Synopses & Reviews
German memories of the Second World War are controversial, and they are used to justify different positions on the use of military force. In this book, Maja Zehfuss studies the articulation of memories in novels in order to discuss and challenge arguments deployed in political and public debate. She explores memories that have generated considerable controversy, such as the flight and expulsion of Germans from the East, the bombing of German cities and the 'liberation' of Germany in 1945. She shows how memory retrospectively produces a past while claiming merely to invoke it, drawing attention to the complexities and contradictions within how truth, ethics, emotion, subjectivity and time are conceptualised. Zehfuss argues that the tensions and uncertainties revealed raise political questions that must be confronted, beyond the safety net of knowledge. This is a compelling book which pursues an original approach in exploring the politics of invocations of memory.
"Wounds of Memory is a timely exploration of the construction of collective memory and its function in legitimizing politics. Yet it is also much more: an inspiring and innovative contribution on the tricky question of German national identity. It deserves to be widely read and received not only in academic circles - and certainly also in the public discourse on wartime memories in Germany."
Professor Dr Mathias Albert, Faculty of Sociology, Institute for World Society Studies, Bielefeld University
"A controversial book that employs a reading of German novels about the Second World War to examine how the use of the memory or imagining of war works in contemporary politics. The impact is not purely in terms of the high quality of the intellectual analysis and scholarship, but the strong sense of commitment and the refusal of any easy ways out that characterise Zehfuss's work. Audiences will be moved and views changed by this."
Jenny Edkins, Professor of International Politics, University of Wales, Aberystwyth
"This is a strong addition to the growing literature on historical remembrance in contemporary Germany. Zehfuss focuses on war novels, and in particular on those which show the suffering of ordinary soldiers, civilians, refugees, and children. This fictional repertoire is selective. 'A cruel but normal war' is what fiction records as a form of historical remembrance. The author aims at a Derridean 'overturning', reversing the previous eclipse of the Holocaust by the Resistance, and facing squarely what the Second World War looks like when it is not eclipsed by the Holocaust. She then returns to the Holocaust, to see what this new deconstructed geometry looks like. The result is a powerful account of the fluidity of historical narratives, carried by the readers and writers of fiction in Germany, and of their implications for discussions of a range of social and political issues today."
Jay Winter, Charles J. Stille Professor of History, Yale University
"...an unorthodox and courageous book."
German Studies Review, Raymond C. Sun, Washington State University
"[A] smart and challenging book"
Journal of Modern History, Paul Steege, Villanova University
"What is there left to say about the memory of the Second World War in Germany? This is the question that any scholar writing on the topic must confront, given the enormity of the existing literature. In Wounds of Memory: The Politics of War in Germany, Maja Zehfuss succeeds in finding something new and provocative to add...this is a controversial, challenging, and often fascinating book that raises many important questions about Germany's culture of remembrance."
Perspectives on Politics, David Art, Tufts University
Studies memories of the Second World War articulated in novels to raise important political questions.
Table of Contents
Preface; 1. Speaking of war and memory; 2. Forgetting to remember?; 3. Wounds of memory; 4. The truth of memory; 5. Times of memory; 6. Memory, uncertainty, responsibility.