Monika Maron 1941-
German novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, and journalist.
The following entry presents an overview of Maron's career through 2001.
Among the most prominent women writers to emerge from the former East German state, Maron is distinguished for her provocative explorations of patriarchal order and the place of women in communist society. Through the use of surrealist imagery and fantastical scenes, an aesthetic embraced by French feminist theorists, Maron evokes a specifically female subjectivity that reveals the conflicted psyche of women under sharply circumscribed political conditions. In each of her novels—Flugasche (1981; Flight of Ashes), Die Überläuferin (1986; The Defector), Stille Zeile Sechs (1991; Silent Close No. 6), and Animal Triste (1996; Animal Triste)—Maron portrays individual women who struggle against the limitations imposed by a variety of father figures, embodied in both individual and institutional forms. While critical of the oppression of women in both pre- and post-unification Germany, Maron often exposes the weaknesses of the female protagonists in her fictional writings. She has also produced several significant collections of personal and political essays, including Nach Maβgabe meiner Begreifungskraft (1993) and Quer uber die Gleise (2000).
The daughter of communist and anti-fascist parents, Maron was born in Berlin in 1941 and moved with her family to the eastern, communist-controlled section of the city in 1951. Though she had little contact with her biological father, Maron's relationship with her stepfather, Karl Maron, had a profound influence on her life and work. Karl Maron was the deputy mayor of East Berlin after World War II and became one of the founders of East Germany (GDR). From 1955 to 1963, he served as the GDR Minister of the Interior and was a staunch supporter of Russian premier Joseph Stalin. After completing high school, Maron worked in a factory, studying theater and art history in her spare time. She also spent a period working for the official GDR television network. She began her writing career as a journalist for the magazine Für Dich and the newspaper Wochenpost. In 1976 she left these positions to work as a freelance writer. During this time, Maron was contacted by the Stasi, the GDR secret police, who wanted Maron to act as an informant. For six months in 1977, Maron went on several informational missions into West Berlin for the Stasi. Her reports to the Stasi were sharply critical of the GDR regime and, as a result, she was placed under surveillance herself after she ended her role as an informant in 1978. Maron's compliance with the Stasi was subsequently disclosed after the German reunification, generating considerable controversy surrounding her identity as a dissident author and social critic. Maron's first novel, Flugasche, was completed in 1978, but due to censorship by the GDR authorities, it was not published until 1981. Unlike other female GDR authors such as Christa Wolf and Irmtraud Morgner, Maron's works never received official GDR approval. Subsequently, all of Maron's works had to be published in West Germany, although her writings did enjoy covert circulation within the GDR. Following the publication of her politically-charged correspondence with author Joseph von Westphalen in Trotzdem herzliche Grüβe: Ein deutsch-deutscher Briefwechsel (1988), Maron left the GDR on a three-year visa. During and after the fall of communism in Germany, Maron published several essays on the difficulties of contemporary German politics and her struggles with finding a new German identity. Her harsh criticism of former East German writers and steadfast support for reunification, a position that many East German intellectuals mistrusted or opposed, placed Maron at the center of a heated public debate during the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 1992 she was awarded the prestigious Heinrich von Kleist Prize for Stille Zeile Sechs.
