/Manteau, 2005). 3 Irma Laplasse (born Irma Swertvaeger, 1904–1945) was executed in May 1945 for betraying a local resistance group that had arrested her son, a member the National Socialist Youth Flanders. The Germans liberated her son and several German soldiers, leaving seven resistance fghters dead. As with Borms, her execution was considered an unjust and anti-Flemish move, which made her, too, a hero in Flemish Nationalist propaganda. For more information about the case Laplasse, see Johan Anthierens, Zonder vlagvertoon (Leuven: Van Halewyck, 1998) and Frank Seberechts, ‘Swertvaeger, Irma’, in Nieuwe Encyclopedie van de Vlaamse Beweging, ed. by Reginald De Schryver et al. (Tielt: Lannoo, 1998), pp. 2927–2928. 4 Joris van Severen (1894–1940) founded and led the Verdinaso (Verbond van Dietsche Nationaal-Solidaristen – Union of Diets National Solidarists), an authoritarian and fascist-inspired political party in Belgium striving for a unifcation of the Benelux-countries. Although Van Severen detested Nazism, he was one of several far-right and far-left activists arrested on the eve of the Second World War. The arrested men were put under the care of the French Army and stationed near Abbeville. On 20 May 1940, as the advancing German Army cut off the area, a group of French soldiers carried out a massacre and killed a number of members of Verdinaso, Rex, and the Belgian Communist Party, among them Van Severen. For more information about Van Severen, see Philip Rees, ‘Van Severen, Joris’, in Philip Rees, Biographical Dictionary of the Extreme Right Since 1890 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991), p. 401 and Roland Vanlandschoot, ‘Van Severen, Joris’, in Nieuwe Encyclopedie van de Vlaamse Beweging, ed. by Reginald De Schryver et al. (Tielt: Lannoo, 1998), pp. 2739– 2745. 5 Léon Degrelle (1906–1994) was a Walloon Belgian politician, who founded Rexism and later joined the Waffen SS (becoming a leader of its Walloon contingent), which were front-line troops in the fght against the Soviet Union. After World War II, he fed to Spain, where he spent the rest of his life. He remained active in several fascist movements; frequently appearing in public and in private meetings in a white uniform featuring his German decorations, while expressing his pride over his close contacts with Adolf Hitler. For more information about Léon Degrelle and his political party Rex, see Martin Conway, Collaboration in Belgium. Léon Degrelle and the Rexist Movement, 1940–1944 (Yale: Yale University Press, 1993). 6 Leo Vindevogel (1888–1945) was mayor of the East Flemish town Ronse between 1941 and 1944. He is the only Belgian elected representative effectively executed at the end of the war, and he became a cult fgure in the postwar war community of repression victims. The repression novel Dood met de kogel [Death by Firing Squad] (1951) by Flemish author Valère Depauw (1912–1978) offers a hagiographic portrait of Vindevogel, along with a strong complaint against the juridical procedures leading up to his execution. For more information about Leo Vindevogel, see Petra Gunst, ‘Vindevogel, Leo’, Nieuwe Encyclopedie van

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de Vlaamse Beweging, ed. by Reginald De Schryver et al. (Tielt: Lannoo, 1998), pp. 3301–3303. Wies Moens (1898–1982) was a Flemish writer and activist for the Flemish Movement. During the interwar era, his predilection for a ‘Greater Netherlands’ (a fusion of Flanders and the Netherlands) evolved in the direction of rightwing nationalism and he was – together with Joris Van Severen – one of the founders of the fascist movement Verdinaso. During the war he was director of the Dutch broadcastings at the National Socialist ‘Zender Brussel’. For his collaborationism he was sentenced to death in absentia. He fed to the Netherlands where he spent the rest of his life. For more information about Wies Moens, see Olaf Moens and Yves T’Sjoen, ‘Moens, Wies’, in Nieuwe Encyclopedie van de Vlaamse Beweging, ed. by Reginald De Schryver et al. (Tielt: Lannoo, 1998), pp. 2067–2068. Bert (Armand Albert) Eriksson (1931–2005) was a leading Flemish neo-Nazi and Flemish Nationalist who played an important role in postwar fascism in Flanders. In 1971 he took command of the Vlaamse Militanten Orde (Flemish Militant Order), leading the organisation on an extreme right wing path and was one of the founders of the Flemish Nationalist right wing political movement Vlaams Blok (Flemish Block). For more information about Bert Eriksson, see Jan Creve, ‘Eriksson, Bert (eigenlijk A. Albert)’, in Nieuwe Encyclopedie van de Vlaamse Beweging, ed. by Reginald De Schryver et al. (Tielt: Lannoo, 1998), pp. 1080–1081. Besides explicit references to National Socialist politics, the novel also brings up the history of the Holocaust in a metaphorical form. The systematic torture, murder, medical experimentation, and the extraction of silver and gold from the bodies of the homines metallici are unmistakable references to the persecution of Jewish people in the concentration camps. The description of the cruelties as well as the imagery of ovens and smoking chimneys in the Cardinal’s vineyard confrms this. While the Vatican here embodies the role of the Nazis – with the Republic of Flanders as its subservient collaborator – the metallic people of Molokai function as an allegory of the Jewish people. This link is underscored by the fact that Damiaan, as their leader, became a metallic being following contact with volcanic substance on a mountain in Spain – an event that can be read as an intertextual reference to the biblical story in the Book of Exodus, which recounts how Moses received the Ten Commandments. For an overview of the historical evolution of the Yser Tower’s ideological meanings during the post-war period, see Benvindo and Peeters 2011, pp. 82–113 and pp. 146–183. The idea of an independent Flanders was, during World War II, only advocated by the radical National Socialist DeVlag (Deutsch-Vlämische Arbeitsgemeinschaft), albeit as part of the Great-German Empire. The leading Flemish Nationalist collaboration movement in Flanders, Vlaams Nationaal Verbond (Flemish National Union), aimed to separate Flanders from Belgium and unite it with the Netherlands to form a Greater Netherlands, which they termed ‘Dietsland’. Joris van Severen’s ‘Verdinaso’ strived for a union of the Benelux countries, while Degrelle’s Rex advocated Belgian Unitarianism and royalism. The politics of none of these movements is comparable to that of the Flemish Republic in Astronaut van Oranje. Both Vlaams Belang and N-VA have often pleaded for an art production that is less dependent on government funding and more on the dynamics of the free market. From an ideological point of view, they make a pledge for a form of art that is frst and foremost community constructive and appealing to a large audience, as the N-VA stresses in its culture policy. Vlaams Belang goes further

