Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

'Everything Is Autobiographical': Hans-Ulrich Treichel's Idiolect in Lost (1999)

Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

'Everything Is Autobiographical': Hans-Ulrich Treichel's Idiolect in Lost (1999)

Article excerpt

Treichel's frivolous and serious fictional autobiography

In an interview in 1984, Milan Kundera (1984:122) states that the combination of a frivolous form and a serious subject ... immediately unmasks the truth about our dramas'. This would also be an apt description of Hans-Ulrich Treichel's 'idiolect', that is, the unique tone and atmosphere of his 'confessional prose' that is reminiscent of Woody Allan's portrayal of candid and seemingly casual yet serious relations (cf. Krause 2014). Sturm (2012) describes the tone in Mein Sardinien (2012) as 'typically Treichel': humorously ironic, mostly cheerful and sometimes melancholic. Treichel's accounts are often at least partly based on his personal, autobiographic history set in the historical context of post-Second World War Germany. Reinhardt (2004:30) confirms that the content of Lost, originally published as Der Verlorene (1999b), has autobiographic origins. Similar to the narrator in Lost, the author was born in Westphalia in 1952. The main character in Lost had a brother Arnold who was lost during his parents' flight from East Prussia (Brandt 2004). This approximates the history of Treichel's brother, Gunter. When asked how much of another of his works, Der Papst, den ich gekannt habe (2007a), is autobiographical, Treichel responded by saying: 'Everything. 100%. I have resolved now to answer this question always with "everything" in order to irritate the interviewer a little bit' (Hille 2007). This humorously trivialising response does not bring one closer to the question: How does the 'autobiographic' or 'factual' nature of Treichel's fiction interact with his fictional 'idiolect'?

This article argues that the narration in Lost is a case in point with regard to Treichel's idiolect by using factual historical and autobiographic information in order represent both an 'official life' and a 'carnival', that is, his representations of lives are determined by two aspects of the world: the aspect of the piety of seriousness and by the aspect of laughter (Bachtin 1985:41). Central to this stylistic feature is the exploration and contextualisation of a loss of identity and the concomitant experiences on account of the Second World War. One does certainly see the boy in Lost as a young counterpart of Hans-Ulrich Treichel who has been awarded seven literary prizes, excluding the Georg Buchner Prize, between 1985 and 2007. The most recent prizes were the Preis der Frankfurter Anthologie (2007) and the Eichendorff-Literaturpreis and the Deutscher-Kritikerpreis (both in 2006). He is a well-respected artist and academic and a successful novelist, writer of shorter prose, poet, librettist, essay writer and a Professor of Literary Studies at the University of Leipzig. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung as well as other prominent newspapers and magazines like Der Spiegel often publish positive reviews on Treichel's books (cf. Schneider 2010). However, the reviews are certainly not always favourable. The review on his latest novel, Fruhe Storung (2014), begins with a sentence that anticipates a 'but': 'This novel is not badly written ...' (Hieber 2014). The reviewer refers to the relationship between the mother and the son that appears in Menschenflug as well and criticises Treichel for always using the same tools to create similar material. Reinacher (2008) similarly criticises Treichel's lack of variation in reintroducing the theme of the lost brother in Anatolin (Treichel 2009). The mother-and-son motif actually also appears in many other works of fiction, notably in Lost and Der Papst, den ich gekannt habe.

However, Larkin (2003:141) introduces the idea that the characters in Lost could be viewed not only as fictional persons but also as representative of '. historical periods and their accompanying mentalities'. Larkin (2003) continues:

   If the narrator-son, born after the war, represents the identity of
   the young, insecure, emotionally-challenged early Federal Republic,
   then the preceding generation, and particularly the narrator's
   father, stand for an aggressive, authoritarian Germany of the Nazi
   years. … 
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