History, Politics, and the Individual: Ingeborg Drewitz's Novels "Eis auf der Elbe" and "Gestern war heute"

by Michelle Mattson
History, Politics, and the Individual: Ingeborg Drewitz's Novels "Eis auf der Elbe" and "Gestern war heute"
Michelle Mattson
The German Quarterly
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Iowa State University

History, Politics, and the Individual: 
Ingeborg Drewitz's Novels 
Eis auf der Elbe and Gestern warheute 

The relationship or the impact of the in- dividual on political, social, and economic history-on the local, the national, and the international level-has always been difficult to illuminate. Nonetheless, the question of where we belong in both today's world and in the future is one we try to answer again and again.' It is also a question of central im- portance to the novelistic work of Ingeborg Drewitz (1923-1986). Two novels in particu- lar, Gestern war heute (1978) and Eis auf der Elbe (1982) examine the (self-) positioning of the individual within his or her historical pre~ent.~

In these two novels Drewitz ap- proaches this topic with a consistency and in- tensity not found in either the novels preced- ing or succeeding these two. Additionally, she does this in works that center on the experi- ences of women protagonists. Beginning with Oktoberlicht in 1969 Drewitz concen- trates on female characters and their experi- ences, but it is not untilGestern war heute that she systematically and thoroughly treats her characters' perception of theirhis- torical pre~ent.~

Borrowing a term from Margaret Urban Walker's recent study in feminist ethics, this analysis will argue that Drewitz's novels at- tempt to illustrate how individuals are placed and place themselves in history and how we use these understandings to map a "geography of responsibility "4 In particular, how we do so in a world in which the bound- aries of community-through two world wars, several other global conflicts, and the intervention of the mass media-have effectively inflated beyond the ability of most in- dividuals to grasp. How Drewitz fleshes out the intricate relationships between personal and national history, between local and na- tional politics, and between society and the individual represents a central concern of this study. As she lays out the interconnec- tedness of these various spheres, she begins to fashion a concept of political agency which can respond to the particular texture of his- torical and political experience that we con- front at the beginning of the 21~tcentury. It is an agency that allows us to see our own imbrication in history and politics as well as thelimits to individual activism on many lev- els. Put simply, this article argues that in these two novels Drewitz offers a model for individuals to understand their places with- in history, and to decide how to act from within those positions on the basis of that understanding.

Drewitz's Characters

A first question to answer would be, how- ever, what kind of individuals Drewitz writes into these two works. Both novels deal with the lives of women born around the same time as Drewitz (1923).5Theyrepresent suc- cessful, intelligent, self-assured women, whose professional and personal engage- ment helped pave the way for the incipient women's movement in Germany of the '60s and '70s. Gabriele, the central character of Gestern war heute, finds herself in 1945 at

The German Quarterly 76.1 (Winter 2003) 38

odds with a professor who is trying to foster her academic future. He urges her to leave Berlin for more stable territories in the West. He suggests that her rehsal to leave will prevent her from ever overcoming the educa- tional restrictions of war-time Germany and the physical limitations of a city trying to re- build itself from the ground up. Part of their interchange draws attention to the way in which the various segments of Drewitz's narrative become inseparable:

-Es ist schade um Sie! Sie reden sich iiber etwas hinweg! Warum gehen Sie nicht nach Westen? Sie horen doch BBC. Die Stadt, dieses Berlin wird nie mehr hoch- kommen. Das konnen Sie sich doch aus- rechnen, oder? -Meine Eltern sind hier, die Familie. -Eine Frauenantwort! Er nimmt jetzt den Stuhl und stukt ihn auf, da mussen Sie druber hinwegkommen, rucksichtsloser werden, sich durchsetzen wollen. -1ch bin nicht sicher, ob wir noch das Recht haben, an uns zu denken. (147)

Whereas the professor implies that Gabri- ele's reaction is driven by some woefully inappropriate feminine solidarity, her re- sponse is really more complicated than that. Gabriele is willing to recognize how interwoven her own life has become with those of her family and friends in Berlin, so much so that a physical separation would bear serious consequences for many more people than just herself; her response is an acknowledgement of perceived mutual re- sponsibilities. The collective fate of these individuals depends, however, on the ways in which Berlin progresses, which in turn responds to the decisions and policies of governments, of particular groups, and of individuals. As the entanglement of indi- vidual and collective decision-making de- volves, the reader can no longer distin- guish clearly between the various spheres of human existence. Where does the pri- vate world of the individual begin, and just what is its relationship to public life and to the process of history in which they are both entangled? How do the actions of gov- ernments and institutions affect the lives of individuals, and how do those individu- als ultimately influence the choices gov- ernments and institutions make? What moments of history exceed such concepts as "choice"?

Nowherein Drewitz's two novels can we locate a narrative hierarchy that would stratlfy human life in such a way as to pin- point the "culprits" or "heroes" of history. The professor interprets Gabriele's refer- ence to family as typically female because she allies herself with concerns we have largely considered part of the private sphere, beyond the concerns of politics and the grand path of human history. When second wave feminists sought to reveal the interconnec- tedness of the public and private spheres with the slogan "the personal is political," they too underscored the fad that women had largely been restricted to operating within the confines of a domestic space, and we can certainly read Drewitz's novels as ex- ploring the ways the slogan held true. How- ever, Drewitz's literary project goes beyond an exploration into how women's position within history has developed. She also goes Mher than the sometimes (although by no means consistently) facile M&st tenet of being determining consciousness. Instead, Drewitz's novels reveal how subtle the con- nections are between mind and body, be- tween individuals, between individual and collective subjects, and between personal and political history.

Drewitz shapes characters who are not powerful members of society, unusually giftedor intelligent, nor even particularly ex- ceptional. Although the two central women characters ofGestern war heute and Eis auf der Elbe aspire to exceed the traditional re- strictions society has placed on women (Ga- briele becomes, after a long struggle, a suc- cessful journalist; the main character in Eis is an attorney), neither of them have preten- sions of greatness or of extraordinary ser- vice. The other individuals in their lives: chil- dren, husbands, friends, employers, clients, criminals, shopkeepers, etc. stand out only for their apparent historical insignificance. That is to say, if we look among her charac- ters for people with immediate and/or self- evident connections to postwar politics and history, we will not find them. Some are criminals, but their crimes are localized and per- sonal. Some are political activists, but their involvement is circumscribed. Some of her characters play important community roles in helping the underprivileged, but they are not involved in electoral politics or municipal government. How then does Drewitz man- age to create of them and with them a liter- ary account of our century's history?