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here, by expecting culture to honor Flemish identity in order to be eligible for funding. Subsequently, both parties have expressed concerns of autonomous art, considered them a-social, elitist, and money squandering. For an insight into the controversies and discussions, see De Pauw, Wim, Absoluut Modern: Cultuur en Beleid in Vlaanderen (Brussels: VUPRESS, 2007) and the special issue of the bi-monthly journal De Witte Raaf dedicated to the link between Flemish Nationalism and culture policy (169 (2014), http://www.dewitteraaf.be/edities/i ndex/nl [accessed 11 November 2014]). From this perspective, the presence of fgures from other fascist and collaborationist movements to the constellation of Flemish Nationalist collaborationists adds to this negative image. Rather than just disrupting the link between the text and the historical frame of reference, the multitude of fgures from war history enhances the Republic’s negative connotations, depicting it as the container of all fascist tendencies in Belgium during World War II. ‘The power of the unsaid to challenge the said is the defning semantic condition of irony’ (Hutcheon 1994, 58). See, for example, Huyghebaert 2013: ‘de maatschappelijke insteek is futiel. Veel verder dan een rist clichés over het Vlaams-nationalisme en de kerk reikt het boek niet’ (its social angle is insignifcant. The novel is not much more than a collection of clichés about Flemish Nationalism and the Church); and a review from the Flemish magazine Humo: ‘Het beeld dat de schrijvers Vlaanderen opdringen is even monolithisch en verstikkend als de beeltenis waarnaar nationalistische politici het proberen te scheppen’ (The image that the writers sketch of Flanders is as monolithic and stifing as that imagined by nationalist politicians) (www.h umo.be/boeken/256689/andy-ferens-en-michael-brijs-astronaut-van-oranje). The notion ‘Astronaut van Oranje’ is a riff on the Dutch novel Soldaat van Oranje (1977, Soldier of Orange) by Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema (1917–2007), acclaimed as one of the greatest Dutch World War II heroes. The novel offers an autobiographical account about the author’s role in the resistance during the Second World War. ‘Lintbebouwing’, referred to as ‘ribbon development’ in English, is the outward spread of an existing town along a main street. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Ribbon_development. The term ‘in memoriam’ is a Latin phrase that stands for ‘in memory of’. It is often used in epitaphs to honor a deceased person. For an overview of Mortier’s work, see Lensen 2002. The most recent example was the following claim by NVA-Chairman Bart De Wever at the commemoration of the Holocaust at a monument in Antwerp, erected in honor of deported Jewish citizens: ‘Deze collaboratie was een vreselijke fout op alle vlakken. Het is een zwarte bladzijde in de geschiedenis die het Vlaams-nationalisme onder ogen moet zien en die het nooit mag vergeten’ (‘Collaborationism was a terrible mistake on all fronts. It forms a black page in history, which Flemish Nationalism must face and which it may never forget’). An insight into this process of denunciation is, for example, offered by Evert Peeters, ‘Grote schoonmaak in Vlaanderen. Collaboratie en regionalisering aan de IJzertoren’, in Benvindo & Peeters, Scherven van de oorlog, pp. 146–183. On various occasions, politicians from mainstream Flemish Nationalist parties have stirred controversy by openly attending events organized by ex-collaborationists. In 2001, Johan Sauwens, then Belgian minister of Internal Affairs, Civil Services and Sport had to resign after it became know that he had attended a celebration at the Sint-Maartensfonds, an organization of Flemish people who had fought on the Eastern Front. More recently, politician and Minister of the Interior Jan Jambon (NVA) – who was also present at the Sint-Maartensfonds-

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celebration in 2001 – openly claimed that collaborators ‘had their reasons for collaborating’ (see footnote 10). In October 2014, Secretary of State for Asylum, Migration and Administrative Simplifcation Theo Francken (NVA) and NVAVice President Ben Weyts attended the birthday party of Bob Maes, a former member of the Vlaams Nationaal Verbond, a party who collaborated with the Nazis in the Second World War. Rather than suggesting that these political fgures sympathize with these extreme-right movements and people, it is clear that these visits serve electoral purposes that evoke an unrelenting skepsis with regard to these National Socialist politicians’ intentions, notwithstanding their political program. ‘de maatschappelijke insteek is futiel. Veel verder dan een rist clichés over het Vlaams-nationalisme en de kerk reikt het boek niet.’ Wim Huyghebaert, ‘Andy Fierens en Michaël Brijs, ‘Astronaut van Oranje’: Ongerijmde uitschuiver’, in Cutting Edge, 6 October 2013 [accessed 1 September 2015] (para. 4 of 6). ‘Het beeld dat de schrijvers Vlaanderen opdringen is even monolithisch en verstikkend als de beeltenis waarnaar nationalistische politici het proberen te scheppen.’ PC in ‘Andy Fierens en Michaël Brijs – Astronaut van Oranje’, in Humo, 28 September 2013, http://www.humo.be/boeken/256689/andy-ferens-en-m ichael-brijs-astronaut-van-oranje [accessed 1 September 2015] (para. 3 of 4). ‘Nee, Vlaams-nationalisten zullen niet om dit boek kunnen lachen.’ Marc Cloostermans, ‘Drie romans “over” het Vlaams-nationalisme’: Dichter Andy Fierens en muzikant Michaël Brijs schreven vorig jaar een zeer on-Vlaamse roman’, Mark Cloostermans, ‘Book Reviews and More’, http://markcloosterm ans.blogspot.de/2014/02/drie-romans-over-het-vlaams_26.html [accessed 1 September 2015] (par. 2 of 3). In his magnum opus Het verdriet van België [translated as The Sorrow of Belgium in 1994] (1983) Hugo Claus infused his sociological and political critique of collaborationism with satire, albeit in far more nuanced and elaborate way. Today, moreover, numerous novels such as Pjeroo Roobjee’s De zomer van de neusbloedingen [The Summer of the Nose-Bleeds] (2013) and Thomas Blondeau’s Het West-Vlaamse versierhandboek [The West-Flemish Seduction Manual] (2013) address Flemish Nationalist politics from an ironically informed critical point of view. For an insight into these tendencies by authors from the frst and the second generation, see Lensen 2014, 83–112; 149–178. ‘Je moet kunnen lachen met alles en iedereen.’ Michaël Brijs, quoted in Michiel Leen, ‘“Er is toch meer in het leven dan bomen opzetten over de Vlaamse identiteit?” (Andy Fierens)’, www.knack.be, 9 September 2013, http://www .knack.be/nieuws/boeken/er-is-toch-meer-in-het-leven-dan-bomen-opzetten-ove r-de-vlaamse-identiteit-andy-ferens/article-interview-106593.html [accessed 3 September 2015].

References Assmann, Jan. 1995. ‘Collective Memory and Cultural Identity’. New German Critique 65: 125–133. Baccolini, Raffaella, and Thomas Moylan. 2003. ‘Introduction: Dystopia and Histories’. In Dark Horizons: Science Fiction and the Dystopian Imagination, edited by Raffaella Baccolini and Thomas Moylan, 1–12. New York/London: Routledge.

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Bakhtin, Michael. 1984. Rabelais and His World. Translated by Hélène Iswolsky. Bloomington/Minneapolis: Indiana UP. Benvindo, Bruno, and Evert Peeters. 2011. Scherven van de oorlog. De strijd om de herinnering aan de Tweede Wereldoorlog, 1945–2010. Antwerp/Brussels: De Bezige Bij/SOMA. Booth, Wayne C. 1974. A Rhetoric of Irony. Chicago: Chicago UP. Broich, Ulrich, and Manfred Pfster. 1985. Intertextualität: Formen, Funktionen, anglistische Fallstudien. Tübingen: Niemeyer. Derrida, Jacques. 2005. Writing and Difference. Translated by Alan Bass. London/ New York: Routledge. Feindt, Gregor, Félix Krawatzek, Daniela Mehler, Friedemann Pestel, and Rieke Trimçev. 2014. ‘Entangled Memory: Toward a Third Wave in Memory Studies’. History and Theory 53: 24–44. Fierens, Andy, and Michaël Brijs. 2013. Astronaut van Oranje. Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij. Frye, Northrop. 1957. Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays. London: Oxford UP. Hutcheon, Linda. 1988. A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction. New York: Routledge. ———. 1994. Irony’s Edge. London/New York: Routledge. Huyghebaert, Wim. 2013. ‘Andy Fierens en Michaël Brijs, “Astronaut van Oranje”: Ongerijmde uitschuiver’. October 6, 2013. www.cuttingedge.be/boekenstrips/ andy-ferens-en-micha%C3%ABl-brijs-astronaut-van-oranje. Jackson, Rosemary. 2008. Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion. London/New York: Routledge. Lachmann, Renate. 2004. ‘Cultural Memory and the Role of Literature’. European Review 12 (2): 165–178. Lensen, Jan. 2002. ‘Erwin Mortier’. In Kritisch lexicon van de Moderne Nederlandstalige Literatuur, edited by Ad Zuiderent, Hugo Brems, and Tom Van Deel, 1–8. Groningen: Wolters-Nijhoff. ———. 2014. De foute oorlog: Schuld en nederlaag in het Vlaamse proza over de Tweede Wereldoorlog. Antwerp: Garant. Milner, Andrew. 2012. Locating Science Fiction. Liverpool: Liverpool UP. Ruskin, John. 2003. The Stones of Venice. Edited by Joseph Gluckstein Links. New York: Da Capo Press. Sargent, Lyman Tower. 1994. ‘The Three Faces of Utopianism Revisited’. Utopian Studies 5 (1): 1–37. Suvin, Darko. 2010. Defned by a Hollow: Essays on Utopia, Science Fiction and Political Epistemology. Oxford/New York: Peter Lang. Ward, Lewis Henry. 2008. ‘Holocaust Memory in Contemporary Narratives: Towards a Theory of Transgenerational Empathy’. Dissertation, Exeter: University of Exeter. https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10036/47273.

