Jurek Becker's three character types : the Schlemiel, Picaro, and Willenloser / by Robert Clinton Rockwell.
Jurek Becker (1937-1997) was a prominent postwar German author whose seven novels, short stories, and films treat Jewish and East German themes. Born in Lodz, Poland in 1937 to Jewish parents, Becker was interned in the Lodz ghetto from 1939-1944, and in the concentration camps of Ravensbruck and Sachsenhausen. After the war he lived with his father in East Berlin, learning German at the age of nine. The aim of this study is to interpret Becker's novels Jakob der Lugner (1969), Irrefuhrung der Behorden (1973), and Aller Welt Freund (1982) by comparing the novels' main characters with character types with well-developed traditions: the schlemiel, picaro, and Willenloser. The use of "character" in my dissertation refers to fictional types. Although Jakob der Lugner has won several awards and been translated into over twenty languages, critics have not fully developed its relationship to modern Yiddish literature. By comparing Jacob Heym with the Yiddish schlemile, a type of Jewish fool, one acquires a better sense of the warring opposites which inform the novel's structure and theme. Chapter one develops four major traits associated with the schlemiel in modern Yiddish fiction and in Jacob Heym: foolishness, Heroism, comic misrepresentation of reality, and the inversion of accepted judgments. Irrefuhrung der Behoorden treats a central theme in Becker's oeuvre--opportunism, which involves adapting oneself to circumstances. The picaro, originally a Spanish rogue, is a literary protrait of an opportunism is the result of social factors in East Germany by tracing the historical development of the picaro from sixteenth century Spain to postwar German fiction. Despite Aller Welt Freund's treatment of the main character's problem from a variety of angles, scholars have been unsuccussful in describing it fully. In chapter three I discuss the Willenloser, a German term for a character with a paralysis of the will, in Russian, Spanish, Austrian, and East German fiction. I then compare Becker's Kilian with the Willenloser in order to interpret his problem and to demonstrate the novel's thematic unity.
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