Geographies of Responsibility

After reviewing the drawbacks to other foundational concepts for our ethical under- standings (including such key words as duty or vulnerability), Margaret Urban Walker settles on the notion of responsibility as a "conceptual framework" for ethics (77-100). Moral responsibilities, she argues, are both socially construed and distributed among any given community's members. Rather than being a monolithic, ahistorical category, re- sponsibilities are multiply defined, redefined and negotiated as the socio-historical terrain on which they are mapped changes. Because the ethical framework she engages entails a process of mutual communication and nego- tiation, she has called it an "expressive-col- laborative" model (Walker 60).

Walker tells us that "patterns of ascrib- ing and deflecting responsibility are socially shaped and differently shapeable. The point of seeing this is not just better descriptions, however; itisto be able to appreciate what is gotten and what is lost, what is secured and what leR to chance, when responsibilities are shaped in one way rather than another" (Walker 99; see also78, 94, 96) When Dre- witz's two female protagonists in these nov- els look back on their lives, they seek to ac- count for their choices, and for the unex- pected paths their lives have taken. Toward the end of Gestern war heute, Gabriele's daughter grills her about why she never "amounted" to much, i.e., why she never be- came the star journalist she could have be- come. Gabriele tries to explain this to her daughter and to herself by talking about the relative gains ("what is gotten and what is lost"1 when we choose to define our responsi- bilities in certain ways. She says:

Aber das Wort taugt nicht: Ich. Der Satz taugt nicht: Sich selbst verwirklichen. Denn er setzte voraus, dalj uns das Leben eigen wiire, Substanz, an der wir, jeder nach seinem Entwurf, modeln kijnnte. Wer kann das noch, Renate? Wie wenige haben je ihr Leben zu eigen gehabt? Und auf wessen Kosten? (376)

Implied in Gabriele's answer is that to have realized her full potential would have meant not fulfilling her responsibilities to those dependent on her. It acknowledges that our lives as individuals are embedded in contexts that exceed the boundaries of the individual self, and that to act as if one were autonomous (as the professor sug- gests) would entail not living up to the re- sponsibilities we have been given or have chosen.As Walker writes, "practices of re- sponsibility are not only ones of assign- ment. They also include ones of accepting or refusing, deflecting or negotiating, spe- cific assignments of responsibility" (94). This is a position Drewitz's protagonists embody.

Both Walker's feminist conceptual framework for morality and Drewitz's attempts to discern the responsibilities individuals strive to meet in life are insights that have arisen from within women's socio-historical roles as caregivers and nurturers. We Walker's study shies away from any essentialist attri- bution of moral behavior, Drewitz clearly links the perspectives of Gabriele and the narrator in Eis to their roles as women, wives, and mothers.6 Yet, even in the few years that separate the publication of these two novels, the author shifts a recognition of responsibilities as being largely driven by women's roles as mothers and wives, to a model in which we are all imbricated equally -if not in exactly the same ways-in the so- cial construction and distribution of respon- ~ibilities.~

In Gestern war heute only Gabriele comes to understand her life choices as re- sponding to particular networks of responsi- bilities. Her uncommunicative and emotion- ally distant husband Jorg never acquires enough dimension for the reader to see him go through this process as well. He recog- nizes his financial obligations, but none of the emotional or nurturing responsibilities involved in personal relationships. Eis, on the other hand, portrays the narrator's hus- band Heinrich as plagued by similar self- questionings asthe narrator, unsure exactly why they became what they became, but ex- ploring nonetheless the web of interconnec- tions within which all of their choices had to be made.

In both novels, Drewitz's female protago- nists grapple with a definition of the self which would leave them believing their lives to be "failures." Margaret Urban Walker's discussion of the ramifications a concept of the self as autonomous has-which underlies traditional moral theories -points out that thoseofus who do not Mithe expecta- tions such moral theories place on individu- als are bound to look at our lives as inade- quate. She writes:

[Mlany things that are parts of a normal form of life for very many people in a par- ticular social environment count (and are felt) as failures and occasions for shame, when they appear under the aspect of lack or loss of control. They appear under that aspect in the very form of social life that makes the successfully planned life both a (restricted) possibility and a powerful idea. The entropy of pregnancies and ill- nesses, the unpredictable care of vulnera- ble and dependent persons, and the shab- biness of poverty and its lack of insulation from the catastrophic effect of 'changes at the lower levels' of plans are among these. (135-36)'

In other words, both the professor who urges Gabriele to leave Berlin and her own daughter who wonders why her mother did not become a really important journal- ist have internalized a concept of the self that ignores or rejects questions of inter- dependence and responsibility. While Gestern war heute definitely begins to ques- tion the losses involved in looking at indi- vidual "successes" in this way, it is in Eis auf der Elbe where Drewitz explores most thoroughly the role of the individual with- in the historical present and-part and par- cel to that process-attempts to chart the ways we acknowledge, struggle against, and assume our positions as "responsible" individuals within various and shifting communities.

Seeing the Strands of Individual Life Stories in the Weave of the Historical Present

Drewitz integrates history and the his- torical awareness of individuals into her nar- rative of their lives on the personal or indi- vidual level and in the context of national (even at times world) history. After analyz- ing these areas, I will consider the tools Drewitz offers those interested in an aes- thetic that can combine the political and the personal, then summarize the insights Drewitz's work offers into the relationship of the individual to his or her historical present, a relationship Agnes Heller describes as fol- lows:

Present history encompasses all events and happenings whose consequences are alternative in character, and also events which can threaten us or fill us with hope; events to which we can relate both practi- cally and pragmatically. Historical pre- sent is the cultural structure that we are "inside". The present-present age is the sum total of meaningful objectivations, systems of belief, and values which are essential to our way of life; which direct and "steer" our attitudes to our world.g

One key to understanding the significance of Drewitz's many and even apparently secondary figures is recognizing how all of them respond to and alter or affect the way society develops, i.e., present history. Fur- thermore, this is true whether they do so intentionally or unintentionally, acting after rational reflection or from irrational, spontaneous decisions.

In fact, one of Ingeborg Drewitz's great- est accomplishments as an author has to be that she has consistently and thoroughly charted the ways in which individual life sto- ries coincide or intersect with national his- tory and with concurrent political develop- ments not only at local, but also at regional, national and global levels, while at the same time creating a very concrete picture for the reader of what she perceives to be the histori- cal present of her characters. Gerhild Briig- gemann Rogers, the author of a comprehen- sive study of Drewitz's novels, acknowledges this feature of the novelist's work when she writes:

Ingeborg Drewitz hat die historisch-poli- tischen Ereignisse der letzten sechzig Jahre in das Geschehen ihrer Romane ge- flochten, insofern sich Weltbewegendes im BewuStsein ihrer Gestalten nieder- schlagt, oder die Beschlusse einer Regie- rung in das tagliche Leben der Menschen eingreifen. Die Autorin hiitet sich davor, Situationen zu erfinden, die ein monu- mentales Geschehnis in den Mittelpunk riickt, um dessen Bedeutung von den Ro- mangestalten auswerten zu lassen. 10

Briiggemann Rogers' choice of the word "geflochten" is very apt. However, when she adds that Drewitz has avoided placing monumental events at the center of her novels, she chooses not to explore the im- plications that choice has for the structure of individual historical consciousness.