In Flugasche Maron draws upon her own experiences to depict the plight of Josefa Nadler, a journalist sent to investigate pollution and ecological degradation in a small mill town. When Josefa attempts to publish her exposé, she discovers that the government has placed limits on the extent of her criticism. Rather than alter her story, Josefa initially holds out hope that within socialism there lies the possibility of reform, only to become increasingly frustrated with officials who demand that she censor herself. Josefa's disillusionment ultimately causes her to retreat to her bed, where her hopes for the future are found only in the realm of dream and fantasy. The surrealism that characterizes the closing of Flugasche reappears in the opening of Maron's second novel, Die Überläuferin. At the center of the work is Rosalind Polkowski, a historian who awakens to find her legs paralyzed and all her bodily needs apparently suspended. Isolated in her room and freed from the routines of her everyday life, Rosalind's imagination and memories roam at will, evoking interactions with a variety of figures from her past. Through her imaginary wanderings, Rosalind searches for her own identity in a life that was previously determined by GDR social conventions. Like Josefa, Rosalind is only able to find true individual freedom in the isolation of her own fantasies. In Maron's third novel, Stille Zeile Sechs, the character of Rosalind returns. After resigning her position as a historian, Rosalind agrees to type the autobiography of an elderly party functionary, Herber Beerenbaum, a key member of the very political system she detests. Rosalind becomes drawn into conflict with Beerenbaum, because he reminds her of her own dead father and he symbolizes the political ideology that Rosalind blames for her own lack of identity. When Rosalind confronts Beerenbaum with her anger, he collapses and dies, leaving her to feel that she has caused his death. Rosalind then resigns herself to the fact that, despite her best efforts, she has been profoundly shaped by the repressive forces that both her father and Beerenbaum symbolized. Maron's first essay collection, Nach Maβgabe meiner Begreifungskraft, includes autobiographical pieces as well as personal reflections on German reunification, abortion rights, and the process of writing. In her fourth novel, Animal Triste, Maron traces the ill-fated affair between the female narrator, a nameless East Berlin paleontologist, and Franz, a scientist from western Germany. The story unfolds from a point in the future after the affair has ended and the narrator has withdrawn from life. Although the novel explores the vagaries of a romance in middle age, it also reflects on the struggle to define individual and collective identity in the wake of the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. Maron followed Animal Triste with Pawels Briefe (1999; Pavel's Letters), a collection of stories that recount and reflect upon her family history. Pawel was Maron's maternal grandfather, who—though he converted to the Baptist faith—was born a Jew and was deported and murdered during World War II. Throughout the book Maron uses the letters that Pawel wrote to his wife and children as the basis for her accounts of her family's turbulent history and its experiences under fascist and communist regimes. Quer uber die Gleise is a collection of Maron's newspaper articles, speeches, and essays. The volume includes a lengthy and vehement response to critics of Pawels Briefe as well as commentaries on the German national consciousness after reunification. Like many of Maron's previous works, the essays in this collection often focus on the role of memory in both personal and political settings.
Flugasche has attracted considerable critical attention for its depiction of the role of women in GDR society and for its close examination of how political ideology exerts profound psychological effects on individuals. Reviewers have also commented favorably on Maron's use of fantasy in Flugasche to create an imaginary space in which her protagonist experiences the freedom that socialist ideology denies. Likewise, Die Überläuferin has won acclaim for its analysis of the difficulties women face in establishing their own identities within oppressive social structures. Critics have hailed Maron's use of evocative imagery in the work to portray how women escape oppression and give voice to their own desires. Maron's novels written after the German reunification—Stille Zeile Sechs and Animal Triste—have also earned a favorable critical response. Though some reviewers have found Maron's realism in Stille Zeile Sechs to be stark and contrived, others have lauded how the work raises questions about political and personal responsibility. Animal Triste has been praised for being more accessible than Maron's more surrealistic works and for its use of metaphor to examine complex issues of identity, love, and politics. Unlike her novels, Maron's first collection of essays, Nach Maβgabe meiner Begreifungskraft, has received mixed assessments. Though several of the essays have been commended for their stylistic quality and insight, those written during the early days of German reunification have been viewed as dated by critics. Pawels Briefe has drawn the sharpest criticism of all of Maron's works, with reviewers arguing that the volume lacks the passion and honesty that distinguishes Maron's other writings. Moreover, some commentators have regarded Maron's explanations of her early opposition to the GDR, her difficulties with her communist mother, and her association with the Stasi as self-serving and dubiously removed from the purported focus of the book. Maron responded to many of these criticisms in Quer uber die Gleise, which has received largely favorable reviews. As with her novels, reviewers have commended Quer uber die Gleise for the honesty and depth of spirit in Maron's prose.
Flugasche [Flight of Ashes] (novel) 1981
Das Miβverständnis (short stories and play) 1982
Die Überläuferin [The Defector] (novel) 1986
Trotzdem herzliche Grüβe: Ein deutsch-deutscher Briefwechsel [with Joseph von Westphalen] (letters) 1988
Stille Zeile Sechs [Silent Close No. 6] (novel) 1991
Nach Maβgabe meiner Begreifungskraft: Artikel und Essays (essays and journalism) 1993
Animal Triste [Animal Triste] (novel) 1996
Pawels Briefe: Eine Familiengeschichte [Pavel's Letters] (short stories) 1999
Quer uber die Gleise: Artikel, Essays, Zwischenrufe (essays and journalism) 2000
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SOURCE: Mahlendorf, Ursula R. Review of Die Überläuferin, by Monika Maron. World Literature Today 61, no. 4 (autumn 1987): 619.