Afterword A Move out of the Grip of the Past?

The nine close readings in this book all pursue the question of how contemporary authors from German, Dutch, and Flemish literature engage the memory of World War II. The answer to that question is far from homogeneous, since each of the authors shapes the act of literary remembering according to their own particular interests and concerns, poetics and style, cultural context, and national background. Yet despite providing insights into the inevitable mutual idiosyncrasies and divergences, my analyses also reveal shared mnemonic concerns and objectives among these novels as well, and this on a transnational level. In this fnal part, I will chart some of these shared features, and I will try to further defne fctions of meta-memory in terms of a paradigmatic generational response within the postwar literary assessment of World War II. In my introduction, I set up a contrast between fctions of meta-memory and those literary memory narratives that are marked by Marianne Hirsch’s notion of postmemory to delineate meta-memory as an innovative, paradigmatic response. As I indicated, I do not claim that one type of literary mnemonics is replaced by another one. Cultural evolutions do not take place in neat and clearly delineable phases, and the postwar assessment of World War II is no exception to that. However, if one observes memory narratives since the 1990s in the three literatures under scrutiny (and without any doubt, also beyond), one recognizes a growing body of writings that are no longer informed by the issues that Hirsch so aptly catches under the header of postmemory. Although Hirsch does not make it explicit, postmemory is determined by struggle. For her, postmemory is a consequence of growing up ‘with overwhelming inherited memories, dominated by narratives that preceded one’s birth or one’s consciousness, [and the risk of] having one’s own stories and experiences displaced, even evacuated, by our ancestors’ (ibid.). The notions ‘overwhelming’, ‘dominant’, and ‘displaced’ suggest that the legacy of those who witnessed and survived massive historical trauma compromises the memory and identity of the ‘generation after’. The struggle of this generation is therefore one of ‘dissociation’ (idem, 6) or, as Karein Goertz aptly formulates, of the efforts to emerge ‘out of the grip (l’emprise)

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of an inherited past’ (1998, 34). Yet, such dissociation hardly takes place in accounts of postmemory. In most cases, a deliverance from the belated trauma is not possible. Scenarios of working-through and reconciliation are offered, yet there is a continued sense of struggle – a disposition that pervades accounts dealing with the legacy of perpetration in the so-called Väterliteratur as well. As I have reiterated time and again throughout this book, this precarious struggle and the urge to cope with an elusive past take up far less attention in fctions of meta-memory. For sure, the approach of the past in these literary accounts is equally marked by the oscillation between rupture and continuity, however, I argue that this oscillation has become far less uneasy. Rather than trying to evade the grasp of a traumatic past while simultaneously seeking an affective and cognitive link with it, fctions of meta-memory demonstrate an engagement that is mostly of a posttraumatic nature. Posttraumatic in this context means that the authors of these fctions or their protagonists engage a historical trauma that is not theirs – not even in its belated, post-mnemonic form. The link with this past is, hence, remote and therefore rather loose. Per Leo’s Flut und Boden offers an insightful example of these dynamics. While researching his grandfather’s NS legacy, Per, the protagonist goes through an intense psychological crisis for which he eventually seeks professional help. During the frst meeting, however, his young female therapist displays scant compassion and understanding for Per’s complaints. In an effort to appeal to her attention, Per mentions his grandfather’s Nazi past: ‘Da ist noch etwas. Seit einiger Zeit erforsche ich die Vergangenheit meines Großvaters. Wie sich herausstellte, war er ein dicker Nazi. Berufsoffzier in der SS. Vielleicht belastet mich das auch.’ Eine groteske Verkehrung der Wirklichkeit war das. Eine glatte Lüge. Aber, so zeigte sich nun, eine Notlüge, die ihre Wirkung nicht verfehlte. Die Therapeutin ließ ihre Karteikarten in den Schoß fallen und sah mich zum ersten Mal verständnisvoll an. (2014, 36) ‘There is something else. For some time now, I have been investigating the past of my grandfather. As it turns out, he was a big-shot Nazi. An SS offcer. Maybe that is also weighing me down.’ It was a grotesque distortion of reality. A downright lie. But, as became clear, one that did not fail to have an effect. The therapist dropped her notecards in her lap and, for the frst time, looked at me sympathetically. In this passage, the narrator explicitly asserts how he took on the role as a victim of his grandfather’s participation in Nazism – a role for which he deliberately mimicked the struggle with a burdened past that is typical of the mental struggle of postmemory. Yet this deceptive statement signifes

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exactly the opposite, i.e. that he is not at all emotionally affected by the latter’s political decisions. He describes his claim that he was struggling with his grandfather’s legacy as ‘a downright lie’, thereby clearly indicating that it lacks any traumatic meaning to him – no matter how dark or evasive it is. I fnd the claim of Leo’s protagonist useful to sketch out the dynamics of rupture and continuity that govern fctions of meta-memory. If the need for rupture in postmemory and Väterliteratur marked by the need to get out of the grip of a dominating past, then rupture in fctions of meta-memory is primarily an intrinsic disposition caused and furthered by the progression of time, the double generational remove, and the occurrence of other historical events that determine the memory and identity of the protagonist. This disposition of detachment functions as the defning starting-point for the meta-mnemonic stance and the ensuing engagement with World War II memory – on the diegetic and on the extradiegetic level. As the novels in this book illustrate, this meta-mnemonic engagement with war memory is consistently determined by an interplay between a detachment from established mnemonic narratives and rules and from those involved on the one hand, and the search for a particular, meaningful connection with that unexperienced past on the other. In Flut und Boden, we fnd this detachment in the form of a self-conscious resistance against patterns of inter- and transgenerational mnemonic transmission. The protagonist-narrator is not interested in understanding why his grandfather decided to join the SS or in trying to come to terms with it. On the contrary, he ridicules his grandfather’s character and debunks his intellectual and political legacy. In that regard, one could argue that the novel fts in with the tradition of the Väterliteratur (which obviously signals a continuity with it), but in contrast to this literature, the protagonist’s antagonism does not stem from a desire to emancipate his identity from the burden of that legacy. It is rather motivated by contempt for his grandfather’s lack of intellect and reason and his blind ambition, which he discards in favor of the far more intriguing legacy of his uncle Martin. The legacy of perpetration is, in other words, a story that can be researched, evaluated, and (at least partly) shoved into the incinerator with little emotional involvement. Such detachment is equally at stake in Erwin Mortier’s Marcel. By disobeying his grandmother’s demands and burying his great-uncle’s war letter in the garden, the young protagonist resists the transfer of mnemonic habits within the family, marked as it is by resentment, silence, and melancholia. This enables the protagonist to detach himself from her infuence and – on the extradiegetic level – it allows the I-narrator to develop a personal, discursive way of dealing with the legacy of his great-uncle’s collaboration. The novel’s poetics, defned by irony and heteroglossia, expresses that detachment aptly. Yet, in contrast to Flut und Boden, the narrator does not radically reject his great-uncle for his choice to collaborate with the Nazis. The novel addresses a larger issue, i.e. the construction of Flemish national identity today. Through an ironic sketch of the Flemish Nationalist community but

