Homecomings and homemakings : Stefanie Zweig and the exile experience in, out of, and nowhere in Africa / by Natalie Eppelsheimer
Includes bibliographical references (p. 332-351)
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This dissertation is intended to address German-Jewish refugee life in Kenya, which represents a lacuna in exiles studies and simultaneously a thus far relatively unknown chapter in the history of the relationship between Kenya and Germany. The touchstone of my project is the autobiographical novels by Stephanie Zweig (1932– ), who in 1938 came to Kenya as a German-Jewish refugee. Her narratives reflect the peculiar paradox that the Jews in Kenya lived: on the one hand they were victims of Nazi racism, on the other hand they often found themselves in the position of colonizers.In my study, I look at Zweig's works as "Zeitstücke" and read the German author's depiction of the German Jewish refugee situation in Kenya in the context of several oral and written witness accounts by other former Kenya refugees. The documents that I use for my project reveal a consistent core of shared memory and form an invaluable source for research in exile studies. Drawing on Adorno's notion that a writer who lost her or his home tries to create one in her or his texts, I also address possible scriptotherapeutic effects of autobiographical writing. Moreover, my dissertation is intended as a challenge to the categorization of Zweig's works into the genre of the exoticist, belletristic Africa-novel (Afrika-Roman), which has gained immense popularity in Germany over the last decade. I offer a reading that proposes to approach Zweig's work chronologically, as a work in progress, in which the author continually assesses and reassesses her relation to Africa and simultaneously revises her literary portrayal(s) of this continent. I argue that the author in her earlier narratives demonstrates a restorative nostalgia and thus assumes a position resembling that of British colonial writers Elspeth Huxley and Karen Blixen. In her later texts, however, Zweig shifts to a more reflective form of nostalgia and distances herself from her earlier claim for an African Heimat. My study also addresses a number of tropes and metaphors of white settler writing that Zweig incorporates in her work. My main argument, which I develop around Zweig's narrative representation of the Mau Mau movement in Kenya, is that such settler writing must be read as symbolic appropriation of African (Kenyan) space and history.
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