[In the following review, Mahlendorf offers a positive assessment of Die Überläuferin, noting that the novel is “eminently worth reading.”]
Even with her first narrative and dramatic works, the East German author Monika Maron established a reputation for excellence. Her texts are “admirably exact, imaginative, replete with anguished imagery, rhythmically and stylistically pure,” wrote Reinhard Kill in the Rheinische Post on 21 November 1983. Her second novel, Die Überläuferin (The Deserter), lives up to Maron's early promise in every way. Though her first novel, Flugasche, was a realistic critical portrayal of the GDR workaday world and particularly its bureaucracy, her second explores the private life of a sensitive intellectual woman, the historian Rosalind Polkowski, and the thinking of her alter ego, the rebellious anarchist, housewife, and poet Martha Mantel. In many respects Die Überläuferin is a woman-artist novel, for like other works of that genre it deals with the forces that shape the woman writer, forces that she has to contend with and overcome. Further, like other works of the genre, it is a quest novel, a search for identity and the meaning of an individual life. The forces Rosalind encounters on her...
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SOURCE: Kane, Martin. “Culpabilities of the Imagination: The Novels of Monika Maron.” In Literature on the Threshold: The German Novel in the 1980s, edited by Arthur Williams, Stuart Parkes, and Roland Smith, pp. 221-34. New York: Berg, 1990.
[In the following essay, Kane examines the efforts of Maron's female protagonists in Flugasche and Die Überläuferin to articulate the reality of East German life and to confront pressing social problems through inward and alienating modes of solitary fantasy and imaginative dramatization.]
Two sources have given me the cue for this paper. First, the title of Gerd Neumann's Die Schuld der Worte, a collection of prose pieces published in 1979.1 And secondly Monika Maron's opening contribution to the ‘Deutsch-deutsche Briefwechsel’ with Joseph von Westphalen conducted in the columns of the ZEITmagazin. In Maron's contemplation from an East Berlin perspective of the nature of the border separating the two Germanies, one observation in particular makes an impact: ‘Die Gesetze sind das Schlimmste, sie kriminalisieren schon die Träume.’2 What connects, in differing ways, these offerings from two GDR writers who still live3 in the country which denies them publication are their pointers to the literary imagination as a concocter of nefarious and subversive activity. Neumann's painfully...
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SOURCE: Love, Ursula. Review of Stille Zeile Sechs, by Monika Maron. World Literature Today 66, no. 3 (summer 1992): 505.
[In the following review, Love evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of Stille Zeile Sechs.]
In Monika Maron's third novel [Stille Zeile Sechs] the first-person narrator, Rosalind Polkowski, is a historian in her forties who resigns her job in a research center in East Berlin because she no longer intends to sell her intellect to a political system she abhors. In an act of passive resistance she withdraws into her private life hoping to find some measure of personal freedom by following such whimsical aspirations as learning to play the piano and translating opera libretti. However, a chance meeting with an aging party functionary, Herbert Beerenbaum, causes her to put her plans on hold. She agrees to type his autobiography, but in spite of her good intentions, she is unable to stay uninvolved and is drawn into a confrontation with Beerenbaum and all he represents to her.
Stille Zeile Sechs begins with Beerenbaum's funeral—he dies of a heart attack before the project is completed—and moves back and forth between the funeral scene and the dictation sessions. Beerenbaum's significance for the narrator is revealed in these flashbacks. For her he is the embodiment of the party, its aspirations, crimes, jargon, and its antifascist beginnings. He...
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SOURCE: James, Peter. “A Privileged Grave.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 4677 (20 November 1992): 24.
[In the following review of Stille Zeile Sechs, James commends Maron's scathing honesty but finds shortcomings in the work's narrative contrivances.]