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also through the attention for the motivations for his great-uncle’s political collaborationism, Mortier criticizes both the ex-collaborationists’ recalcitrant Flemish Nationalist self-fashioning as victims of an anti-Flemish witch hunt after the war, as well as the contemporary stigmatization of Flemish Nationalism as intrinsically linked with National Socialism. So, rather than dealing with the psychological impact of traumatic memories, Mortier confronts the memory of World War II on a sociological level, thereby addressing the question of how its legacy continues to defne the identity of the communities that he as a present-day subject belongs to. This sociological interest is discernable in Beyer’s Flughunde and Grunberg’s De joodse messias as well. As I have shown in my analysis of Flughunde, Beyer’s attention for German victimhood as well as his ability to address it in alternation with German perpetratorship refects a move away from the often-strong focus on guilt that marks the German Väterliteratur. Rather than seeking historical and moral rectifcation and redemption, Beyer adopts the position of ‘a third party’, ready to engage both ‘the positions of perpetrators and victims’ in Germany (Giesen 2004, 39). The novelist seems, in other words, still involved in the moral dilemmas that have governed the debates about World War II since the 1960s, but rather than adopting an unequivocal position within these debates, the novel expresses the ability to gauge the complex dimensions that mark both collective identities at the same time – an ability that gained ground at the end of the 20th century and was publicly expressed by Martin Walser in his speech ‘Erfahrungen beim Verfassen einer Sonntagsrede’ in 1998. In a similar vein, Arnon Grunberg’s De joodse messias addresses the notion of victimhood, in this case, that of the Jewish Holocaust victims. What is remarkable is that Grunberg, in contrast to Beyer in Flughunde, does not argue for more victimhood in the cultural memory of World War II, but for less of it. For that purpose, he presents the reader with a satirical image of the contemporary Orthodox Jewish community, which serves to illustrate the negative impact of the defnition of contemporary Jewish identity in terms of sacred Holocaust victimhood. Like Marcel and Flughunde, De joodse messias resists established identity constructions, which continue to be determined by their relation to the events of World War II. Furthermore, the novel refutes the structure of postmemory as a mnemonic disposition in contemporary Jewish subjects. Rather than coming to terms with the survivors’ traumatic behavior and their narratives, the novel sketches a community that lacks what Rosenfeld calls ‘Holocaust consciousness’ (2001, 3). In doing so, the novel offers no denial of the sufferings of the Holocaust, but signals that its memory seems increasingly less central to the defnition of Jewish identity today. The fctional engagement by Beyer, Mortier, and Grunberg with the link between contemporary identities and the collective notions of perpetrators and victims originating in the history of World War II refects a concern about establishing an autonomous identity – one defned independently

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from how previous generations have defned war memory. Yet, as I have repeatedly shown in my analyses, this detachment is not only present at the diegetic level, but also in the novels’ form. As the scholarly work by Friederike Eigler (2005), Anna Fuchs (2009; 2006), Aleida Assmann (2009; 2006), Julian Reidy (2013; 2012), and many others illustrates, when dealing with the issues of postmemory and generational conficts with the Vätergeneration, authors have frequently relied on the genre of the family novel or the generational novel. In recent decades, however, the use of these genres, with their often more traditional, realist poetics, has increasingly been brushed aside for more creative approaches. The fgures of Helga Goebbels and Hermann Karnau in Flughunde embody an intriguing collusion of historical fact and fction, enabling Beyer to establish a radically imaginative version of the historical events and creating new perspectives of approaching this past. Kevin Vennemann’s Nahe Jedenew, too, persistently oscillates between historical reference and fctional making up of history. In a similar vein, Flut und Boden implements a variety of literary techniques and imaginative investment in order to make sense of the narrator’s family history. Related to this imaginative and creative investment is the increased experimentation with literary form when dealing with World War II memory. Venneman’s Nahe Jedenew unmistakably offers this experimentation in the form of its stylistic refnement, its suggestive referentiality, its idiosyncratic form, and its complex emplotment of the story of the killing of the families of two Jewish veterinarians by local farmers in the vicinity (‘nahe’) of the fctional village Jedenew during the war. These features signal a decidedly literary take on the event – one that we also fnd in the highly experimental Zwerm, which presents the reader with an amorphous compilation of stories, marked by transformation, unreliable referencing, and a lack of narrative closure. Here, war memory is no longer a transparent and linear narrative, but a swarm of disseminating micro-narratives, constantly resignifed in the process of narration and connection to other historical events. This handling of history reveals not only a conscious refection on the fragmented shape of memory today due to globalization and digitalization, but it also illustrates the awareness that history holds ample potential for fctional creation and invention as well as formal experimentation. The detachment in fctions of meta-memory can, in other words, be traced both at the levels of content (the indexical dimension) and form (the poetic dimension). Besides a resistance against conventional ways of remembering, the disposition of detachment also manifests itself in the form of a far less involved stance vis-à-vis this memory. This is particularly the case in those novels that approach history as eine Geschichte – a story that, to a large extent, is constructed by means of what Hirsch calls ‘imaginative investment, creation, and projection’ (2012, 5). Yet, in contrast to the structure of postmemory, the use of imagination is not so much motivated by the wish to make sense of and compensate for something that is absent and incomprehensible, but

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by a self-consciously and self-suffciently playful and performative approach of history; one in which not dealing with trauma is at stake, but the creation of one’s own version of history. In that sense, as I have repeatedly pointed out throughout my analyses, the past seems to have taken on the shape of a collection of stories and mnemonic signifers that can be appropriated, refgured, and resignifed in ways that are hardly ever motivated by dealings with trauma or by what Huyssen calls ‘the orthodoxy of historical accuracy’ (2003, 19). Such creative fabulation in the rendition of the past is most explicitly performed in Bouzamour’s De belofte van Pisa and Beyer’s Flughunde. Here, canonical histories are used to create new versions and visions of the past. In De belofte van Pisa, the protagonist’s addition of a new ending to Anne Frank’s autobiography may not be meant seriously by the protagonist, but the act in itself shows the imaginative assertiveness of contemporary subjects towards the memory of World War II. By empowering Anne Frank through a history of retribution, the novel reveals how canonical sources of historical information are approached as stories open to creative reassessment. And it is exactly this reassessment that is put into practice in Flughunde, which embodies this poetical vision by its sophisticated intermingling of fact and fction. The stories of the historical characters Hermann Karnau and Helga Goebbels verge on historical veracity, yet they are obvious fctional concoctions. In this manner, Beyer demonstrates the contiguity between historical and fctional storytelling. Here, too, history is appropriated and refracted through the lens of a post-witness generation that gives shape to the past in its very own way. A third element that marks the detachment in fctions of meta-memory relates to matters of moral and political sensitivities in relation to the past of World War II. Often, the gravity of what are conventionally considered to be diffcult, sacred, or untouchable memories must make room for a direct and often irreverent approach. Mortier’s ironic representation of the community of ex-collaborators in Marcel is a clear indication of his mental and political distance towards them. This attitude is even stronger in the satirical rendition of the grandfather in Per Leo’s Flut und Boden and in the radical reuse of mnemonic signifers from the ever-contentious nationalsocialist collaborationist history in Belgium in Fierens and Brijs’s Astronaut van Oranje. The authors’ choice of science fction, gothic, horror, grotesque as well as absurd and obscene humor to tackle collaborationism signals a refusal to be drawn into the political and moral disputes that have perpetually been evoked by it. This act of what Renate Lachmann terms ‘ars oblivionalis’ (2004, 174) is indicative of these authors’ detached positioning and what this position allows for. Critics stated that the novel cannot be taken seriously with regard to its mnemonic commitment, but I believe that its playful aloofness serves as a crucial generational statement in itself. Rather than becoming involved in matters of historical elucidation and moral judgment, Fierens and Brijs’s choice to use the past as a reservoir of unbound

