The German Legacy in East Central Europe as Recorded in Recent German-Language Literature

By Hock, Lisabeth | German Quarterly, October 1, 2005 | Go to article overview

The German Legacy in East Central Europe as Recorded in Recent German-Language Literature


Hock, Lisabeth, German Quarterly


Glajar, Valentina. The German Legacy in East Central Europe as Recorded in Recent German-Language Literature. Rochester: Camden House, 2004. 185 pp. $70.00 hardcover.

Because they do not fit easily into either the category of "German literature" or that of "minority literature," German-speaking authors from East Central Europe have long lacked a niche in literary criticism. In carving out a space for understanding the works of these authors, Valentina Glajar's book provides a valuable contribution to ongoing discussions of the nature of German identity. The study focuses on four authors whose dates of birth fall between the eve of the First World War and the early years of communism, and it examines how they represent the experiences of various German-speaking communities in East Central Europe at different points in the 20th century. While Erica Pedretti's Engste Heimat (1995) deals with the Sudeten Germans of Bohemia and Moravia and their expulsion from Czechoslovakia in 1945, the texts of the other three authors examine German-speaking groups from areas in what are today Romania and the Ukraine. Gregor von Rezzon'sBlutnen itn Schnee (1989) focuses on an AustroGerman family confronted with the decline of Hasburg power in Bukovina following World War I. In Die Abenteuerdes Ruben Jablonski (1999), Edgar Hilsenrath examines the plight of German-speaking Jews of Bukovina and their deportation to ghettos in Transnistria in 1941. Finally, Herta Müller's Herztier (1994) deals with the situation of the Banat-Swabians under Nicolae Ceausescu's communist regime in Romania. All four texts are semi-autobiographical, yet they present not only individual stories, but also accounts of the cultural diversity of East Central Europe and of the complicated history of ethnic Germans in the region.

In response to the tendency of literary critics to read these texts either through a veneer of Orientalism or as testimony to a fictional East European unity, Glajar reads them through a socio-historical framework. This serves both to facilitate the uninitiated reader's understanding of the novels and to draw attention to historical gaps in them. Summaries of the history of Bukowina as an "internal colony" of the Hapsburg Empire and then under Romanian rule, of the history of the relations between Germans and Czechs in Bohemia and Moravia, and of the lives of German-Romanians under Ceausescu's regime reveal extensive historical research. …

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