For six months during 1985, at a quiet address in East Berlin known as Stille Zeile Sechs, a twice-weekly encounter takes place between a disillusioned forty-two-year-old ex-historian and a decrepit seventy-eight-year-old ex-functionary. The latter, Herbert Beerenbaum, is writing his memoirs, with the former, Rosalind Polkowski, as his amanuensis. Thus the situation of Monika Maron's novel, the first to be published since she moved to Hamburg from East Germany in 1988. None of her works ever appeared in that now defunct republic, because their treatment of such issues as environmental pollution and the inertia of the bureaucracy made them politically unacceptable. But although the GDR itself may have gone, the memory lingers on, and Maron's fictional return in Stille Zeile Sechs, far from a sentimental journey, is a bitter reckoning.
It was the central paradox of communism that such lofty ideals should have been combined with so repressive a practice. That, at any rate, is the substance of the charges which Rosalind levels against Beerenbaum when his complacent manuscript finally tries her beyond endurance. Beerenbaum...
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SOURCE: Lenckos, Frauke E. “Monika Maron's The Defector: The Newly Born Woman?” Rackham Journal for the Arts and Humanities (1993): 59-70.
[In the following essay, Lenckos draws upon the feminist philosophy of Hélène Cixous to interpret Maron's subversion of binary patriarchal discourse, notions of female essentialism, and the aesthetic tropes of Romanticism in Stille Zeile Sechs.]
In a recent interview, East German writer Monika Maron states the necessity for women from both West and East Germany to devote themselves to a history perceived and experienced by women.1 She refers in particular to her most recent novel Stille Zeile Sechs (Silent Close No. 6, 1991)2 in which a GDR woman named Rosalind Polkowski who regards herself as a victim of Stalinist patriarchy takes her revenge on the fathers. She drives one of its most important representatives, the aging Prof. Herbert Beerenbaum, to a premature death and rewrites his biography. In her earlier work Die Überläuferin (The Defector, 1976)3 whose heroine is also Rosalind Polkowski, Maron argues that it is almost only women who suffer from a socialist dictatorship and its restrictive definition of the human being:
She [Rosalind] considered her inability to subordinate her behavior to her own judgement a shameful defect in her character until she...
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SOURCE: Derr, Nancy. Review of Silent Close No. 6, by Monika Maron. Belles Lettres 9, no. 1 (fall 1993): 58.
[In the following review, Derr offers a positive assessment of Stille Zeile Sechs.]
Envying the freedom of the stray cat on her street and thoroughly repulsed by having to “think in return for money,” Rosalind Polkowski has finally quit her job at the Barabas research institute, where she has been tediously researching the development of proletarian movements. Alienation, despair, and futility form the core of Polkowski's life, at least until she meets her antithesis: none other than Professor Herbert Beerenbaum. When this well-known brilliant rhetorician and Stalinist invites Polkowski to his home at Silent Close No. 6 [Stille Zeile Sechs] to write his memoirs, the scene is set for a psychological and emotional tug-of-war that only death can end.
In this prize-winning look at life in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR), novelist Monika Maron depicts the dichotomy of life there. In Rosalind Polkowski, Maron has created a vehicle for seeing and feeling what Maron believes was the essence of daily life in this former Communist country. Using flashbacks, Maron has Polkowski relive parts of her past as she navigates the alienation of the present. Her relationship with Beerenbaum, who represents everything in society that Polkowski has rejected, is the...
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SOURCE: Glass, Erlis. Review of Nach Maβgabe meiner Begreifungskraft, by Monika Maron. World Literature Today 67, no. 4 (autumn 1993): 822-23.
[In the following review, Glass compliments the essays in Nach Maβgabe meiner Begreifungskraft, noting the collection's “honesty and passion.”]
Monika Maron is a well-established contemporary author of novels and short stories. Her most recent novel, Stille Zeile Sechs, appeared in 1991. The twenty articles in Nach Maβgabe meiner Begreifungskraft include her own autobiographical comments, “Ich war ein antifaschistisches Kind”; commentary on the reunification of the Germanies, on writers' quarrels, and on Ernst Toller; a review of Judith Kuckart's novel Wahl der Waffen; and a lovely essay on the process of writing itself, “Schreiben auf dem Lande.” Some readers may find the essays written during the early days of reunification of less interest than later pieces. Insights seem faded now, and their impact lessened by frequent repetition; but it is interesting to observe how the author's perspective changes over time.