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mnemonic signifers show their ability to detach themselves from the past and to use and resignify it at will. This type of distancing on the indexical level is, however, still quite conventional compared to some of the other novels in this book, that tackle far more controversial topics. The Tarantino-esque imagery of violence in Sam’s story of Anne Frank’s revenge in Bouzamour’s De belofte van Pisa has little to do with the youthful innocence that marks the conventional victimhood memory of her fgure. It shows how temporal remoteness allows for a radical transformation of established historical iconicity. We fnd a similar act of mnemonic irreverence in Grunberg’s De joodse messias, where the grotesque and absurd humor refects a resistance to a topic that has been virtually non-debatable throughout postwar history, i.e. Holocaust victimhood and its importance for Jewish identity. Grunberg’s poetic interventions signal a provocative attitude that dares to challenge and rethink such sacred themes. However, in none of the novels discussed in this book is the attitude of detachment and the formal implementation of its consequences a matter of absolute renunciation. The act of detachment from established mnemonic narratives, routines, and rules is at all times inherently linked to an effort to keep a link or even actively attach to the past. Engaging this memory through literature is in itself already an expression of such attachment; the act of appropriation reveals a vigorous desire to be part of the renegotiation of its meaning and form, regardless of the attitude of detachment by which it is inspired. Marcel and Flut und Boden demonstrate such dynamics most explicitly on the diegetic level. The appropriation of the material traces of the past by the young protagonists in both novels shows their willingness to engage it; the literary accounts that emerge from this engagement are defned by the duality of detachment and attachment. As they draw memory toward themselves, thereby defying established mnemonic routines and heavy-handed sensitivities, they establish new ways to fnd their own connection to it and develop the ability to construct a memory that is theirs and that makes sense to living persons, to reiterate Hayden White’s terminology. The use of irony as a guiding discursive device expresses this duality most aptly on a formal level. In Peeters’s Grote Europese roman and Bouzamour’s De belofte van Pisa, which both thematize the inevitable historical and emotional distance of present-day subjects in relation to historical events, this urge for attachment extends beyond the private sphere. Both protagonists express the urge for engaging World War II memory as a tool for community building in our contemporary society, defying habitual spatial and cultural restraints. Grote Europese roman functions as a call for the importance of historical knowledge and awareness of the Holocaust for European community building to avoid these atrocities from happening again. Bouzamour’s novel hints at the possibilities this memory offers for purposes of immigration, integration, and intercultural community building.

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Sam’s appropriation of the history of Anne Frank through fantasy fts in this context as well. For sure, his act of adding an appendix to her autobiography implies a radical departure from her conventional iconicity of innocence and the mnemonic practices that govern the construction of such iconicity, but the act of imaginative investment also implies bringing her fgure back to life, of bringing movement into her memory. Furthermore, his rewriting of her history is not just a vicarious projection of his own frustrations onto her, but it also refects the need for an affective proximity to the past – a trajectory which Robin in Grote Europese roman goes through as well. His initial attitude of ignorance and disinterest vis-à-vis the traces of the Holocaust past in Europe evolves gradually toward one of deep involvement with it as a result of his readings of Holocaust memoirs of Imre Kertesz and Primo Levi. Not only does it lead to Robin’s momentary identifcation with Holocaust victimhood, but the attachment to the past is also extended at the formal level, as the novel’s structure – which consists of 36 chapters that are each named after a European capital – is a playful riff on Levi’s Il sistema periodico from 1975. Hence, in this case, literary remembering expresses, even if Peeters deviates from the systematic use of the periodic system in Levi’s autobiographical account, a desire to attach to the material traces of the past. A last element that I wish to discuss in this context is the fact that these novels do not just show this urge for attachment; they also aim to transfer this urge to their readers. The mnemo-politically inspired engagements with the memory of World War II to alert readers for the stake of active remembering, as for example in Mortier’s Marcel, Fierens and Brijs’s Astronaut van Oranje, Peeters’s Grote Europese roman, or Verhelst’s Zwerm, is the most recognizable form of such connection. Yet, more noteworthy in this regard is the effort to pull their readers into the past in Flughunde and Nahe Jedenew. As I have shown in my analyses, both novels seek to create a cognitive, affective, and moral proximity between the narrated past and the readers’ present through the use of internal focalization and the present tense. While Flughunde lets its readers step into the shoes of both victims and perpetrators by framing the story through the perspective of Helga and Hermann Karnau, Nahe Jedenew forces its readers to follow the young protagonist’s traumatic experiences through her eyes. In both cases, these techniques serve to bridge past and present, inviting readers to cognitively and affectively connect to a past they might not have experienced. These novels do, however, not merely allow their readers to enter a past and to grant them identifcation and sensory experience – something that could be described with Johan Huizinga’s concept ‘historical sensation’ or Frank Ankersmit’s notion of ‘historical experience’ (see Ankersmit 2005, 121). They also appeal to the readers’ moral position in relation to that past. By putting readers in the shoes of their protagonists, these novels hint at the moral stakes involved in such a historical identifcation. The temporal and generational removal from the historical events, so they suggest,

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does not efface matters of mnemonic and moral responsibility. For sure, contemporary readers cannot be charged with guilt for the atrocities of the past or be burdened with the experience of Holocaust victimhood, yet by evoking this relation on a diachronic level, Flughunde and Nahe Jedenew alert us to the extension of historic accountability for present-day subjects in traumatic histories, thereby opening up what Michael Rothberg refers to as that ‘broad and murky terrain in which we can locate many dilemmas of remembrance, responsibility, and reparation’ (2013, 40). This interplay between the detachment from established memory narratives and ingrained mnemonic rules and routines on the one hand, and the search for an affective, imaginative, formal, and moral attachment on the other, marks the dynamics of rupture and continuity in fctions of metamemory. As I have remarked before, in contrast to the structure of postmemory, these dynamics have lost quite a bit of their uneasiness. Rather than voicing struggles with a dark and elusive past that holds remembering subjects in its grasp, these fctions frst of all refect a mnemonic disposition that, reversely, demonstrates the ability to grasp that past and to take charge of it. The notion of appropriation expresses this ability most aptly. Rather than digging for historical factuality and truth, literary authors approach the past as a Geschichte which they can make their own, as a (hi)story in which its meaning ‘for living people’ (White 2010, xi), i.e. for present-day subjects, is most relevant. While the persistent oscillation between attachment and detachment indicates a continuity between fctions of meta-memory and second-generation narratives about the dilemmas of postmemory and the Vätergeneration, it is precisely the appropriative advance and the self-suffcient, often irreverent attitude that sets these contemporary narratives apart and marks the emergence of a new paradigm in the postwar literary assessment of World War II memory since the 1990s. Furthermore, the virtual absence of individual and collective trauma allows for the playful attitude in dealing with the past, which I believe has led contemporary literary fctions dealing with the memory of World War II to become increasingly more diverse. Whereas the topics of postmnemonic and intergenerational struggles have mostly found their voice in generational and family novels that stick to a realist mode of narration, fctions of meta-memory display a far greater formal variety. For sure, the generational novel remains an important vehicle to represent the workings of memory, as Mortier’s Marcel and Leo’s Flut und Boden illustrate, yet all other novels discussed in this book offer distinct new ways of engaging with this memory. Peter Verhelst’s fragmented, meta-historiographical fction, Kevin Vennemann’s idiosyncratic and poetic écriture, Fierens and Brijs’s farcical grotesque, Grunberg’s apocalyptical satire, Beyer’s collusion of fction and history, Peeters’s postmodern parody of the Great American Novel, and Mano Bouzamour’s interstitial Bildungsroman illustrate that in German, Flemish, and Dutch literature, World War II memory is consistently appropriated and refgured according to unbound and self-suffcient

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premises, that – to a varying degree – express a posttraumatic disposition. For sure, the past is not stripped of its traumatic nature and its incisive relevance today, yet those constructing its memory are not subjects to its traumatic impact, either directly or through its post-mnemonic transfer. They self-consciously take charge of its construction, refecting upon memory’s contemporary narrative shape and its continued impact, challenging established mnemonic rules, practices, and routines, while also reiterating its importance to understand political and social developments today. In that constructive process, playfulness has replaced the need for coping as the driving factor of mnemonic engagement and innovation. As the memory of World War II recedes further back into the past, beyond the event horizon of communicative memory, it emerges as a multi-faceted, heterogeneous collection of stories, which – like in Verhelst’s Zwerm – swarm out like a dense network of interconnected and ever disseminating memorial traces, moving playfully in and out of the grip of the past.

