Orchids and Mother Tongues: Telling Turkish-German Stories
PATRICIA ANNE SIMPSON
In the "Nachwort zur Gegenwart" to the story collection Schöne Gegend. Erfahrungen mit Deutschland, editor Peter Renz writes: "Es gibt kaum ein europäisches Land, in dem man so fremd sein kann, wie in Deutschland." ["There is hardly a European country in which one can be so foreign as in Germany."] 1 As patterns of economic and political emigration and migration from the east and the south continue, and the events of the recent past change the shape of the European "center," a literature is emerging that challenges the hegemonic status of German culture. As Renz asserts, there is no European country in which one can be so foreign or strange as in Germany, and as the range of stories collected in Schöne Gegend and other volumes suggests, this has been the case historically, from Eastern European "Germans" returning to the Heimat or homeland, to a generation of Turkish- German writers who thematize the relationship between the category of "self" and the "other" in their work. 2 Moreover, the conscious construction of identity in these stories destabilizes the categorization in the first place. On foreign soil, as "guests," the characters in question determine what is their "own" by virtue of their placement at the edge of the German context. Not all places at the margins of German society are, however, equal.
In this chapter I compare the short stories of three Turkish-German writers whose styles are radically different, but whose common attention to the crosscultural signs of both assimilation and alienation locate them in a common context. The recently published works of Hülya Özkan, "Randale und Liebe" [ "Fighting and Love"]; Yüksel Pazarkaya "Orchideen" [ "Orchids"]; and Alev Tekinay, "Du machst dich, Mädchen" [ "You've Made It, Girl"] represent the tensions of defining the non-German self and establishing identity within a dominant cultural context. These three authors comment on the development of this identity with distinctly different approaches, but each acknowledges the role of language, the mother tongue, and the fatherland, of cultural difference within assimilation, and the internalized environment of alienation from the