Dec 2017

Rezension: Sagen, was ist! Jürgen Fuchs zwischen Interpretation, Forschung und Kritik

by Carol Anne Costabile-Heming

Ernest Kuczyński, ed. Sagen, was ist! Jürgen Fuchs zwischen Interpretation, Forschung und Kritik. Dresden: Neisse Verlag, 2017.

Volume 42 of Glossen, which appeared in December 2016, contained a text by Utz Rachowski entitled “Jürgen Fuchs kommt nach Polen,” the opening speech of the Jürgen Fuchs conference held in Breslau (Wrocław), Poland in November 2016. Sagen, was ist! Jürgen Fuchs zwischen Interpreation, Forschung und Kritik is the compilation of contributions from that conference. It offers a multi-faceted perspective on the life, works, and lasting impact of the late writer, dissident, psychologist, civil rights and political activist Jürgen Fuchs (1950-1999). The volume is divided into three sections: (I) “Über Grenzen hinweg“; (II) „Erfahrungsraum Diktatur“; and (III) „Zwischen Literatur und Politik.“ The conference organizer and volume editor, Ernest Kuczyński explains in the introduction that Füchs’s legacy focuses primarily on his activity as a dissident and oppositionist to the detriment of his role as a writer of poetry, documentary and fictional prose, a circumstance “was wiederum die heutige Auseinandersetzung mit seiner Literatur beeinträchtigt” (13). The volume’s stated goal is to highlight Fuchs’s literary works. Nonetheless, many of the authors do not disassociate the aesthetics from Fuchs’s political activity.

The essays in the first section situate Fuchs within a larger Eastern and Western European context. Essays on Fuchs’s life and writing in West Berlin along with an examination of the dissidents Fuchs, Wolf Biermann, and Robert Havemann as reform communists summarize Fuchs’s biography, but do not necessarily add any new details or insights. Other essays, however, examine Fuchs’s work as dissident and as writer from the perspective of other nations, particularly Romania, Poland, France and the former CSSR. These contributions shed light on the ways that political criticism and literary engagement differed under various dictatorships, while simultaneously underscoring the common vision that was shared by dissidents across the Eastern Bloc countries. While some of the authors examine Fuchs’s poetry, many underscore the importance of Fuchs’s Gedächtnisprotokolle and Vernehmungsprotokolle as underground handbooks of resistance.

The second section begins with an essay by Kuczyński entitled “Erfahrung, Erinnerung, Zeugenschaft. Jürgen Fuchs und die Literarisierung des Erlebten.“ Kuczyński emphasizes the ways in which Fuchs’s literary texts reflect authentic memories of his experiences in the GDR and West Berlin, repeatedly emphasizing the ways that the narrative voice projects „Zeugenschaft.“ His essay includes a comprehensive listing (through December 2016) of secondary literature about Fuchs and his literary texts in German, English, and other languages. All of the essays in this section address the way that Fuchs’s writings (both fiction and non-fiction) depict experiences in a dictatorial regime. Noteworthy are essays by Christian Dietrich, who explores the religious aspect of Fuchs’s poetics, Klaus Michael, who clarifies Fuchs’s place (or lack thereof) in the East German literary scene, and Doris Liebermann, who describes the history of a recording made by Fuchs, Gerulf Pannach, and Christian Kunert in October 1976.

The volume’s final section contains eight essays that focus specifically on the intersection of literature and politics. Three of these focus on Fuchs’s last literary work, the complex portrayal of the Stasi in the “novel” Magdalena. One essay analyzes the poetry volume Tagesnotizen and another focuses on Fassonschnitt, Fuchs’s novel about the Nationaler Volksarmee. All of these essays contribute nuanced readings of Fuchs’s major literary works, though it is disappointing that the essay writers seem unaware of the research on Fuchs that has been produced in the non-German speaking world.

Overall, the volume accomplishes the goal which Kuczyński set for it: “die Aufmerksamkeit auf den Schriftsteller Jürgen Fuchs zu lenken, seine Literatur im akademisch-wissenschaftlichen Umfeld zu verbreiten sowie einen Beitrag zur Etablierung und Belebung der Jürgen-Fuchs-Forschung zu leisten” (15). It makes an important contribution not just to the body of scholarship on Jürgen Fuchs, but also to that on literature and dictatorships. The volume’s contributors, many of whom were close personal friends of Jürgen Fuchs, fear that Fuchs’s literary accomplishments will fall into obscurity. This volume is a first preventive step, and as it highlights the richness of Fuchs’s literary contributions it also exposes the limited treatment that Fuchs’s text have received in discussions of post-Wall literature in general. Perhaps readers of the volume will feel compelled to continue the dialogue with Fuchs’s texts and keep Fuchs’s literary legacy alive.




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