She suggests at a later point that Dre- witz's portrayal of historical developments functions solely as a backdrop, quasi histori- cal color. Compared either to the work of her contemporary Heinrich Boll or to docurnen- tary literature of the '60s and '70s, Drewitz's work fails, she argues, to connect for the reader the lines between personal and politi- cal praxis, leaving instead only a watery and obscure political-historical landscape. A landscape so inscrutable, firthennore, that her characters acquiesce to a sense of help- lessness and frustration (Briiggemann Rog- ers 221E).

In contrast to Briiggernann Rogers, I would maintain that Drewitz's uncanny abil- ity to weave monumental historical events into the day-to-day consciousness of her characters represents a reasonable facsimile of how individuals incorporate, contribute to, and very literally embody such monu- mental events in the course of their lives, as well as the different paths historical events take to reach our (sub)consciousness. She does this on several different planes: on the level of individual consciousness and per- sonal history, inthe physical surroundings of her characters, and in the international po- litical history to which they respond.

Individuals within History

Structured rather loosely as a diary, Eis incorporates history and contemporary po- litical developments in many different ways: sometimes in the language of dreams, some- times through disjointed stream of conscious- ness moments, occasionally as fade-aways, or as punctuation, so to speak, of other nar- rative developments. For instance, describ- ing a dream that reorganized elements of a dinner conversation she had with her chil- dren and their spouses and partners, the main character in Eis reveals not only the fad that demonstrations against nuclear power plants are a pressing issue in Ger- many of the late '70s and early '80s, but, calling to aid the syntactic lapses of dream imagery, the connection between nuclear power and German economic interests. She de- scribes what she hears in her dream as fol- lows:

[Dlie Stimmen der Einsatzleiter uber den Polizeifunk: Wie sollen wir sonst konkur- renzfahig bleiben? (So was Unsinniges sa- gen doch Einsatzleiter nicht, wenn sie De- monstrationen auflosen wollen.) [...I Megaphone bellen, der Polizeifunk schnarrt: Und die Erde war wiist und leer, verstehe ich, und die Erde war wiist und leer, und die Erde war wiist und leer. (11)

Although the narrator remained silent over dinner when the subject of the dem- onstrations came up, her emotional in- volvement in the issue of nuclear power and its potential dangers reveal them- selves clearly enough through the lan- guage of the dream, which escalates in in- tensity literally to biblical proportions by the end of the diary entry. The drastic character of the closing image, "und die Erde war wiist und leer" (Genesis 1:2), be- lies her apparent indifference to the topic over dinner and demonstrates how viscer- ally private citizens respond to the devel- opments in the nuclear power industry, The dream gives us an example of how our conscious selves often do not explicitly take stock of contemporary political real- ity, and often do not recognize just how great an impact it has on our daily interac- tion with the people around us-visible in this scene in the tensions that arise be- tween family members over dinner.

Occasional interruptions in the mundane patterns and flow of individual con- sciousness also open up aview into the web of relationships embedded just below our own awareness of them. Christine, one of the nar- rator's daughters, had been very involved in the extra-parliamentary movement in Ger- many, had married a protest songwriter1 singer, gone off to Spain to wait for the politi- cal promises F'ranco's death might entail, and had then returned to Germany and a dreary job as a chemist to support her child and now disillusioned, abusive husband. In one moment of the text, the reader sees her drive off after leaving her son at school, mull- ing over the traffic, the weather, and her life choices: "Sie raucht die finfte Zigarette, als sie aus der Parkliicke ausschert (wozu lebe ich eigentlich?), Chemikerin, was produziert clle Firma? Sie mu13 auf den Verkehr achten" (12). Alongside the activities of smoking, driving, dropping off children at school, a character suddenly reviews what it means for someone of her politically activist back- ground to find herself working in an indus- try whose business practices she surely would have protested a few years ago. Giving in to what she perceives as the very real needs of her family, she suppresses her politi- cal and philosophical beliefs, generally even refusing to think about them. She cannot, however, make them go away, and so they be- come part of the bitterness and challenge of her life. At the same time, her personal his- tory connects more broadly to the social and political developments in Europe of the '60s and '70s.11

History, however, intervenes in our daily lives through more than our own past and the choices we have made as individuals. Drewitz's narrator repeatedly uses German and world historical events to punctuate or to localize the course of her character's life. In one passage she talks of the news and how the stories in the news either affected the narrator and her husband Heinrich directly or how they overlooked them ("Nachrichten gingen uns etwas an, oder wir ubergingen sie."), but what follows reveals that state- ment to be untrue:

Weltkriegsgefahr wegen Kuba, die Rake- ten schon auf der AbschuBrampe; oder in Hamburg die Spiegelaffare; oder der tag- liche Donner, wenn die Diisenjager uber West-Berlin die Schallmauer durchbra- chen; oder, oder. Wir richten nach dem Bau der Berliner Mauer unsere erste Wohnung ein, haben drei Kinder, haben Einschulungsfeiern hinter uns, schleifen ParkettfuBboden, legen Kabel unter Putz, die Hande sind rauh und geschun- den, die Augen tranen von Staub und Mu- digkeit. (43)

Moving from a region as remote as Cuba and a potentially global conflict ever closer until we hear jets thundering over the di- vided city of Berlin, the narrator draws in the international and national crises that impact them as much as the physical and domestic activity that rounds out the scene. What was happening in Cuba could, of course, have had an impact on the lives of Drewitz's postwar German characters, but the degrees of connection also differ considerably as she makes her way from Cuba, to Germany, to West Berlin. Walker's concept of "geographies of responsibility" can help us understand how varying de- grees of connection manifest themselves in the perspectives of the individuals. She argues that, "an expressive-collaborative framework can acknowledge a moving ho- rizon of commitments and adjustments, allowing individual distinctiveness of situ- ation and commitment" (Walker 117).The ever-shifting horizon permits us to ap- proach the question of responsibility with- in a flexible structure, revealing to us that moral communities often "nest within each other and overlap each other," as well as intersect and crisscross (Walker 202).In order, however, to situate ourselves vis-a- vis our contemporary realities, we must also attempt to find ourselves in history.