The most compelling essays are the last four. One is on the subject of abortion rights, “Letzter Zugriff auf die Frau,” an original and fascinatingly argued piece. “Fettauge auf der Brühe” contains Maron's opinion of the lionization by Western media of such GDR writers as...
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SOURCE: Rossbacher, Brigitte. “(Re)visions of the Past: Memory and Historiography in Monika Maron's Stille Zeile Sechs.” Colloquia Germanica 27, no. 1 (1994): 13-24.
[In the following essay, Rossbacher examines Maron's critique and subversion of official GDR history in Stille Zeile Sechs, contending that, by incorporating aspects of personal and collective memory in the novel, Maron reveals the problematic legacy of fascism and communism that is suppressed by uncritical, monumentalized versions of GDR history.]
Gewiβ, wir brauchen Historie, aber wir brauchen sie anders, als sie der verwöhnte Müβiggänger im Garten des Wissens braucht, mag derselbe auch vornehm auf unsere derben und anmutlosen Bedürfnisse und Nöte herabsehen. Das heiβt, wir brauchen sie zum Leben und der Tat, nicht zur bequemen Abkehr vom Leben und von der Tat, oder gar zur Beschönigung des selbstsüchtigen Lebens und der feigen und schlechten Tat.1
History, Walter Benjamin claimed, is written by the victors. To be sure, literary critics of the victorious West did not hesitate to redefine what was and what remains of the GDR and its literature. As Ulrich Greiner emphasized in his «Zwischenbilanz» to the debate sparked by Christa Wolf's Was bleibt: «Es geht um die Deutung der literarischen...
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SOURCE: Schmidt, Ricarda. “From Surrealism to Realism: Monika Maron's Die Überläuferin and Stille Zeile Sechs.” In Women and the Wende: Social Effects and Cultural Reflections of the German Unification Process, edited by Elizabeth Boa and Janet Wharton, pp. 247-55. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1994.
[In the following essay, Schmidt discusses Maron's shift from an imaginative, internalized exploration of psychic turmoil in Die Überläuferin to the realistic, coherent, and politicized narrative of Stille Zeile Sechs.]
From her surrealist novel Die Überläuferin, written in GDR times, Maron takes three protagonists over into her post-GDR novel Stille Zeile Sechs, the historian Rosalind Polkowski, her estranged husband Bruno, and his drinking companion, the philologist Karl-Heinz Baron, called ‘der Graf.’ New in Stille Zeile is Herbert Beerenbaum, a retired member of the nomenclature, Rosalind's acquaintance with him being presented in the form of flashbacks while she attends his funeral. Rosalind serves literally as his right hand: Beerenbaum dictates his memoirs to her because he cannot write himself, his right hand having been paralysed by a stroke. Beerenbaum serves her in turn as a father figure—as an oppressive patriarch on the social level, and, above all, as a reincarnation of her own communist father against whom Rosalind now renews her struggle. It was...
(The entire section is 4344 words.)
SOURCE: Anderson, Susan C. “Creativity and Nonconformity in Monika Maron's Die Überläuferin.” In Women in German Yearbook: Feminist Studies in German Literature and Culture, no. 10, edited by Jeanette Clausen and Sara Friedrichsmeyer, pp. 143-60. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995.
[In the following essay, Anderson examines the use of fantasy, memory, and imagination by the heroine of Die Überläuferin as a means of escaping the repressive structures of the authoritarian GDR society.]
Much attention has been devoted to German literary works that deal with the Berlin Wall in an attempt to discover anticipations of its opening or assumptions about a “German” national identity.1 The Wall itself has been ascribed varied functions; in Christa Wolf's Der geteilte Himmel (1963) it serves as a protection, but it is an obstruction in Ulrich Plenzdorf's kein runter kein fern (1978). It becomes a barrier with no meaning in Peter Schneider's tale Der Mauerspringer (1982) and Bodo Morshäuser's Die Berliner Simulation (1983). In Peter Schneider's Paarungen (1992) it marks difference. In East German literature the difficulty or danger in crossing over to the other (western) side of the Wall is frequently overcome through fantasy, as in Klaus Schlesinger's “Die Spaltung des Erwin Racholl” (1977). However, in Der geteilte Himmel...
