Estranging Memory in Ilse Aichinger (1). - The German Quarterly

Estranging Memory in Ilse Aichinger (1).

By The German Quarterly

  • Release Date - Published: 2007-01-01
  • Book Genre: Social Science
  • Author: The German Quarterly
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Estranging Memory in Ilse Aichinger (1). The German Quarterly read online review & book description:

In Vienna during the Second World War, Ilse Aichinger was identified by the National Socialists as a "first degree half-breed," having a non-Jewish father and a mother who was classified as Jewish. Aichinger, born in 1921, avoided being deported, as did her mother, who was protected as Aichinger's guardian. Her grandmother and her mother's younger siblings did not survive. Her 1948 novel Die grossere Hoffnung is one of the first novels to present the National Socialist persecution and murder of European Jewry, and an early version of one of that work's chapters, published on September 1, 1945, in the Wiener Kurier, is the first Austrian literary publication to speak about the concentration camps. So it is no exaggeration for the literary critic Richard Reichensperger to claim, "Ilse Aichinger is the beginning of post-war Austrian literature." Besides this historical position, Aichinger stands out because of how she presents and reflects on memory in a wide range of genres in her relatively small body of writing published over a span of sixty years, from her only novel to her slim volume of poetry, from texts in poetics to short stories, radio plays, aphorisms, and her multiple series of articles that have appeared in the Viennese daily Der Standard. The determination of the place and function of memory in Aichinger's works is essential, because her experience as a survivor of persecution has been important for her critical reception and, more importantly, remains an essential aspect of her understanding of the very act of writing. In a 1954 essay, Aichinger describes as one of the results of recent history a "new" perspective, which she calls "die Sicht der Entfremdung" and which has uncanny effects on those who understand its import: "Fast alle von uns haben diesen Preis in den vergangenen Jahren bezahlt, aber nur die wenigsten haben begriffen, wofur, haben sich selbst als Schatten gegen die Sterne begriffen, als etwas ungeheuer Fremdes, das Nachste als das Fernste und die Heimat als die Fremde, die sie zugleich ist" (Kurzschlusse 60). This transformation of the self into something "ungeheuer Fremdes" shows her distance from recent theories that equate memory with identity, a link that this article aims to call into question.

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