Perhaps nowhere in this novel do the different layers of histoy-personal, national, international, familial-show their mutual implications as well as the moment in Eis when the narrator describes how she and Heinrich first became a couple:

Wir gingen im Schloljpark Charlotten- burg spazieren, saljen auf dem Trummer- feld am Spreebogen [...I, sahen Kindern zu und wie traurig sie waren, weil ihnen ein Luftballon davongeflogen war und langsam uber die Spree hintrieb. Unsere Gedanken damals: Wie Kinder leben konnten ohne Erinnerung an alles, was auf uns lastete. Kinder in Deutschland. Unsere Fragen: Haben Sie das gewuljt: Vergasungen, Erschieljungen, Massen- graber, geloschter Kalk, die Berge von Schuhen [...I, und der suljliche Rauch aus den Verbrennungsofen.(40-41)

The walk through the palace gardens recalls the glory days of Prussian domi- nance, now lying in ruins, upon which they sit and among which children play their games. The ruins, which become a physi- cal historical experience, and the children remind the narrator and Heinrich of the recent past and its own unbelievable hor- rors. However, when they ask how chil- dren can possibly live without the memo- ries that haunt the adults, they miss the significance for these children of the ruins and of their parents' heavy memories, which will become-albeit through multi- ple mediations-part of the children's his- torical present too.

As if to underscore that our queries of how history shapes us in our present also de- termine how we try to respond to the pres- ent, the characters broaden the scope of their questions about their immediate past:

Und Hiroshima? Und Nagasaki?

[...I Paris ist stehen geblieben, weil ein

deutscher General einen Befehl verwei-

gert hat, sagte ich. Und was ist mit dem

Algerienkrieg, dem Krieg in Indochina?

Wie war das in Korea?


Und die Kinder hier bekommen Schul-

speisung aus amerikanischen Spenden.

So einen Luftballon mulj es doch zu kau-

fen geben. [...I

Wir hatten keine Antworten auf unsere

Fragen. An dem Tag sind wir zum Du

ubergegangen. (4041)

The narrator and her husband pursue the questions of how Hiroshima, Paris, the war in Algeria, the conflicts in Indochina and Korea relate to their own situation. What is it about these remote sites that captures their thoughts repeatedly? Or rather how do these characters attempt to relate these conflicts to the ones in the di- vided city of Berlin? Here we can pick up again Walker's concept of the geography of responsibilities.

As we see the narrator and her husband struggle to connect in their own minds the major historical conflicts of their times to their daily lives, we see the fragmented, fragile lines they use to draw their own position vis-a-vis the war in Algeria or in Indochina become ever clearer as they move in toward the space of their own lives. The lines are vis- ible,if tenuous and blurred as the characters grope to find their way in such a large politi- cal, geographic space. Uncertain about how to make those extended lines clearer, they concentrate on the visible, tangible lines be- fore them-and go off to find the children an- other balloon. Their inability to map accu- rately and convincingly the topographies of responsibility does not mean they do not ac- knowledge that responsibility or the fact that their lives are lived within communal spaces whose boundaries shift depending on the perspective from which we approach them.

Increased access to global information has often confronted individuals in the 20th century with world events that make little sense for them or to which they cannot relate personall~ and yet, they enter our field of vi-sion-they become part of our understand- ing of the spaces in which we act. We may in- tellectually be ableas Drewitz's characters surely areto explain the various political, ideological, and economic factors that lead to different situations and crises in the world, but we oRen cannot figure out how the events are linked to our individual lives. Nonethe less, we know on some level that what hap- pens in Algeria or in Korea happens in our space.

This dilemma finds expression in the way Drewitz constructs those sentences that draw them into her narrative. She often in- serts them as solitary questions (as in this passage) or simply as a string of references with arbitrary punctuation: "Ein neuer Pra- sident in Argentinien, wieder ein MilitSir. Hausbesetzerkongrelj in Munster. Zwei wei- tere Hauser in Berlin besetzt. Estnischer Burgerrechtler mutmal3lich nach Hunger- streik gestorben" (173-74). As remote, in- deed irrelevant, as many of these interna- tional events may seem to the situation in Germany in the period of time the novel cov- ers, Drewitz's protagonists refuse to allow them simply to recede into a world-historical vacuum. The more remote physically or sys- temically (inter)national conflicts appear, the more the sentences that describe them re- semble the dotted lines of unfinished map- pings. We know there are or will be "roads" connecting two places on a map where cur- rently there are only dotted lines, but we are not yet ready or able to see them drawn in My. However, it is through their under- standing and especially their questioning of history and world politics that they come to understand (or frankly-not to understand) themselves. They literally find their way to each other over their experience of the his- torical present: "An dem Tag sind wir zurn Du ubergegangen." l2

It is not that history, both recent and more removed, makes them what they are, but that they make themselves in and through their particular confrontation with history. InTime,Narrative, and History, Da- vid Carr explains this distinction as follows:

We can sum up this notion of historicity by saying that what the individual is is thus a function of his or her place in a his- torical setting. This is not a "straightfor- ward" affirmation of the sort that might be made by a historical determinist, who calls the individual a "product" of history or the inevitable result of historical for- ces. Instead it is a phenomenological as- sertion about what the individual is "for himself." It means that the individual's self-understanding of himself passes through history.13

Although Carr uses the expression "passes through," he does not see this as a passive activity, simply absorbing the ma- terial in which we exist, but rather as an active, selective and creative self-narra- tive.14 One example of how Drewitz em- plots this process is a scene in Gestern war heute, in which Gabriele, her daughter, and her sister Ulrike sift through the pos- sessions of their recently deceased father. As each person selects things to take with them (Ulrike a few possibly valuable por- celain items; Renate a letter which Gabri- ele's socialist activist great uncle had writ- ten from St. Petersburg, and Gabriele the memories and stories attached to these items), the narrative shows how each of us carries within us a conscious and an un- conscious selection of the history that came before us (305-07). Indeed, not only do we invest history in the items, but that history also to a certain extent prefigures the way we choose them.

Such choices do not simply reflect the his- torical framework in which they are made since each individual processes and perceives the same historical era eerently. We can see this in the differences between Gabriele's selections and those of her sister Ulrike as well as in the variations of meaning the polit- ical activism of Gabriele's great uncle as- sumes for Gabriele and her daughter Re- nate. While Gabriele and Ulrike share the same history, they read its si@icance with individually determined variations. Gabriele and her daughter share similar ethical and political beliefs, but the historical differences between their respective generations guide them to attach changing values to objects both of them treasure for similar reasons. History is shown to be a constitutive mo- ment in the formation of the individual's identity-be that individual a disillusioned adult, a fervently activist student, or a small chdd wandering through a city's ruins in search of a balloon. Nonetheless, it is consti- tutive only as we selectively appropriate it. Neither completely constrained by some ill-defined, perhaps even non-existent his- torical reality, nor completely free of it, we shape and form time in our attempts to make sense of it (see also Carr 88-89).

