This article examines the troubling image of postunification Germany as a terrain vague—a potentially unbounded, hostile space continually exposed to the vicissitudes of history—in Jenny Erpenbeck's Heimsuchung (Haunted by Home, 2008) and Julia Schoch's Mit der Geschwindigkeit des Sommers (With the Speed of the Summer, 2009). Cosgrove argues that both works subvert the rural idyll of Heimat to produce a critical perspective on the postunification present and on the twentieth-century German past. Place in both novels is temporalized space, in which all characters are creaturely inhabitants of the terrain vague. Moreover, in both works the female body signifies the transience of place. Thus body and bodily practices in the Heimat idyll convert the illusion of place into the unsettling open-endedness of a desolate, feminized land that carries within it the trace of death, past and future. Despite the ambivalent depiction of small-scale Heimat topographies in present-day eastern Germany, however, Erpenbeck and Schoch ultimately resist Ostalgie.
Heimat as Nonplace and Terrain Vague in Jenny Erpenbeck's Heimsuchung and Julia Schoch's Mit der Geschwindigkeit des Sommers
Mary Cosgrove; Heimat as Nonplace and Terrain Vague in Jenny Erpenbeck's Heimsuchung and Julia Schoch's Mit der Geschwindigkeit des Sommers. New German Critique 1 August 2012; 39 (2 (116)): 63–86. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0094033X-1550863
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