Search ǀ BRD noir – der Freitag

Anyone who enters this book feels trapped in a time machine after a few pages. Because the pluralistic, contradictory, indistinct and sometimes perplexed 1970s simply seem too remote to be ascribed to the present and linked to one’s own biography. That might just work with the late 1980s and the fall of the Berlin Wall. The 70s, on the other hand, are history, they no longer have anything to do with the reality of our lives.

You could imagine this time machine as an old Pan-Am airplane that is just shooting over the area of ​​the former GDR while the long-haired person sitting next to you tries to fiddle with the cigarette in the ashtray of the armrest, a narrow Handke ribbon on his lap. With the title The years of true feeling The literary critic and essayist Helmut Böttiger naturally plays puns with Peter Handke’s deathly longing tale The hour of true sensationwhich did not begin to hit until 1975 when it appeared. It is also the leitmotif of his considerations. For what began to be subsumed under the terms “new subjectivity”, “new inwardness” or “new irrationalism” at the beginning of that decade was articulated as the great discomfort of many authors with the eternal socio-theoretical abstractions that had dominated the end of the 1960s who had shown themselves indifferent to the sensitivities of individuals.

Yes, yes, “death of literature”

The authors wanted to finally write about how they had been sore from the social and family circumstances in the post-war period. The confrontation with the fathers’ generation naturally played a decisive role.

Yes, there was “a void of feelings”, according to Böttiger, after all the phrases of politicization and after the supposed “death of literature” that Hans Magnus Enzensberger wrote in a notorious essay in 1968 by Course book No. 15 conjured up. Enzensberger saw relevant literature only through political literacy in the making. Günter Wallraff’s reports and Ulrike Meinhof’s columns were the benchmark. And Enzensberger would later ironically insist on his assessment of the 1970s with a line of poetry: “It would be too much to ask for anyone to think of you.”

But let’s first enjoy the approach to West Berlin – an epicenter of the literature of the time – in our imaginary machine, which the writer Peter Schneider described so grandly at the beginning of his essayistic masterpiece The Mauerspringer from 1982. So at a point in time when this wild and overly long decade was just about to end, according to Böttiger (it did not begin on January 1, 1970, but as early as 1968).

But Böttiger’s impressive literary history begins with another work by Schneider. The story Lenz from 1973 about a young intellectual who wanders through the big city, had an impact with enormous explosive power on the literary life of the Federal Republic. “The new and exciting thing about it,” says Böttiger, “was that this story for the first time inseparably interwoven the political and the private and expressed the basic feeling that an initially euphoric mood of optimism had suddenly turned into a creeping depression.” Not just abstract , but also to provide literary evidence, he quotes from the book: “He looked at the men’s trousers and found out which side their tail was on. He imagined their tails excitedly and then the sequence of body changes that must have taken place before everyone could sit and talk like that again. “

Schneider is not the only one to whom Böttiger devotes himself extensively. Dozens of writers’ biographies are tied together to form a subjective, even sensitive bouquet of epochs – the character of Botho Strauss, on the other hand, explicitly represents the approaching eighties. Clear, precise text exegesis, anecdotes and own conversations that Böttiger was allowed to have with some authors, including. Böttiger has already achieved something similar with the tape The group 47, for which he was awarded the Leipzig Book Fair Prize in 2013.

Of course, Böttiger knows about the complexity of his subject when he writes that the 1970s are “difficult to reduce to a common denominator”, “they are by no means to be equated with terrorism and a ‘German autumn’. It was not only the time of a ‘BRD noir’, but also the most diverse ecstatic moments. ”He then devotes himself to so-called feminist literature (also beyond Bachmann) and recalls Karin Stucks Class lovewhich, in addition to the question of “an identity and specific feelings”, was one of the first books to deal with “physicality and specifically female physicality”. The fascinating Gabriele Wohmann, who at the time was macho (that was still the 70s, of course) as “Juliette Gréco at the typewriter”, brings Böttiger to mind in just a few pages, but also to shine.

It goes without saying that Böttiger is not interested in the usual suspects from the West such as Günter Grass, Heinrich Böll, Martin Walser, Uwe Johnson or Friedrich Christian Delius (including his squabbling with the publisher Klaus Wagenbach) and the big players from the East (Christa Wolf, Sarah Kirsch, Wolf Biermann or Heiner Müller). Ingeborg Bachmann, Thomas Bernhard and Handke appear for Austria. For Switzerland, however, not what one would have expected: “Friedrich Dürrenmatt and Max Frisch still outshone the 1970s, but their heyday was behind them.”

That is why Böttiger prefers to deal with Fritz Zorns Mars. He interprets this novel, published posthumously in 1976, as a “writing against death, and this is exactly the subject of the book”. It tells of the cancer of a young man who at first seems to have emerged from a Christian Kracht novel: “I am young and rich and educated; and I am unhappy, neurotic and alone. I come from one of the very best families on the right bank of Lake Zurich, which is also called the Gold Coast, ”the novel begins.

Reactionary points

The often precarious conditions of the subcultural literary scene, magazines such as Speechless, Watering can or Das Nebelhorn Böttiger describes it, too, and kept himself afloat with counter-book fairs, pirated prints and mini-presses. And if you want to go deeper into the subject at this point, you should allow yourself the – partly blatantly drug-soaked – “collective autobiography of ‘alternative’ authors” that appeared in 2019 The underground years (published by Günther Emigs Literatur-Betrieb) calls.

With so much left-wing, subversive activism, one could now confidently transition to Böll, who is now considered brazen. Because Böttiger advocates a new reading of his classic The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum Ein: “The processes of manipulating opinion-forming described by Böll now sometimes have an even stronger effect through Internet forums than they did at the time image-Newspaper was able to. Disinformation campaigns, angry bourgeoisie, mutual reinforcement of the most primitive resentments. ”Such moralizing judgments – undoubtedly correct in the matter – would not have come from the tobacco crumbs of the novelist and journalist Jörg Fauser, an ex-junkie in an insurance agent suit. For many authors who (still) published in the 1970s, the outsider only had a yawn left. But it’s nice that Böttiger ends his journey through time with Fauser, who has just posthumously received a third, elaborate edition of his works by Diogenes – along with a crazy anecdote.

Of course, in this literary history, which is almost 480 pages long, protagonists must be missing. It is inevitable. Jurek Becker is not there either, the one after his world success Jacob the Liar from 1969 was admired in both parts of Germany. In a moving obituary to his friend in September 1997, Peter Schneider may have unconsciously anticipated why he of all people does not appear in Böttiger’s story of the “New Subjectivity”: His “experiences and talents were probably not suitable for the ‘new subjectivity’ and not for them new cleanliness and its prohibitions, which spoke of the ‘definitive overcoming of realism’, of the ‘end of storytelling’, of the ‘reactionary function of the punch line’ and of ‘writing about writing’. You couldn’t cope with the fact that he, a survivor of the Holocaust, was, among other things, a great entertainer and, thanks to this talent, earned a lot of money. ”So this journey through time can safely go on a little further.

The years of true feeling. The 70s – a wild golden age of German literature Helmut Böttiger Wallstein 2021, 473 S., 32 €

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