German Literature since 1990

With the end of the GDR and the establishment of national unity in Germany, there was also a fundamental change v. a. in the East German, but also in the West German literary scene.

The sometimes very emotional debate about the role of the writer in real socialist society, burdened in some cases by allegations of cooperation with the state security, was almost always about the person, hardly about the work of an author. The important authors who remained in the country (especially Christa WolfBraunMüllerHein) came under pressure to justify themselves. But also the older West German literature, such as that by AnderschGrassS. LenzJensEnzensberger,WalserRühmkorf i.a. represented, was confronted with new problems. For decades she had the merit (among others in group 47) of having dealt critically with German history and keeping alive the spirit of nonconformism. This led to a dominant political-moral determination of the function of literature. Although this was questioned soon after 1968, it could not be replaced by anything because of the global political developments of the 1970s and 1980s. Only with the upheaval in 1989/90 did it come to nothing. This ended the era of German post-war literature.

For German literature, the 1990s were marked by uncertainty about the changed global political conditions, which – in the case of the East German authors – also went hand in hand with changed personal conditions. The numerous essayistic, documentary and autobiographical publications that appeared immediately after 1989 testify to these experiences (Endler, “Exemplary expectorant”, 1990; Hein, “Die fifth Grundrechenart”, 1990; Heym, “Einbeispiel”, 1990; Rosenlöcher, “The paving stones sold. Dresdener Tagebuch ”, 1990; de Bruyn,“ Jubelschreie, Trauergesänge ”, 1991; Hilbig, »I«, 1993). West German authors also intervened in this debate (Peter Schneider, “Extreme Mittellage,” 1990; Grass, “Against the passing of time,” 1991). In general, a basic attitude critical of civilization dominated, skepticism towards simple constructions of meaning and the rejection of the once common belief in progress. The completed unity of Germany, in the context of a changed world situation, evoked a new view of the problems of nation, national feeling, nationalism in the past and present. The intense, controversial debate is also reflected in the literature, it becomes visible, among other things. in Walser’snovel “The Defense of Childhood” (1991), in Grass ‘Multi-layered Fontane appropriation »Ein Weites Feld« (1995, novel), in Kempowski’s documentary collections »Das Echolot« (4 volumes, 1993; with continuations 1999, 2002 and 2005) and inStrauss ‘ essay »Anschwellender Bocksgesang« (1993). After 1989, many writers who had lived in the GDR presented novels and stories that once again recall everyday life there and deal with personal experiences of the upheaval (Helga KönigsdorfMonika MaronBrigitte BurmeisterLoestKerstin Hensel and others), similar in the autobiographical texts by Schlesingerde BruynMüller and Jürgen Fuchs. The theme of the “Wende” came on stage with R. Hochhuth’s “Wessis in Weimar” (1993) and F. X. Kroetz’s “Ich bin das Volk” (1994); in the poetry it was among other things. with Jürgen BeckerBraun and Drawert.

Other important works by the established German authors appeared in the 1990s, including the novels “Ein springender Brunnen” (1998) by M. Walser, “Die Auflenung” (1994) by S. Lenz, “Infanta” (1990) by Kirchhoff, the last volume of the trilogy “Der Laden” (1992) by Strittmatter, “Die kleine Stechardin” (published 1994) by G. HofmannD. Forte, who until then had only emerged as a dramatist, established himself as a novelist (trilogy “The House on My Shoulders”, 1992–98). Important poetry appeared, among others. von Enzensberger (»Kiosk«, 1995), Haufs (»Vorabend«, 1994) and Kunze (“Am Sonnenhang”, 1993).

The literary scene of the 1990s was also shaped by the generation born after 1945. Of the authors who became known to a larger audience in the 1980s, they asserted themselves – with very different aesthetic concepts – among others. in addition to those already mentioned (especially KöpfModickOrtheilGrünbeinHilbig) also M. MosebachB. SpinnenU. HolbeinDagmar LeupoldAngela KraussR. Rothmann.

It was characteristic of the second half of the 1990s that all contemporary German-language literature was once again more widely perceived and discussed by a broader public.