References Ankersmit, Frank. 2005. Sublime Historical Experience. Stanford: Stanford UP. Assmann, Aleida. 2006. Generationsidentitäten und Vorurteilsstrukturen in der neuen deutschen Erinnerungsliteratur. Vienna: Picus. ———. 2009. ‘Unbewältigte Erbschaften: Fakten und Fiktionen im zeitgenössischen Generationenroman’. In Generationen: Erfahrung - Erzählung - Identität, edited by Andreas Kraft and Mark Weißhaupt, 49–69. Konstanz: UVK. Eigler, Friederike. 2005. Gedächtnis und Geschichte in Generationenromanen seit der Wende. Berlin: Erich Schmidt Verlag. Fuchs, Anne. 2009. ‘Landschaftserinnerung und Heimatdiskurs: Tradition und Erbschaft in Thomas Medicus’ In den Augen meines Großvaters und Stephan Wackwitz’ Ein unsichtbares Land’. In Generationen. Erfahrung - Erzählung Identität, edited by Andreas Kraft and Mark Weißhaupt, 71–92. Konstanz: UVK. Fuchs, Anne, Mary Cosgrove, and Georg Grote. 2006. German Memory Contests: The Quest for Identity in Literature, Film, and Discourse Since 1990. Rochester: Camden House. Giesen, Bernhard. 2004. Trauma and Triumph. Boulder: Paradigm. Goertz, Karein. 1998. ‘Transgenerational Representations of the Holocaust: From Memory to “Post-Memory”’. World Literature Today 72 (1): 33–38. Hirsch, Marianne. 2012. The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture after the Holocaust. New York: Columbia UP. Huyssen, Andreas. 2003. Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory. Stanford: Stanford UP. Lachmann, Renate. 2004. ‘Cultural Memory and the Role of Literature’. European Review 12 (2): 165–178. Leo, Per. 2014. Flut und Boden: Roman einer Familie. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta. Reidy, Julian. 2012. Vergessen, was Eltern sind: Relektüre und literaturgeschichtliche Neusituierung der sogenannten Väterliteratur. Göttingen: V & R unipress. ———. 2013. Rekonstruktion und Entheroisierung: Paradigmen des ‘Generationenromans’ in der deutschsprachigen Gegenwartsliteratur. Bielefeld: Aisthesis.

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Rosenfeld, Alvin H. 2001. ‘The Assault on Holocaust Memory’. The American Jewish Year Book 101: 3–20. Rothberg, Michael. 2013. ‘Multidirectional Memory and the Implicated Subject: On Sebald and Kentridge’. In Performing Memory in Art and Popular Culture, edited by Liedeke Plate and Anneke Smelik, 39–58. New York/London: Routledge. White, Hayden. 2010. The Fiction of Narrative: Essays on History, Literature, and Theory, 1957–2007. Edited by Robert Doran. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP.

Index

9/11 19, 20, 94, 138 affect 6, 9, 18, 48, 54, 64, 67, 119, 189, 212 Agamben, Giorgio 134 Amis, Martin 3, 27 amnesia 95, 145 Ankersmit, Frank 86, 146, 170, 182n3, 228 anti-Semitism: and De joodse Messias 11, 29, 71, 75, 81–82; and De belofte van Pisa 117; and Nahe Jedenew 190 appropriation: and mnemnonic 13–14, 59, 116–118, 123, 149, 154, 181, 203–204, 212, 227–229; and perpetratorship 38; and cultural memory 116–117 archive 48–49, 119, 140–141, 151, 157, 160, 166, 177 Armando 27 ars oblivionalis 215, 226 Assmann, Aleida; and European memory 97; and family novel 21n9, 225; and historic mission 5, 14, 32, 185; and the incompatibility of guilt and suffering 10, 28; and reconciliation 5, 33, 181 Assmann, Jan 1, 91, 204 Astronaut van Oranje 14, 88n7, 153–154, 157, 202–220, 226 autobiography 5, 7, 88n7, 108, 171–174, 177, 194, 226, 228 autodiegetic 7, 10–11, 29, 54–55, 67, 92, 113, 159, 173–174 autofctionality 153, 159–161, 171– 172, 175, 177 autopoiesis 161 Avanessian, Armin 47, 50n14, 199–200

Bakhtin, Michael: and grotesque 168, 171; and heteroglossia 55 Benali, Abdelkader 114 Benjamin, Walter 198 Bertens, Hans 145n3 Beyer, Marcel 10, 13, 28, 30, 34, 156, 224–226, 31–52 Bhabha, Homi 93, 116, 122, 126 Bildungsroman 113, 159, 161, 177, 229 Binet, Laurent 4, 20, 27, 86 biopolitics 40, 42, 132–134, 139, 176, 180 Blondeau, Thomas 219n24 Boon, Louis Paul 27 Booth, Wayne 213 Boswell, Matthew 29, 85–86 Böttiger, Helmut 194 Bouazza, Hafd 114 Bouzamour, Mano 12, 91–92, 113– 129, 226–227 Boyne, John 20 Brexit 97 Brijs, Michaël 14, 113, 154, 157, 202–220, 229 Buell, Lawrence 99 Butler, Judith 103, 109 camera-eye technique 35, 45–48, 156, 199n3 caricature 72, 86, 210–212 Caruth, Cathy 68n13, 105, 116, 142, 186–187, 191, 193 Celan, Paul 104 Chabon, Michael 3 Claus, Hugo 27, 54, 215, 219n24 cliché: and Astronaut van Oranje 210–215, 218n15, and De joodse messias 72, 74, 77, 84

Index collaborationism: and Astronaut van Oranje 203–208, 214–216, 218n19, 219n24, 226; and Dutch literature 4 colonialism 1, 20, 98, 101 Conrad, Joseph 141 Coppola, Francis Ford 141 counterfactual narration 153, 154 Daele, Jan Emiel 54 De belofte van Pisa, see Bouzamour, Mano De Boose, Johan 20 De joodse messias, see Grunberg, Arnon defamiliarization 190, 192 Degrelle, Léon 205, 216n5 Delbo, Charlotte 194 Deleuze, Gilles 143 De Moor, Marente 20 Depauw, Valère 53, 216n6 Derrida, Jacques: and archive 48; and historicity 98; and play 138–140, 142, 150–151, 157, 197, 199, 206 De Saussure, Ferdinand 151 detachment: and memory 6, 8, 16, 18, 44, 154, 163, 166, 172, 195, 223–229; and emotion 48, 60, 64 De Wever, Bart 218n19 D’Haen, Theo 145n3 diasporic memory 12, 93, 113-114, 127, 128n1 Diez, Georg 14, 85, 185, 198 digitalization 11–13, 94, 225 double thrust 10, 13, 100, 204, 206, 208 Dückers, Tanja 20 Dunker, Alex 190, 193 Durlacher, Jessica 20 dystopia 132, 204–209, 213 Eaglestone, Robert 86, 88n9 Eder, Klaus 11, 99, 106 Edwards, Justin 81 Eigler, Friederike 5, 21n9, 225 El Bezaz, Naima 114 elective affnity 76-77, 120–121, 126 empathy: and transgenerational 29, 54, 153, 212–213; and unsettlement 64, 110, 119, 189–192; and suffering 33, 71, 76, 122 Epstein, Leslie 85 Erll, Astrid 6–7, 16–17, 21n7, 22n12, 91, 95, 141, 157n1