Although our historicity does not derive from a logically ordered, chronologically structured set of perceptions, it nevertheless congeals in each individual into a life. Carr formulates ths process as follows: "Narra- tive coherence is what we find or effect in much of our experience and action, and to the extent that we do not, we aim for it, try to produce it, and try to restore it when it goes missing for whatever reason" (Carr90). The narrator in Eis addresses her own efforts, largely unsuccessful, to make sense of what often seem disparate and unrelated events when she reflects on her autobiographical

Winter 2003

project: "Erinnerungen aufeinanderschich- ten, zusamrnenhanglose Erfahrungen Sammeln: Und dabei doch Mein Leben denken. Die Zeitung von der ersten bis zur letzten Seite lesen. Was wird aus Polen? Eine Flug- zeugenthng in Siidostasien" (173). She goes on with a long string of seemingly unre- lated world events that intersect with our day-to-day lives. But by including them, she shows how even such remote and often unin- telligible occurrences become part of our life stories and leave each person with a unique as well as a collective history, a collective his- tory that goes well beyond the scope of our families or our specific communities.

(1nter)national Histories

Both Eis auf der Elbe and Gestern war heute are narrative histories of particular in- dividuals and families, but they are also chronicles of 20th-century Germany. This is especially true in Gestern war heute, which covers roughly one hundred years of Ger- man history. On the other hand, if Drewitz's literary and historicist project were limited to the impact of the Third Reich and WW I1 on German characters, one could simply group her work along with the many literary texts that thematize the relationship of Ger- mans to their own past, and thus restrict its scope to one of Vergangenheitsbewaltigung. What makes her work so intriguing and so much richer is her insistence on the role of history in identity-formation for everyone -and her experimentation with different ways to illustrate this within a spatially and temporally limited context: Berlin in the sec- ond half of the 20th century. Furthermore, by constantly drawing international develop- ments and conflicts into her narrative, she works toward revealing gradually the rele- vance, or the potential relevance, of those events that at times seem so remote, and ex- plores the interconnections of communal, national and international history. The more remote spatially certain events are from her characters, the harder it is for individuals to conceptualize or visualize the relationships underlying such historical processes. Yet, Dre witz manages, by exploring the increasingly heterogeneous character of the German pop- ulation, to sketch some initial mappings of how the histories of very diverse groups of people become intertwined.

For instance, Drewitz was an early propo- nent of the rights of Gastarbeiter in Germany and an active participant in efforts to high- light the literary and cultural tradition of their homelands. She draws them into her literary world already in Gestern war heute, but in Eis she includes a whole array of Turk- ish characters, not limiting her view to the caricature of the essentially illiterate factory worker so familiar from other literary efforts of the '70s and early '80s, but also Turkish intellectuals, social activists, teachers, and children. Through these figures she demon- strates how the political, personal, and na- tional histories of separate population groups intersect and grow together (however slow and painful that process willprove to be). She writes not only of the problems her Turkish characters have because of the polit- ical situation and history in Turkey, but also how Germany's national past and Turkish history come together in the lives of Berlin- ers of the seventies and eighties. The narra- tor speaks of a Turkish client she has and the part of Kreuzberg in which she lived before her incarceration:

Feride hat in der Waldemarstralje ge- wohnt, hat nichts vom Prinzen Waldemar gewuljt, nach dem die Stral3e benannt ist, hat die Graffiti an den grauweiljen Fla- chen nicht entziffern kijnnen, auch die Zeichen nicht, das A fur Anarchisten, das V fur Neonazis. Hat sicher auch nicht da- ruber nachgedacht, warum diese Mauer mitten in der Stadt errichtet wurde. (20)

Feride, as a recent immigrant, may not herself be able to decode the historical markers and boundaries of the world she has entered. To her the embodied history of the city in which she lives is as unintelli- gible as the coded graffiti spread out on the wall before her. In fact, they must function textually for her much like distant global events, the reality of which the narrator feels, but cannot draw together into a per- sonally meaningful context. While Feride may not be able to read sense into the walls around her, the many children of foreign descent who play soccer in these streets and guide the lawyer to Feride's old apart- ment house will certainly be able to do so, even as they leave their own impressions on those old German streets.

The idea of these children growing into their own history allows us to acknowledge the awareness most of us have on some level that it is not simply famous men who make history, but indeed the entire myriad of indi- viduals who respond to and then act upon the history which has taken shape within them. The Turkish-German children al- ready provide us a good example of how this happens, but Drewitz's narrator also offers us an opportunity to view the complex pro- cess that is history through historical devel- opments that cross numerous national boundaries.

For instance, the narrator at some point mentions the fact that she had an abortion when she became pregnant for the fiRh time. She tells us,

Heinrich und ich haben bis zuletzt zu- sammen geschlafen, auch in der Nacht vor der Geburt und dem Tod unseres vier- ten Kindes, auch in den Nachten, bevor ich in die Privatklinik von Dr. F ging, der schon die Absaugmethode praktizierte, als daruber noch nicht gesprochen wer- den durfte. (15)

The relatively minor phrase "als dariiber noch nicht gesprochen werden durfte" evokes the many stories that women in Europe and the United States began to tell publicly in the early seventies about previ- ous abortions. Telling such stories con- tributed to a change in public conscious- ness about this issue. While the political and social developments surrounding the issue of abortion vary from country to country, the passage reveals to the reader how the narrator's story, although a story of one individual, combines with the sto- ries of thousands of others, often anony- mous, often disastrous, often successful, and generally of individuals who did not intend to make a contribution to the politi- cal history of the industrialized world, but who did so nonetheless.

