Günter Grass's novel Ein weites Feld caused a storm of controversy when it was published in Germany in 1995. There was an expectation that his first novel after the fall of the Berlin Wall would answer the question of what should now constitute a national literature. Instead, he delivered a complex narrative that, far from legitimating a united Germany, demanded a long historical perspective on the end of the Cold War. Ein weites Feld represents a conscious attempt to use novelistic form as a kind of cultural politics, deployed against both a resurgent German nationalism and those invested in an ideological interpretation of the end of the Cold War as a victory for the West. The complex narrative demands that the reader embrace history's lost causes and not just the victor's truth. However, the text's complexity involves risks. There is a danger that the novel's expansive and digressive form and its dense, intertextual web of allusion might defeat the reader. This article argues that, despite its difficulty, the novel deserves a wider readership than it has received so far outside Germany. For those who see the fall of the Berlin Wall as the epoch-making event of the last quarter of the twentieth century, Ein weites Feld should be promoted as a key text for our understanding of the twenty-first and as an example of how the novel as a form still has a role in public political debates.
Ein Weites Feld as Post–Cold War Novel
scott mccracken is chair of English Literature at Keele University. Most recently, he authored Masculinities, Modernist Fiction, and the Urban Public Sphere (2007). He is now at work on a monograph, “Thinking through Defeat: Literary Studies in Political Failure from the Paris Commune to the Berlin Wall,” and editing the collected correspondence and fiction of Dorothy Richardson (forthcoming 2016–2020).
Scott McCracken; Ein Weites Feld as Post–Cold War Novel. Novel 1 August 2015; 48 (2): 190–207. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-2882617
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