The prose works z. B. von M. KrausserA. StadlerA. N. HerbstBirgit Vanderbeke and Ulla Hahn, who reflect on the (West) German present from different perspectives, the experimental lyric poetry by T. Kling met with a strong response from critics and in part also with the audience; In addition, the provocative plays by Theresia Walser, the political-satirical theater by A. Ostermaier, the socially critical dramas by Marius von Mayenburg (* 1972) and the poetic, fairytale-like plays byRoland Schimmelpfennig (* 1967) great attention. The-publishing since the 1980s as Schlink reached with his novel “The Reader” (1995), which deals again with the Nazi past, the best-seller lists, W. G. Sebald complex works of prose, standing between fiction and essay writing, revolve also around this Subject.

Above all, the works of narrative prose reflect the attitude towards life, individual experiences, and often also the topics of the respective generation of authors that dominate the social discourse. The novels by G. Klein (»Libidissi«, 1998), T. Lehr(»Nabokov’s Cat«, 1999), B. Morshäuser (»Death in New York City«, 1995), M. Politycki (»Weiberroman«, 1997), E.-W. Dealers (“City with Houses”, 1995) as well as the satirical texts by Max Goldt (* 1958) are available.

The authors of this generation who grew up in the GDR processed their experiences e.g. Sometimes with irony, according to J. Sparschuh (“Der Zimmerpringbrunnen”, 1995), I. Schulze (“Simple Stories. A Novel from the East German Province”, 1998), with bitterness, according to R. Jirgl (“Farewell to the Enemies “, 1995) or through a thorough search for clues, according to Katja Lange-Müller (” The last. Notes from Udo Posbich’s printing shop “, 2000), while the younger T. Brussig only sees the comic side of the GDR (” Heroes like us “, 1995). Other authors born in the 1960s took up the subject of National Socialism again from the perspective of their grandchildren (M. BillerM. BeyerTanja Dückers), tried to expose human sensitivities and relationships through language (T. HettcheUlrike Draesner), reflected the present in metaphors and parables (J. P. BremerKarin DuveJenny ErpenbeckFelicitas HoppeAndreas Maier [* 1967]) or articulated the (futile) search of this generation for orientation and attachment (J. von DüffelNorbert Niemann [* 1961]Christoph Peters [* 1966]GM Oswald).

At the turn of the 20th to the 21st century and at the beginning of the 21st century, German literature is polyphonic, overarching artistic directions or clear ideological orientations are hardly visible. Institutionalized directions or groups are missing. The authors, who are subsumed under the term pop literature, do not form a group; they only have in common the inclusion of other, especially electronic media; to be mentioned from the older generation are the aforementioned R. Goetz, as well as C. KrachtSibylle BergT. MeineckeElke NatersA. NeumeisterTim Staffel (* 1965)Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre (* 1975)Alexa Hennig von Lange (* 1973). A complex, increasingly difficult to understand reality corresponds to a literature that serves all varieties from extreme self-centeredness to direct market orientation. This also corresponds to the effective staging of debuts by young authors, which can make a difference in literary careers. Nevertheless, the novels and stories give z. B. by Julia Franck, D. Kehlmann, Judith Hermann (* 1970)David Wagner (* 1971)Antje Rávic Strubel (* 1974)Julia Schoch (* 1974) and Benjamin Lebert (* 1982) Insights into the sensitivities and artistic possibilities of writers born since the 1970s.

Contemporary German literature is also enriched by authors who migrated to Germany (migrant literature) or who were born here belong to the second or third generation of immigrants. Her works, which incorporate experiences and perspectives from two or more cultural areas, expand the thematic spectrum of German literature many times over. So z. B. with Libuše Moníková and O. Filip from the former Czechoslovakia, Terézia Mora and Zsuzsanna Gahse from Hungary, Saidfrom Iran, R. Schami from Syria, Emine Sevgi ÖzdamarF. Zaimoglu and Z. Şenocak from Turkey, W. Kaminer from Russia, Ilija Trojanow from Bulgaria, S. Stanišić from Bosnia.

Romanian-German writers (Romanian-German literature) form a special group. The Sorbian literature is also part of the German national literature.

So far, eleven German writers have received the Nobel Prize for Literature, including two authors (Mommsen, Eucken) of non-fictional texts, as the Nobel Prize Foundation’s concept of literature was initially broader. The winners were: T. Mommsen (1902), R. Eucken (1908), P. Heyse (1910), G. Hauptmann (1912), T. Mann (1929), H. Hesse (1946; Swiss citizen), Nelly Sachs (1966; Swedish citizen), H. Böll (1972), E. Canetti (1981; British citizen), G. Grass (1999) and Herta Müller (2009).

German Literature since 1990