Many of the characters and "events" in Drewitz's novels serve a similar function: whether it is the Turkish immigrant, or the young lovers, who, seeking adventure, drop their university studies to join those who have occupied empty apartment houses in Berlin, or the husband and wife who wonder why they turned out to be so insi@icant. In one episode the narrator walks with her husband, who is dying of cancer. While they walk they question directly why they did not do more:

Hatten wir nicht auf Marktplatzen reden mussen, um uns die Bettler, die Obdachlo- sen, die Mutter und die Kinder mit den vorquellenden Bauchen? Hatten wir uns in Wustengebirgen verstecken mussen, roter, gelber, grauer Sand, alte Gewehre im Anschlag, auf die gerichtet, die mit Maschinenpistolen eine Grenze verteidi- gen, die wir nicht anerkannten? [...I Hat-ten wir nicht Streikposten sein mussen, wo immer die Arbeit niedergelegt wurde? Hatten wir nicht Schulen und Kranken- stationen entlang der verkarsteten Flu& betten in Afrika, in den Urwiildern Brazi- liens bauen mussen? [...I Es war Zeit, nach oben zu gehen, Zeit fur die abendlichen Medikamente. Heinrich war mude. Und ich? (185-86)

In this passage, the narrator and her hus- band show the reader that they are fully aware of having responsibilities within larger communities than their own imme- diate ones, but they are not sure exactly what those responsibilities are and how they can fulfill a certain set of responsibili- ties without neglecting others. The text does not offer or pretend to make excuses for them, nor does it answer the questions they ask. It simply acknowledges what did not happen, and it hints repeatedly as to why it did not.

Defining the Parameters of

Individual Political Agency

One way to understand this is to look at the disappointment and confusions with which the narrator views her own daugh- ters' life-choices. In her article about moth- ers and daughters in German literature of the seventies and eighties, Helga Kraft addresses the narrator's sadness at not having proved to be a positive role model for her chil- dren.15Kr& attributes this failure in some measure to the narrator's implicit message to her daughters that they should stick to their men no matter the consequences for themselves.16 Monika Shafi offers a slightly different assessment of both Gabriele and the narrator in Eis aufderElbe.Shafi writes:

Frauen, wie Gabriele, Katrin Lambert, die Rechtsanwiiltin und die Journalistin bemuhen sich, eine neue, eine politische- re Ich-Form zu finden, die durchlassig ist fur die Anliegen anderer Menschen und anderer Gruppen. Sie unterwerfen dabei sich und ihre Tochter einem Anspruch, fur den die konkreten gesellschaftlichen Bedingungen fehlen, die sie daher muh- sam selbst zu schaffen versuchen.17

In other words, the mothers fail because they are "ahead of their time." Nonethe- less Drewitz's texts seem to suggest that it is misleading to think that the necessary conditions for a conflict-free existence will ever be achieved. Instead, as human be- ings act, react, and reflect on their actions, they gradually come to change what they see as the social distribution of power and responsibility. The process, however, is an on-going one. As Walker writes, our narra- tive accounts to ourselves of what we be- lieve are our responsibilities "[link] past moral lives (individual, interpersonal, and collective) to future ones in a way not completely determined by where things started, and open to different continua- tions that may yet affect what the resolu- tion means9'(69). Creating change is his- tory, and the process of historical change does not allow us to turn insight into the nature and causes of subjugation and op- pression into an immediate remedy, nor can we always predict what the outcomes of actions will be--on the collective and the individual level.

Drewitz also gives us a real sense for why this is true. It may strike the reader as odd that a work encompassing roughly sxty years of German, European, and world his- tory-as Eisdoes-should begin in the drudgery of the kitchen: "Es ist wie jedesmal, wenn sie gegangen sind. Ich lasse Wasser ins Spiilbecken, spritze Spiilmittel hinein, regu- liere die Wassertemperatur (der Boiler ist alt, die Wassertemperatur lat sich nicht an- ders als mit der Hand kontrollieren)" -it goes on like this for several pages (5ff). In fact, Drewitz consistently drags world his- tory and politics down to the level of the mundane. She begins generally with a local or national historical-political problem, ex- pands her gaze to the level of global politics, then crash lands in the kitchen.

While this narrative practice could be- come increasingly irritating were it to repre- sent her attempt to aestheticize domestic life, Drewitz's repeated incorporation of the physical regimen of our lives, the demands involved in raising children, putting food on the table, and creating a space in which to live is really very telling. School celebrations, boilers, measles, burned dinners, recitals, etc., are not metaphors for anything else, nor are they some kind of ersatz source for personal fulfillment. They simply underscore the limitations within which human history and so- ciety progresses-and not only women's his- tory, although I would argue that this insight begins in both women's particular forms of socialization in Europe of the 20thcentury and in early feminist theory.

This last point leads us to begin formulat- ing what I see in Drewitz's work as a proto- feminist conceptualization of moral respon- sibility and political action. Her emphasis on our collective self in history reveals as unten- able arrogance a notion of history and social progress that assumes that certain individu- als can ad autonomously and turn insight into instant equality Our roles as moral agents in society are much more complex than that, determined within a web of rela- tionships which do not simply go away when we act as if we were responsible only to our- selves-or obversely only to the world. Both the narrator of Eis and Gabriele in Gestern warheute come to learn that an insistence on the pivotal role of the individual in historical change is bound to lead to frustration and hopelessness. Indeed, that underlying such a concept of political agency is a streak of arro- gance which assumes that an individual agent can act outside of both an immediate as well as a mediated network of responsibil- ities. In response to her daughter's accusa- tion that she failed to fullill her professional potential as a star journalist, Gabriele muses:

Sie kann ihr nicht sagen, dalj das ihre ei- genen Fragen sind, dalj ihr das ICH als Ziel abhanden gekommen ist, weil sich das ICH nicht behaupten kann ohne Hochmut. Dalj sich das ICH nicht nur am Erfolg messen lat, am Platz in der Ge- sellschaft, sondern auch im Zuhijren, im Bereitsein fiir andere erfahren werden kann. (315)

Gabriele and the lawyer in Eis may both be saddened and frustrated by the suffering they see in their daughters, but they also acknowledge that they are not the sole in- fluence in their children's lives, and that success is a nebulous term. It has been de- fined historically by a system which fails to recognize the demands of both sustaining life and maintaining interpersonal rela- tionships that are of value to us.

Nonetheless, it would be a misreading of these characters to assert that they give up in the face of the seeming inefficacy of indi- vidual political or social activism, or that they have retreated from social engagement because it seldom has any really discernible

or lasting impact. These women participate actively in the struggle for social equality and human rights, but they also recognize that not only the revolutionary optimism that characterized the student movement's activ- ists, but the very notion of revolution itself was bound to result in burn out. Repeatedly in both novels, the characters vent their frus- tration at how little they seem to effect in their struggles to lighten the load for the poor, to protect the environment from overly profit-hungry industries, to help others in their struggle with anonymous and often cruel courts. Christine, for instance, talks about her early activism, and her decision to work with the chemical manufacturer that represents so much of what she despises: "Wahrscheinlich gehen die Revolution und die Revolutioniire am Jedenmorgen kaputt" (132). On the other hand, Drewitz herself suggests that there are successes in the face of failures. In an interview with Ekkehart Rudolph, she said, "Aber [...I etwas an zwischenmenschlicher Substanz [istl noch nicht ausgeloscht, [istl nicht verdorrt, dal3 ein Mensch, auch im Scheitern, noch etwas bewirken kann."lB Ultimately, her protago- nists suggest implicitly that we must rethink our concept of political agency and historical change in order to avoid the brick wall of dis- appointment that we run into when revolu-

tions fail to succeed or even occur.

