The article examines two major German writers of documentary fiction, Alexander Kluge and W. G. Sebald, who incorporate photographs into their work as part of a complex strategy of realism. Both authors are strongly marked by the legacy of Nazi propaganda and its manipulation of photographic images; both authors reflect on the relationship between trauma, war, memory, and representation, especially with regard to family histories. Kluge's emotionally flat documentary account of the Allied bombing of his hometown reveals a problematic deadening of personal and familial relations. Sebald's semiautobiographical fictions, whose German narrators are riven by their disrupted family histories, can only be partially understood through Marianne Hirsch's notion of “postmemory.” Despite common political and stylistic traits, the writings of Kluge and Sebald ultimately forge quite different literary esthetics.

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