(The entire section is 7557 words.)
SOURCE: Glass-Wickersham, Erlis. Review of Animal Triste, by Monika Maron. World Literature Today 71, no. 1 (winter 1997): 137.
[In the following review, Glass-Wickersham praises Maron's prose in Animal Triste and compliments the novel for being “eminently accessible.”]
Monika Maron lived in the German Democratic Republic until 1988. She now resides in Berlin. Her earlier publications include three novels and a volume of essays in Fischer editions. Her participation in the activities of the Stasi (state-security service) during the post-Wall years has been widely discussed.
Maron's new novel has the interesting title Animal Triste. The work is about the human being as animal but also as spirit, about the aftereffects of sexual love but also the existential sadness of individuals and of an entire generation. It is a first-person narrative by a woman of uncertain age who has withdrawn from life, devoting herself to reliving a lost love affair, or each moment of the experience which she can recall. The novel is immeasurably more than a love story, however. It is about the effects of the two Germanies on the lives of the generation born during the war. It is also a commentary on feelings evoked by the changing face of Eastern Europe, its disruptive reconstruction, and its struggle for redefinition on both the individual and the collective level.
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SOURCE: Reiter, Andrea. “Reunification and Literature: Monika Maron from Die Überläuferin to Stille Zeile Sechs.” GDR Bulletin 24 (spring 1997): 67-72.
[In the following essay, Reiter offers a comparative study of the narrative presentation, intertextual perspective, and evolving political consciousness of Maron's characters in Die Überläuferin and Stille Zeile Sechs, particularly how they reflect changing circumstances surrounding the reunification of Germany and Maron's effort to reconcile conflicting aspects of dissidence, passivity, and complicity.]
In 1968 Dieter Wellershoff published his essay “Fiktion und Praxis” as a contribution to the discussion of whether literature should be politically engaged. In particular his essay was designed as a reply to, or corrective of, Hans Magnus Enzensberger's view that literature can never change society: rather, at its worst, it disguises social conflicts. Literature, Enzensberger held then, was harmless, an excuse for its producers not to become directly involved in political discussion.1 Wellershoff denounces Enzensberger's misconception that the socially engaged and the more autonomous type of literature are mutually exclusive. In Wellershoff's view they are just two extremes in current literary production. Approaching literature in terms of its function he describes it as a technique of simulation...
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SOURCE: Lewis, Alison. “Re-Membering the Barbarian: Memory and Repression in Monika Maron's Animal Triste.” German Quarterly 71, no. 1 (winter 1998): 30-46.
[In the following essay, Lewis explores the historical, political, and psychoanalytic underpinnings of Animal Triste, drawing attention to the novel's interrelated themes of obsessive love and abandonment, the excavation of repressed memory, and questions of guilt and redemption as they reflect the reality of German reunification and revelations of Maron's Stasi complicity.]
When in 1996 Marcel Reich-Ranicki acclaimed Animal Triste, the latest novel by Monika Maron, as the stroke of genius of an author who has finally found “her topic,” “der Liebe Fluch und Segen,” his praise, although by no means misplaced, seemed premised on curious assumptions.1 In her earlier works, he argued, Maron was too preoccupied fighting communism to have approached the topic of love: her spirited critique of the communist system in which she grew up was thus seen to “repress all other motives” (verdrängte alle anderen Motive), causing her to steer clear of love and eroticism until, according to Reich-Ranicki, she felt “up to it” (bis sie sich ihm gewachsen fühlte […]).2 Politics and history—even those of her “Heimat”—thus served to distract her from her true calling: the realm of...
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SOURCE: Hunt, Irmgard Elsner. Review of Pawels Briefe, by Monika Maron. World Literature Today 73, no. 4 (autumn 1999): 733-34.
[In the following review of Pawels Briefe, Hunt finds shortcomings in Maron's “self-righteous” tone and lack of compassion.]