233

Erpenbeck, Jenny 20, 200n6 ethics; and vulnerability 103, 106, 109 Europe: and identity 1, 97-100, 102–104, 106, 227; memory 1, 93, 97–98, 100, 107–110, 116, 227; and Union 2, 11, 20n1, 92, 97–99 experimentation 154, 156, 186, 200n6, 217n9, 225 fabulation 43, 226 fantasy; and appropriation 123, 228; and innocence 38, 55, 82 197; and genre 204, 206, 211 215 Faulks, Sebastian 3 Feindt, Gregor 95, 127, 138, 141, 151, 204 Fierens, Andy 14, 113, 154, 157, 202–220, 229 Fitzgerald, F. Scott 99 Flemish Nationalism: and Catholicism 210–212; and clichés 214, 218n15; and collaborationism 10, 28, 53–59, 64–67, 154, 204, 209–210, 213, 218n19, 223–224; and contemporary politics 53, 67n2, 204, 213, 214, 218n20; and satire 204–206 Flughunde: see Beyer, Marcel Flut und Boden, see Leo, per Foer, Jonathan Safran 20, 27 Forte, Dieter 33 Franck, Julia 20, 34, 152–153, 156, 157 Frank, Anne 84, 114, 123–124, 226–228 Frye, Northrop 213 Fuchs, Anna 21n4, 21n6, 225 genealogical 17, 80, 181; and novel 54, 68n5, generation: and confict 5, 21n9; and frst 33, 55, 171, 180, 215; and novel 7, 229; and paradigm 6–9, 13, 15– 20, 185; and second 32–33, 53–45, 171, 215, 221; and third 63–64, 78, 114, 172, 185 generationality 21n10, 22n12 Genette, Gérard 47, 155, 174, 192 genocide 29, 47, 81, 85–86, 134, 193, 203 Geschichte 14, 153, 155, 168–168, 185, 196–198, 225, 229 Giesen, Bernhard 6, 30–32, 172, 224 globalization 11, 12–13, 94, 225

234

Index

globital memory 130, 131, 140, 141, 143 Goertz, Karein 16, 221 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 110, 176 Goldhagen, Daniel 82 gothic 211, 226 Grass, Günter 27, 28, 33, 34, 49n2 Graulund, Rune 81 Great American Novel 99, 106–107, 229 Grote Europese Roman, see Peeters, Koen grotesque 7, 72, 81–83, 168, 171, 202, 211–212, 226, 227 Grunberg, Arnon 10, 29–30, 71–89, 224, 227, 229 Guattari, Félix 143 Guillén, Claudio 121 Haacke, Hans 114-115 Haas, Ernst B. 11n2 Hahn, Ulla 20 Halbwachs, Maurice 91 Hamon, Philippe 65 Hartman, Geoffrey 192 Hennig, Anke 200n5, 200n7 Hermans, Willem Frederik 27 Herrmann, Meike 5–6 Herzl, Theodor 72, 87n2 heteroglossia 53, 55, 65–66, 73, 108, 142, 154, 223 Hilsenrath, Edgar 27 Hirsch, Marianne 6–9, 15–17, 124, 141, 149, 155, 197, 221, 225 historic mission 5, 14, 16, 54, 153, 185 historical novel 7, 154–156 historiographical metafction 7–8, 18–19 historiopoesis 198–199 Hitler, Adolf 36, 72, 75, 78, 83, 124, 135, 156, 202, 206 Holocaust: and biopolitics 134; commemoration 218n19; and consciousness 77–80, 87, 105, 224, 227–228; contemporary identity 10–11, 29–30, 71, 84–87, 106, 190, 224, 226; and cultural memory 1–2, 12, 31–34, 84–87, 88n8, 91, 93, 114–115, 136, 190; and Europe 97–110, 110n3; and humor 84, 88n7; and impiety 29, 85–86, 88n9; and migrant memory 117, 126–127; and representation 45, 47, 190–194,

199, 217n9,; and retribution 84, 94 135; and revisionism 73–75, 82; and transnational 91–92, 105, 110 horror 191, 202, 226 Hoskins, Andrew 140 Huizinga, Johan 170, 182n3, 228 humor 10, 11, 29, 66, 78, 85, 87n3, 88n7, 204, 209, 226–227 Hutcheon, Linda: and historiographical metafction 18; and irony 66, 152, 209, 218n14; and parody 156; and reference 155, 205 Huyssen, Andreas 48, 116, 127, 141, 143, 151, 165, 189, 226 iconoclasm 124 idiosyncratic 185, 189, 225, 229 imaginative investment 16, 125, 128n8, 149, 155, 160, 173, 185, 197, 225, 228 implicated subject 42, 43, 68n10, 92, 109, 116, 125 Inglourious Basterds 2, 86, 124 intermingling of fact and fction 11, 154–156, 208, 226 internal focalization 65, 76, 156, 184, 189, 192, 228 intersectional 141 integration: and immigration 116, 125–127; and memory 62, 116–118; and narrative 53, 62, 64, 68n13, 86; and community 181, 227 interstitial agency 93, 116, 121–127, 229 irony 11, 14, 29, 55, 64–67, 72–73, 85, 100–101, 152–154, 156 178, 204, 209, 211, 213, 218n14, 223, 227; and dramatic 83, 87 Ishiguro, Kazuo 27 Jackson, Rosemary 206 Jakobson, Roman 173, 194 Jedwabne pogrom 190, 195, 198, 200n4 Jirgl, Reinhard 20, 34, 200n6 Johnson, Uwe 27 Kempowski, Walter 27, 33 Kertész, Imre 105, 109, 228 Klages, Ludwig 163, 165 Klüger, Ruth 194 Koselleck, Reinhardt 197 Kraus, Nicole 20

Index Kubrick, Stanley 72 Kuckart, Judith 34 LaCapra, Dominick: and empathetic unsettlement 64, 119, 189; and melancholia 19; and identifcation 9, 123, 124; and working-through 62 Lachmann, Renate 152, 204, 206, 215, 226 Lang, Anne 1, 98–99 Laub, Dori 69n14, 187, 189, 191 Leggewie, Claus 1, 98–99 Lehrs, Thomas 20 Lensen, Jan 21, 67n3, 68n11, 218n18, 219n25 Leo, Per 13, 14, 113, 157, 159–183, 203 Levi, Primo 105, 108–110, 156, 228 Levinas, Emmanuel 103, 134 Levy, Daniel 1, 2, 19, 85, 116, 141–142 Littell, Jonathan 4, 20, 27, 86 Luhmann, Niklas 7, 161 Lyotard, Jean-François 108, 140, 156 Mädel, Peggy 20 Maier, Andreas 20 Marcel, see Mortier, Erwin Margalit, Avishai 119, 128n5 Maron, Monika 20 mass-culture 94 McEwan, Ian 3 melancholia 11, 29, 55–66, 103, 131–132, 137, 139, 146n6, 208, 223 Memobilia 138–140 memory; and citizenship 93, 113, 116, 119–121; and connective 100, 141–142; and cosmopolitan 141– 142; and entangled 5–6, 94, 131, 141, and ethnic property 12, 93, 115, 121; and globital 130, 131, 140–143; and hypertrophy 143, 145, 165; and irreverence 1, 13, 87, 178–181, 202–206, 212, 226–229; and multidirectional 94, 131, 141; and travelling 141; and unbound 11,12, 91, 94, 116, 138–142, 203, 226, 229; and routines 1, 85, 124, 150, 171, 227-230; and rules 157, 203, 223–230; and signifers 94, 131, 138, 140, 151–153, 156, 203–206, 226 Mengele, Josef 132, 140–141, 145n5, 146n8 messianism 72, 79, 83, 135, 202

