Generations of trauma : studies on the familial impact of fascism in postwar German and Austrian fiction / by Susan Elizabeth Snyder
Includes bibliographical references
This study presents a reading of four German and Austrian novels in which the period of National Socialism is depicted as a trauma that continues to shape the psyche of postwar society. It is argued that in the case of both countries the events of the Second World War can be viewed as a past that is essentially not over, a psychic trauma as yet unresolved. Specifically, this analysis seeks to bridge the research of literary critics and psychologists by examining how the physical, cognitive and behavioral repercussions of the Nazi era are powerfully manifested in the fictional families of all four texts, circulating between husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, parents and their children. The readings will attend to how, in each novel, the postwar family establishes the point of intersection between the war's disruption of individual lives and the larger societal impact caused by the overwhelming and catastrophic events of Hitler's Reich. Questions raised include: In what ways is the trauma of the Second World War re-experienced or re-invented in the lives of the authors' fictional subjects? How do attitudes towards National Socialism differ between those characters who were themselves participants in the war and their children? What is it about the trauma of the Third Reich that makes its conversion into language so difficult? What are the authorial techniques employed by each novelist in portraying the repetition of trauma within the familial sphere as well as his/her strategies for approaching Germany's and Austria's dual role as victim and aggressor? The four novels chosen for discussion allow for a diverse exploration of trauma within the context of the postwar German and Austrian family: Und sagte kein einziges Wort (1953) by Heinrich Boll focuses on the war's impact on German family life in the immediate postwar period; Christa Wolf's Kindheitsmuster (1976) chronicles the narrator's return to the site of her war-torn adolescence and her attempts to share the memory of this experience with her own family; Peter Schneider's Vati (1987), an account of how the son of an aging Auschwitz physician struggles to free himself from his father's Nazi past; and finally, Die Ausgesperrten (1980) by Elfriede Jelinek, which highlights the damaging repercussions of fascism upon three separate families in late 1950s Vienna.
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