Since 1981, Monika Maron has published three novels and a volume of essays. Pawels Briefe (Pawel's Letters) is her fifth major publication. Rather than “a family history,” as the subtitle purports, the volume comprises family stories, reflections on remembering and forgetting, the portrayal of a mother-daughter relationship, and, inevitably, a tracing of German political developments and how they affected the family. However, one comes away from this reading wondering just how much all that has to do with Pawel's letters. They do not seem tightly connected to the whole.
Pawel is the autobiographer's maternal grandfather, and, as the only Jewish family member, he was deported and murdered. That is the significant and horrible fact about this family which probably inspired the author to embark on this book. Such a background would have been basis and reason to write a family's turbulent history, yet Pawels Briefe turns out to be less that than the telling of sometimes banal incidents of day-to-day living, of life during war, and the denial of unusual circumstances during those times. Even if this...
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SOURCE: Brockmann, Stephen. “The Defense of Childhood and the Guilt of the Fathers.” In Literature and German Reunification, pp. 137-62. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
[In the following excerpt, Brockmann discusses the emergence of “father literature” in the former GDR and identifies Stille Zeile Sechs and Animal Triste as examples of this genre.]
Whereas it had taken three decades for father literature to appear in the Federal Republic, father-son and father-daughter literature from writers of the former GDR began to appear almost immediately. In one typical response, the writer Gabriele Eckart, born in 1954, wrote an angry open letter to her father, a former minor party official, in which she accused him of brutal mistreatment. Eckart insisted that her father's cruelty had caused her to remain forever at the emotional level of a five-year-old: “To look at me, I am a grown-up woman; how could they know that because of your guilt I am condemned to remain a child?”1 Eckart remembered the chief reason for her failure to grow up as an incident when she was five years old and her mother had been forced to go to the hospital. Eckart had been happily wearing braids, but as soon as he was alone with her, her father had taken a pair of scissors and cut off the braids. Eckart was to remember this incident for the rest of her life, for it showed that it was not...
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SOURCE: Wickersham, Erlis. Review of Quer uber die Gleise, by Monika Maron. World Literature Today 75, no. 2 (spring 2001): 370.
[In the following review, Wickersham compliments Maron's essays in Quer uber die Gleise, calling the collection “clever and readable.”]
Monika Maron has been a controversial figure since the reunification of Germany because of her alleged collusion with the East German regime. She is a prolific writer and essayist, whose latest novel Pawels Briefe: Eine Familiengeschichte, appeared in 1999. Her previous collection of essays, Nach Maβgabe meiner Begreifungskraft, was published in 1993. Most of the items in Quer uber die Gleise have appeared in newspapers; some are the texts of speeches. They are less defensive than the entries of the earlier collection, yet they attempt to situate Maron among those who merit understanding rather than censure for the years spent in the East.
These essays are clever and readable. They show a lively imagination and a fine command of language. Two of them, “Vier Archetypen” and the parable “Zwei Bruder,” are particularly direct presentations of cliches about the attitudes of Germans on both sides after reunification. Both reveal glaring flaws in the stances taken at that time. While the first concentrates on attitudes, the second uses the family setting to reveal the weakness and...
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Cooper, Rands Richards. “A Death in the Party.” New York Times Book Review (27 June 1993): 11.
Cooper offers a positive assessment of Stille Zeile Sechs, but notes that the English translation of the novel is seriously flawed.
Isenberg, Noah. “The Bug Man.” New York Times Book Review (19 March 2000): 20.
Isenberg evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of Animal Triste.
Kloetzer, Sylvia. “Patterns of Self-Destruction: Christa Wolf's What Remains and Monika Maron's Flight of Ashes.” In Other Germanies: Questioning Identity in Women's Literature and Art, edited by Karen Jankowsky and Carla Love, pp. 248-67. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997.
Kloetzer contrasts the themes of disillusionment and the search for self-identity in Christa Wolf's What Remains with Maron's Flugasche, drawing attention to the different generational perspectives of each author, the autobiographical features of each writer's identity crisis, and Maron's decision to publish her controversial work outside of the GDR rather than submit to official censorship.
Lennox, Sara. “Searching for Transformation.” Women's Review of Books 5, nos. 10-11 (July 1988): 8-9.
Lennox discusses Maron's political and feminist...
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