Some German novels on the Second World War. Their literary and social significance.
thesisposted on 19.11.2015, 09:06 by H. Rüdiger. Hipp
The thesis aims to give a critical survey of a cross-section of war novels published in the Federal Republic of Germany since 1945. Attention is accordingly focussed not only on works of literary merit (e.g. H. Boll), but also on popular (e.g. H.H. Kirst) and 'trivial' books (Landser series). The introduction points to some of the artistic problems involved in describing war in general and the 1959-45 war in particular. These problems and the social and political implications of war literature are highlighted in the first chapter, which is devoted to some characteristic literary products of the 1914-18 war and forms the background against which the main part of the thesis is set. In discussing both these earlier works and the novels written on the Second World War, consideration is given to the views various critics have expressed, and in particular to the criteria which some pro-Nazi scholars of literature applied to novels on the 1914-18 war. The main part of the thesis opens with a discussion of five personal narratives which together form a wide spectrum of attitudes towards the Second World War. It also contains a critique of works which continue the tradition of the post-1918 ethnocentric and nationalistic novel, if in a less extreme fashion, in so far as they portray the Second World War in terms of a tragic and heroic struggle to defend the Jatherland, or idealize the community of soldiers and champion the principle of Fuhrer und Gefolpschaft. Contemporary political developments, e.g German rearmament, are considered wherever appropriate. Other chapters are concerned with works which focus on resistance, disobedience and protest, and with works in which an effort is made to develop means of portrayal adequate to the subject. The thesis leads to the conclusion that the numerous works of an obscurantist character give cause for concern, and that only a minority of writers shows a critical under standing of the literary and social problems involved.