Along with others, Leslie Adelson argues in her book Making Bodies, Making History that "[flerninist writing strategies are neces- sarily bound to the extra literary struggle for social and cultural self-determination, a struggle that requires some working notion of historical agency for women."lg Drewitz's novels demonstrate how women have been, can be, and surely willalways be historical agents, but she also consistently contextu- alizes individual actions within the specific constraints of human existence. I do not, however, see in her work a quietistic satisfac- tion with the way things ar-r with our in- dividual efforts to act responsibly. Instead the two novels offer a version of social activ- ism that entails a recognition of one's own imbrication in several layers of history. It pushes us to act where we see injustice, but also to protect ourselves in a sense from lar- ger-than-life expectations that do not take into account the drudgeries and complexi- ties of human life. In one scene from Eis, the narrator comments on the apparently iso- lated and lonely death of the man in the building across from her. Thinking about the old man allows her to relate the importance of her reflections on her life in her narrative:

Seit die Wohnung des alten Mannes ge-

geniiber nicht mehr bewohnt ist, nicht

mehr bewohnt zu sein scheint, weilj ich

warum ich das Tagebuch fiihre. Sie konn-

ten mich auch so finden, allein in der

Wohnung. Ob sie dann in der Kladde auf

dem Schreibtisch blattern wiirden iiber

den Einzelheiten, begreifen wiirden, d&

ich versucht habe, ein gewohnliches Le-

ben zu leben, und d& es mir nicht leicht

gefallen ist? (111)

In other words, we must always see that being involved in one's community, work- ing toward social equality on a daily basis, is embedded within the context of life as a struggle for balance between the emotional, the physical, the ideological, the so- cial, and the political. Rather than being a frustrating and depressing romp through our collective political and historical fail- ures, Drewitz's novels help to re-orient a concept of political agency within a larger framework-a framework that includes global history, international politics, par- ent-teacher conferences, and doing the dishes.

Telling Stories

The aesthetic structural choices Drewitz made that allow her to combine so seam- lessly the political and the personal, the indi- vidual and the communal still require some clarification. In this section I am particularly interested in exploring narrativeas Carr formulates it-as "our primary (though not our only) way of organizing our experience of time" (4-5). Walker would add that narra- tive is also the way in which we try to under- stand our own moral framework. In other words, the stories we tell ourselves about our pasts function not only to "make sense" of that past, but also to help us figure out how to be in the present and, protensively, in the fu- ture.

Although we experience the world through our bodies and our minds, and time is liter- ally inscribed on our bodies, we nonetheless explain these inscriptions to ourselves at some point in narrative form, even if that narrative is not a chronologically ordered one.20 Carr argues that we need to tell our- selves stories in order to create sense in our lives, to gather together the disparate ele- ments of experience into something that we canrecognize:

[Alt no level, and certainly not at the scale of the life-story itself, is the narrative co- herence of events and actions simply a wgjvenn for us. ~ ~ h

it is ta constant~ task, sometimes a struggle, and when it succeeds it is an achievement. As a strua- gle it has an adversary, which is, described in the most general way, temporal disor- der, confusions, incoherence, chaos. To experience, to act, to live, in a most gen- eral sense, is to maintain and if necessary to restore the narrative coherence of time itself, to preserve it against this internal dissolution into its component parts. (96)

The narratives we write for ourselves al- low us in fact to act. Both Carr and Walker suggest that we must first remember, and structure our memories before we can de- cide which course of action seems the most promising (Carr 57,61). We selectively ap- propriate elements of our experience and elements from our historical present in or- der to understand both ourselves and the people around us.

Generallx such narratives probably do not attempt to include what is happening or has happened in the past but in some area of the worldlcountrylcity that is remote from us. However, the implicit attempt in Dre- witz's novels to map a geography of responsi- bility and to create sense from the chaos of experience makes such an expansive narra- tive necessary. For Drewitz this takes shape as the narrative of an individual positioned within multiply intersecting communities. This story then becomes a shared story, not shared equally by all members of the com- munity, but recognizable to them as well. Carr argues that the story-teller can be an in- dividual who speaks on behalfof the commu- nity, but the other members of the commu- nity must "believe or accept [the story] asthe genuine account of what the group is and what it is doing" (Carr 156; see also 158). There canbe conflicting interpretations, but the general parameters of the story must be acceptable to members of the community.

Drewitz's two novels Gestern war heute and Eis auf der Elbe attempt to do just that. In telling the life histories of the two female protagonists, Drewitz can bring in not only what the two women experience or feel indi- viduallx but also the experiences and events

~ that intersect with their lives. Because the two stories are told from the perspective of the narrator, they show how two individuals try to make sense of the very disparate events and developments that enter their consciousness. They do not attempt rigor- ously to integrate the experiences of all of the other characters, but rather-and this is particularly true in the diary form of Eis --only to speculate on how the others create sense out of their lives. In other words, the immediate community whose narrative Dre- witz relates is specific to her generation of Germans. Elements of that narrative are shared by minorities living in Germany, by younger Germans, and by communities which share large components of their his- torical present. While the narrative is thus historically specific, the process it illustrates of how individuals grapple with their posi- tion within history and their responsibilities to such history goes beyond that very cir- cumscribed community. Briiggemann Rogers suggests that the narrative perspective in these novels per- mits Drewitz to connect world historical

events and social conflict to and through the consciousness of the individual:

Da in keinem der Werke die auktoriale Er- zahlsituation als konsequente Erziihlper- spektive vertreten ist, wird das poli- tisch-soziale Geschehen nicht von einem allwissenden Erzahler als Hintergrund ausgemalt, vor dem sich das Leben der In- dividuen abspielt. Es herrschen vielmehr die personale und die Ich-Erziihlsituation vor. Sowohl bei der personalen [...I als auch der Ich-Erzahlung ... hangt die Dar- stellung des Zeitgeschehens davon ab, wie sich die Ereignisse im BewuBtsein der Ge- stalten niederschlagen. (165)

The advantage in this context to this nar- rative strategy is that we as readers can watch how someone else tries to create a story out of her life. We see how, in the case of these two novels, two women pick and choose from the experiences of their lives, their knowledge of history, and what hap- pens in the world beyond their immediate scope to fashion a more comprehensive narrative of their time. Of primary impor- tance to the narrator in Eis and Gabriele in Gestern war heute was the experience of growing up during the Third Reich, and having to spend the rest of their lives com- ing to terms with that past. But because they do not live in a community consisting only of Germans born in the 1920s, they must also attempt to understand the so- cio-political and emotional forces that in- fluence the actions of those around them. Again, Walker can add to our understand- ing of how we negotiate individually or community specific understandings of val- ues with the other communities they in- tersect:

