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Author in the borderland between two cultures - Barbara Honigmann

08.01.2009 - (idw) Schwedischer Forschungsrat - The Swedish Research Council

Barbara Honigmann is a Jewish author and artist with roots in both East Germany and in France. What is her identity - German, Jewish or French? In her narratives she strives to offer shifting perspectives that highlight the complexity involved in the construction of identity. In her thesis Anna Kuschel examines which narrative techniques the author uses to communicate this process, in which the actual borderland is a precondition for the construction of identity. Barbara Honigmann (born 1949) is both an author and an artist with Jewish roots who was born and raised in East Germany and who later emigrated to Strassbourg in France. A brief description such as this already suggests a complex identity, a complexity that is often overlooked in the simplification of Jewish identity based on the problem of victimhood culled from the memory of the Holocaust. As Honigmann was born after the war this stigmatization represents a conflict with´her self-image.

Previous analysis of Honigmann's texts has focused primarily on Jewishness as the basis for how the characters' identities are constructed. Anna Kuschel does indeed subscribe to this analysis of the narrative structure in the texts: Roman von einem Kinde, Eine Liebe aus nichts, Damals, dann und danach and Ein Kapitel aus meinem Leben. However, the author of the thesis also demonstrates that it is necessary to go further than simply considering individual, isolated aspects.

The characters in Honigmann's novels are no longer able to position themselves on one side or the other of the border, e.g. as a Jewish, German or French woman, mother or daughter, author or artist. Rather it is a journey along the border. The diversity is not reflected in each individual aspect of identity, but initially through the interplay between them. The phenomenon of "inbetweenness" is thus the actual point of departure for her writing. Anna Kuschel therefore describes the poetic devices that constitute the basis for highlighting these processes in the construction of identity. A questioning narrative, contrasting accounts and irony are examples of how a borderland is opened up in the text to reveal the incompleteness and complexity that characterises the process of identity creation.

The text as a borderland becomes an arena where the characters can be created and reflects the dynamics involved in the process of identity construction. An endless search where the different aspects are continuously set against each other in a variety of constellations similar to a kaleidoscope. In other words, the borderland is the actual precondition in highlighting the complexity involved in this continuous process.

Title of the thesis: Transitional Identity - The Problem of Identity in Barbara Honigmann's Prose.

The thesis will be public defended on Saturday January 2009 at 10.00

Location: Room T 302, Arkeologen, Olof Wijksgatan 6

Opponent: Professor Beatrice Sandberg Bergen, Norway

For further information contact Anna Kuschel
Tel: +46 (0)31- 786 4594 (work), mobile: +46 (0)709-75 12 42 or e-mail:
anna.kuschel@tyska.gu.se

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