Academic journal article German Monitor

Incitements to Murder? the Killing of Businessmen in Fiction and Drama of the 2000s

Academic journal article German Monitor

Incitements to Murder? the Killing of Businessmen in Fiction and Drama of the 2000s

Article excerpt

This chapter concerns the depiction of businessmen as murder victims in two novels, Franz-Maria Sonner's Die Bibliothek des Attentäters (2001, The Assassin's Library) and Thomas Weiss's Tod eines Trüffelschweins (2007, Death of a Truffle Pig), and the discussion of such murders in Rolf Hochhuth's play McKinsey kommt (2003, McKinsey is Coming). It argues with reference to Hochhuth's long public career that authors need not only be the victims of 'text crimes': they can commit such crimes themselves. All three works deal with the legacy of BaaderMeinhof terrorism and respond to economic developments in Germany prior to the world financial crisis. Hochhuth faced the threat of legal action from the Deutsche Bank and Weiss was publicly congratulated by former RAF leader Christian Klar. Yet Sonner's more outrageous distortion of his unacknowledged historical source (transforming the real Jewish victim Heinz Herbert Karry into a fictional Nazi war criminal) has so far gone unnoticed. Undercurrents of antiSemitism are present in Weiss's novel, as they also have been in Hochhuth's oeuvre (for instance, his 1984 play Judith). The authors' 'text crimes' have been compounded by critics' failure to react to them.

Frage: Was ist der Unterschied zwischen Baader-Meinhof und den Bankern?

Antwort: Nicht alle sympathisieren mit den Bankern.

(Question: What is the difference between Baader-Meinhof and the Bankers?

Answer: Not everybody sympathises with the bankers.)

(Joke in circulation in Germany during the financial crisis of 2008, 31 years after the highpoint of terrorism: the German Autumn.)

In the western world we side instinctively with writers when they are accused of crimes by the powerful, be they representatives of political power, the press, or organised religion. The oppression of writers in modern German history could be said to have begun with the Carlsbad Decrees promulgated in 1819 to shore up the already crumbling authority of the illegitimate regimes foisted on the German-speaking lands in the post-Napoleonic settlement. Writers such as Georg Büchner and Heinrich Heine fled oppression in their native country and are today celebrated as champions of free speech and representatives of the 'better Germany5. Yet the Carlsbad Decrees were prompted by the assassination of the popular playwright August von Kotzebue by the revolutionary Karl Ludwig Sand, who acted in the belief that he was striking a blow for freedom. The opposition between writers and power is not always as straightforward as we may think, or as celebrated interventions such as that made by the novelist Emile Zola in the Dreyfus Affair, lead us to assume. Nor are the forces ranged against writers in a free society as eager to dispute with them as they once were or perhaps still should be.

In the works under discussion here, Rolf Hochhuth (b. 1931), Germany's most famous living playwright, and Thomas Weiss (b. 1964), an emerging author eager to establish himself in the literary landscape, took their cue from arguments about economics which were conducted in Germany in the wake of unification and which reached a climax in the mid-2000s. Franz-Maria Sonner (b.1953) reacted to debates about the violent pasts of left-wing politicians such as Joschka Fischer, one of a number of T968er' to find himself in government after the formation of a Red-Green Coalition in 1998, when Sonner's novel is set. All three deal with the legacy of left-wing terrorism. Hochhuth of course has a track record when it comes to provoking accusations from the powerful. Der Stellvertreter (1963, The Deputy), which made his name in Germany and internationally, portrayed the indifference of the Pope to the persecution and extermination of the Jews in the Third Reich. It still cannot be performed in the Free State of Bavaria and provokes protests from the Catholic Church wherever it is staged. Hochhuth then shared with Günter Grass the distinction of being denounced by Chancellor Ludwig Erhard in an election speech in July 1965. …

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