This essay examines contemporary rewritings of World War II memory narratives. Drawing on the examples of Flughunde (1995) by German author Marcel Beyer and Marcel (1999) by Flemish author Erwin Mortier, I analyze the ways in which both authors address the complex processes of the transfer of guilt and perpetratorship from one generation to the next, processes that have marked public discourses in both national collectives in the aftermath of the war. I show how both authors challenge such habitual transfer, instead insisting on critical distance, empathic witnessing, and narrative integration. In this manner, they enable a fresh and productive approach to the past that moves beyond guilty silence, assignation of blame, or even calls for amnesty — a stance that notably sets them apart from previous writings on the war. Both Beyer and Mortier participate in what has come to be known as “third generation” literature, which, as I argue, opens up remarkable transnational perspectives for the discussion of Europe's war past.
Perpetrators and Victims: Third-Generation Perspectives on the Second World War in Marcel Beyer's Flughunde and Erwin Mortier's Marcel
Jan Lensen; Perpetrators and Victims: Third-Generation Perspectives on the Second World War in Marcel Beyer's Flughunde and Erwin Mortier's Marcel. Comparative Literature 1 December 2013; 65 (4): 450–465. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00104124-2376633
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