235

micro-narratives, see also petits-récits mimesis; and a-mimetic 215; and active 45, 47; and illusion 155; and passive 45, 194; and representation 185–186, 191, 194–195, 203; and Ricoeur 150–152 mimicry 126 Mitscherlich, Alexander and Margarete 31 mockery 127, 179, 209–210 Modick, Klaus 20 monoglossic 55, 66, 142, 156 Morris, Heather 20 Mortier, Erwin 10, 28, 30, 53–70, 113, 212–213, 215, 224 Mulisch, Harry 27 multidirectional: see memory Nahe Jedenew, see Vennemann, Kevin Neumann, Birgit 7, 17, 173–174 New Jew Movement 85 Nieuwe Vlaamse Alliantie 208 Nora, Pierre 91 Olyslaeghers, Jeroen 20 Ondaatje, Michael 20 palimpsest 152, 204, 206 parody 14, 16, 156, 180, 229 Peeters, Koen 11, 93, 97–113, 156, 228 Peirce, Charles 21n8 performativity 213–215 perpetratorship: and appropriation 38–43; and collaborationism 28–29; and complexity 27, 34, 49n9, 63–64, 224; and German identity 10, 28, 32–34, 224; and implicatedness 47–48, 125, 228; and reconciliation 30, 103, 224; and renegotiation 28, 30, 66, 71; and revisionism 87; and transfer 35–38; and trauma 31–33, 132 Pfster, Manfred 205 philosemitism 11, 72–89, 121 picaresque 116, 121, 124, 126, 215 Picoult, Jody 27 play: and Derrida 138, 142, 149–151; and fact and fction 34; and limits 95, and literary form 4; 13–14, 149–158; 142, 199; and irreverence 202–204; and mnemonic movement 138–142; and postmodernism 18, 145n3; and referentiality 184, 197, 200n7

236

Index

Polak, Oliver 85 postmemory 6, 8, 15–18, 22n11, 87, 124, 149, 154, 173, 181, 197, 221–225, 229 postmodernism 18, 100, 107, 130, 138, 142, 145, 205, 229 Postorino, Rosella 4, 20 poststructuralism 18, 130, 138–139, 142, 145n3, 150 posttraumatic identity 1, 11, 45, 137, 181, 222, 230 Posttraumatic Stress Disorder 146n6, 199 prefguration 150–151 provocation 10, 18, 33, 87, 114, 215, 227 Pynchon, Thomas 99 racism 120, 134, 207, 210 Ramzipoor, E.R. 20 Ransmayr, Christoph 153 Reading, Anne, see globital Reidy, Julian 21n4, 21n 6, 21n9, 181, 225 repetition and revision 4, 13, 110, 150–154 resignifcation 13, 16, 18, 150–152, 156 resistance: and generation 32, 41, 153, and memory rules 13, 93, 121, 171,126, 225, 227; and memory transfer 61, 64, 85, 124, 141, 223; and politics 2; and representation 190; and war 58, 68n7, 109, 124, 216n3; 218n16 revisionism 29, 53, 71, 75, 87, 123, 215 rhizome 143–144 Ricoeur, Paul 150–152 Rigney, Anne 91, 92, 111, 157n1 Roobjee, Pjeroo 219n24 Rose, Gillian 29, 85 Rosenfeld, Alvin 79, 84, 224 Rothberg, Michael; and implicated subject 35, 42–43, 48, 68n10, 109, 116, 125, 128n6, 229; and memory citizenship 93, 115, 119; and multidirectional memory 141; and traumatic realism 45–47, 192–194 Ruskin, John 211–212 Saal, Ilka 197 Sahar, Hans 114

Sargent, Lyman Tower 207–208 satire: and Astronaut van Oranje 154, 206–215; Flut und Boden 14, 166, 177, 204; and De joodse messias 29, 71, 87, 229 schizophrenia 135, 137 Schlink, Bernhard 27 Schmidt, Katthin 20 Schwab, Gabrielle 141 science fction 136, 154, 202–206, 209 Sebald, W.G. 31, 33, 43, 49n1 Seberechts, Frank second generation; and authors 14, 53–54, 215; and historic mission 5, 32; and migration 12, 92, 113, 115, 122; and postmemory 8, 16, 229 Seiffert, Rachel 3 Şenocak, Zafer 116 Shore, Cris 97 simultaneous narration 47, 192 slavery 20, 197 Stanzel, Franz Karl 45 stereotype 10, 55, 72, 77, 79, 124 Stevenson, Louis 135 Stitou, Moustafa 114 stylistic refnement 14, 174–177, 181, 184, 194–195, 198, 225 Suleiman, Susan 22, 128n8 Suvin, Darko 209 systemic violence 39–40 Sznaider, Natan 1, 2, 19, 85, 116, 141–142 taboo 10, 33, 63, 163, 177 Tarantino, Quentin 2, 86, 124, 227 terrorism 120–121,141 The Matrix 136–137, 146n13 The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 135 third party 30, 224 thrust: and double 10, 13, 100, 206, 208; indexical 34, 85, 159, 204; and poetic 11, 13, 43, 45, 85, 87, 100, 130, 160 Timm, Uwe 34 transcultural 12, 92–93, 111, 114, 118, 126–127 transgenerational 29, 44, 54, 63, 66, 153, 171, 212–213, 223 transnational 1–4, 7, 20, 85, 92–93, 98, 105–106, 110, 113–115, 126–127, 221 trauma; and Belgium 101; and interconnectedness 12, 105, 117,

Index 140–142; and Europe 1, 98; and Germany 31–34; and Holocaust 71; and implicatedness 35, 48, 116, 125, 229; and melancholia 59, 131–132, 137, 146n6; and objectifcation 6, and postmemory 8, 16, 149, 221– 222; and posttraumatic 1, 11, 29, 45, 61, 137, 181, 222–223, 229–230; and representation 14, 103, 185–193; and suppression 32, 162, 188; and working-through 5, 68n13, 69n14, 86, 146n12 traumatic realism, see Rothberg, Michael Tulay, Bülent 116 uncanny 81, 211 unreliable: and referencing 12, 130, 225; and narration 7, 156 Van der Heijden, A.F.Th. 20 Van der Zijl, Annejet 124 Van Istendael, Geert 54 Van Paemel, Monika 54 Van Voss, Daan Heerma 128n8 Väterliteratur 222–224, 21n3, 21n6, 21n9, 149, 181 Vätergeneration 16, 225, 229 Vennemann, Kevin; 14, 18, 154–156, 183–201, 204, 225, 229 Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung 31, 32, 43, 48 Verhaeghen, Paul 154 Verhelst, Peter 11, 12, 91, 94, 130–148, 154, 165, 171, 200n6, 204, 228, 229, 230 Vervaeck, Bart 135, 145n2/3, 146n12 vicarious 80, 105, 123, 228 victimhood; and complexity 27, 35, 38–43, 54, 224; and German identity 10, 19, 28, 32–34, 224; and

237

iconicity 28, 34–35, 124, 227; and identifcation 29, 31, 73–80, 86–87, 228; and implicatedness 47, 125, 229; and Jewish 10, 29, 71, 81, 84–85, 123, 224, 227; and postmemory 16, 149; and renegotiation 10–11, 28, 30, 31, 54, 71, 85–87, 122–123, 212, 224; and sacred 29, 71–72, 77–79, 84 Vietnam War 20, 138, 141, 146n6 violence: 37; and Holocaust 73–74; and implicatedness 92, 125; mimetic 35, 44; and repression in Flanders 53; and symbolic 35, and retribution 123, 137, 145, 227; systemic 39–40; and trauma 188–189; and vulnerability 103 Vitse, Sven 109, 111 Vlaams Belang 67n2, 208, 217n12 Vlaminck, Erik 54 Walschap, Gerard 27 Walser, Martin 33–34, 43, 224 Ward, Luis 29, 54, 66, 212 Waters, Sarah 20 Wende: and German 5, 32; des Erinnerns 19, 31 White, Hayden 153, 160–161, 167, 197, 227 Wilders, Geert 115 Winter, Jay 91 witnessing: 18, 47, 64, 69n14, 139, 177, 186, 189, 193 Yildiz, Yasemin 93, 115–116, 119, 128n4/6 Young, James 124 Zander, Judith 20 Zizek, Slavoj 35, 39, 193 Zwerm: see Verhelst, Peter