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The Strange Everyday: Divided Berlin in Prose Texts by Herta Müller and Emine Sevgi Özdamar

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)473-494
Number of pages22
JournalGerman Life and Letters
Volume71
Issue number4
Early online date10 Sep 2018
DOIs
Accepted/In press16 Apr 2018
E-pub ahead of print10 Sep 2018
PublishedOct 2018

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Abstract

The Rumanian-born Nobel laureate, Herta Müller, and the Turkish-German writer, Emine Sevgi Özdamar, came to reside in West and East Berlin respectively following persecution under political regimes on different sides of the Cold War divide. This comparative article examines the ‘strange gaze’ (Müller 1999) on everyday Berlin in two of their German-language texts in order to consider the potential of displaced modes of cultural production to rethink the reunified nation. Reisende auf einem Bein (Müller 1989) and ‘Mein Berlin’ (Özdamar 2001) engage with divided Berlin as a place of resettlement and new beginnings, yet simultaneously reveal historical continuities between the two Cold War Germanys, and with those authoritarian states their authors had left behind. Offering an alternative to psychologising interpretations that focus on the works as expressions of historical trauma, a tendency that can downplay their contemporary political significance, the article examines how the texts engage with experiences of migration to express the material imbrication of personal and socio-historical reality. Ultimately the experimental prose texts, themselves born of Cold War histories of forced migration, will be found to make a prescient contribution to reconceptualising the post-1989 German nation and to prefigure the migrant as the key agent of societal change.

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