The Language of Silence: West German Literature and the Holocaust

By Ernestine Schlant | Go to book overview
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nine

Post-Unification

Bernhard Schlink, Peter Schneider, and W.G. Sebald

There's no need to talk, because the truth of what one says lies in what one does. 1

The powerful, ambivalent, and conflicted preoccupation with the Holocaust during the 1980s, occasioned by the various anniversaries and controversies, is sustained after unification, although it shifts away from literature to the public arena. Meanwhile, the nature of literary discourse as it relates to the Holocaust is changing in response to a relatively recent phenomenon in German life-namely, a reemerging Jewish presence in Germany. Some novels begin to reflect this presence and show Jewish protagonists who are no longer the objects of observation but act as subjects and speakers of their own histories. The three novels to be discussed in this chapter were all published in the first few years after unification. With varying emphasis, they portray Jewish characters as they make their points and interact with non-Jewish Germans; it should not surprise that the relations portrayed in these novels are tentative, fragile, and expressions of a negative symbiosis.


Bernhard Schlink

Bernhard Schlink is a professor of law and a practicing judge; before his 1995 novel The Reader catapulted him into the best-seller ranks and in-

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