Aporias of Proximity Or How German Writers Grappled with the Yugoslav Wars (1991-1999)

Mrs. Gordana-Dana Grozdanic
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It has become a commonplace to cite the failure of German writers to address the first European war since 1945. Publicists and literary scholars alike seem to agree on this judgment, charging German authors with indifference and silence towards the horror that was taking place on "Europe's doorsteps", in "Europe's backyard". Rather than viewing the proximity of the wars in the former Yugoslavia as a given precondition for expectations which underlie such an assessment, I argue that the proximity itself was a highly problematic and challenging aspect in grappling with the events that had shaken Europe in the last decade of the 20th century.

The analysis of several texts by Hans Magnus Enzensberger will serve as a case study. By taking a closer look at the narrative and rhetorical structure in his essays Civil Wars and Bosnien, Uganda, I demonstrate how, despite Enzensberger's panoramic, decentered point of view, one theatre of war, that in the former Yugoslavia, is persistently being pushed in the foreground. Why are prospects for the civil war in Enzensberger's own homeland – condensed in a formulaic sentence "Every subway car can become Bosnia en miniature" – illustrated through this particular, metaphorically used geographic location? How is this spatial trope related to the rhetorical figures, centered around the image of home and house which are also favored by Enzensberger in this text? Is Enzensberger's call to take care of violence "on our doorsteps" – i.e. in Germany – to be read as an isolationist move, as drawing new borders between one's own house and the violent chaos on the outside, as some have interpreted it? Or does it allow for a different, more ambiguous reading, a reading that brings out a topographic uneasiness to be found in other literary accounts of the events that were unfolding "so close to home"?

Keywords: Contemporary German-speaking Literature, Yugoslav Wars, Spatial Metaphors, Border Vacillation
Stream: Literature, Literary Studies, Globalisation, Immigration, Refugees, Race, Nation
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Mrs. Gordana-Dana Grozdanic

lecturer, PhD candidate, Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, University of Pennsylvania

Ref: H05P0351