This article investigates how the Dresden of Uwe Tellkamp's Der Turm (The Tower, 2008) creates a complex psychotopography of the German Democratic Republic through an ethnographically inflected mode of realism. Tracing how the main localities map out the hidden social and political conflicts that finally erupt in the revolution of 1989, the article foregrounds three modes of cultural representation that produce three versions of cultural history. The first, symbolic mode epitomizes the protagonists' conventional understanding of culture as an archive of knowledge and learning that must be defended against ideology and politics. A second mode concerns the dense network of literary allusions that seemingly endorses the protagonists' symbolic world. However, on a third, self-reflexive level, the narrative voice introduces a distancing effect that undermines the reader's identification with both the symbolic and the intertextual models of culture. The interplay of these modes produces a new ethnographic form of poetic realism that accentuates the performative and symbolic construction of space.

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