[Rlesponsibility ethics clarifies the struc- ture of the moral accounts people actually tend to keep and give. It sees these ac- counts as individual and individuating narratives of lives that are particularly our own. But these narratives, even if in- dividuating, cannot be private or idiosyn- cratic. They serve purposes of shared understanding, not only of self-guidance but Winter 2003

of justification and criticism. We are nei- ther unfortunate enough to have to go it all alone in trying to find an acceptable and vital moral order in our lives nor lucky enough to have the last word on whether we have succeeded. (106)

In order to function, in order to act, the narrator in Eis often finds herself compelled to create provisional life stories for her cli- ents and acquaintances. In one such in- stance she tries to imagine a life story for one of her clients, because she realizes that she does not, and probably will never know the real story: "Ich muss einen Menschen er- finden, wenn ich ihn nicht finden kann" (14; see also 2', 23-24, and 142). There is, how- ever, always, an underlying recognition on the part of the narrator that such stories are at best only our rather weak attempts to stave off the real chaos of experience, of life: necessary, but never more than provisional, never more than tentative. As chronicles of individual lives, both novels show us how many and varied are the ways we incorpo- rate our historical present into the narra- tives that we tell ourselves in order to func- tion: Narratives we also need to tell in order to understand how we decide what actions we consider "best."

Clearly, we are neither able nor willing completely to invent the historical present in and through which we live. We are con- strained in our narratives by so many inter- vening factors that, as Alasdair MacIntyre formulates it, "We are never more (and sometimes less) than the co-authors of our own narrative^."^^ But it is neither the accu- racy of our accounts, nor the content of those accounts that actually interests me in Dre- witz's work. What she does so effectively is to show us how we relate to or construct our historical present as individuals. She does so in a way, furthermore, that makes us aware that we are capable of effecting change within that structure as individuals on mul- tiple levels-intentionally, unintentionally, and often both.22 Her aesthetic strategy is well suited for revealing the web in which all aspects of our lives as individuals are caught

up: family and community aslocal, national, andinternational factors inthe life of the in- dividual. Her novels offer readers models of how we try to make sense of our own position within the historical present.


lWhile my assertion is a general one, in- tended more to evoke reflection than to high- light specific instances of cultural work de- voted to it, the position and self-positioning of the individual within history has been a sub- ject of numerous scholarly and literary works in the last several decades. Citing all of this work would be excessive, but recent examples from diverse disciplines will perhaps help. From the field of social-psychology, see Mau- rice Halbwachs, The Collective Memory. trans. Francis J. Ditter, Jr. and Vida Yazdi Ditter (New York: Harper Colophon, 1980; first pub- lished posthumously in French in 1950). More recently, James Pennebaker, Dario Paez, and Bernard Rime, eds., Collective Memory ofPolit- ical Events. Social Psychological Perspectives

(Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 1997). From an an- thropological perspective, see Michael Kenny, "A place for memory: The interface between in- dividual and collective history,"Comparative Studies in Society and History, 41. 3 (1999): 420-37. For examples of how this question is addressed in late 20th-century German litera- ture, see for example Ernestine Schlant, The Language of Silence. West German Literature and the Holocaust (New York: Routledge, 1999) and Elke Frederiksen and Martha Wallach, eds., Facing Fascism and Confronting the Past. German Women Writers from Weimar to the Present (Albany: SUNY P, 2000). In that volume see particularly Elaine Martin, "Vic- tims or Perpetrators? Literary Responses to Women's Roles in National Socialism," 61-82. With a less narrow national focus, see Mieke Bal, Jonathan Crewe, and Leo Spitzer, eds.,

Acts of Memory. Cultural Recall in the Present

(Hanover: UP of New England, 1999). From the field of autobiographical theory, especially feminist theories of autobiography, see for ex- ample, Tess Cosslett, Celia Lury, and Penny Summerfield, eds., Feminism and Autobiogra- phy. Texts, Theories, Methods (London: Rout- ledge, 2000). In that volume see Carolyn Steed- man, "Enforced narratives. Stories of another self," 25-39, Liz Stanley, "From 'self-made women' to 'women's made-selves'? Audit selves, simulation and surveillance in the rise of public woman," 40-60, Sara Scott and Sue Scott, "Our mother's daughters. Autobio- graphical inheritance through stories of gen- der and class," 12840. See also Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson, "Introduction: Situating subjectivity in women's autobiographical prac- tices," Women, Autobiography, Theory. A Reader (Madison: U of Wisconsin F: 1998) 3-56, and Lois W Banner, "Biography and autobiog-

raphy: Intermixing the genres," Autolbiography Studies: alb, 8. 2 (1993): 159-78.

21ngeborg Drewitz, Gestern war heute (Dusseldorf: Claassen Verlag, 1978; Berlin: Goldmann Verlag, 1993); Eis auf der Elbe (Diisseldorf: Claassen Verlag, 1982; Berlin: Goldmann Verlag, 1989). All citations follow the Goldmann editions with page numbers given in parentheses.

3Ingeborg Drewitz, Oktoberlicht (Dusseldorf: Claassen Verlag, 1969, 1981).

4Margaret Urban Walker, Moral Understandings. A Feminist Study in Ethics (New York: Routledge, 1998) 99. Subsequent refer- ences provided parenthetically.

5For both these novels, Drewitz borrowed heavily from her own life experiences. While there is, therefore, a temptation to read the novels autobiographically, Drewitz intention- ally made the lives and characters of the princi- pal characters differ from her own. Reading these books as autobiographies or even as fic- tional autobiographical texts would require a very different kind of analytical framework than this article employs. For an example of how this can be done, see Anna Kuhn, "The 'Failure' of Biography and the Triumph of Women's Writing: Bettina von Arnim's Die Gunderode and Christa Wolfs The Quest for Christa T," Revealing Lives. Autobiography, Biography, and Gender, ed. Susan Groag Bell and Marilyn Yalom (Albany: SUNY P, 1990) 13-28. Feminist theories of autobiography can provide insights into why women authors might choose not to write autobiography per se. See here: Domna Stanton, "Autogynogra- phy: Is the Subject Different?" The Female Au- tograph, ed. Domna Stanton and Jeanine Parisier (New York: New York Literary Forum, 1984) 5-22; Sidonie Smith, A Poetics of Women's Autobiography (Bloomington: Indi- ana UF: 1987; and Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson, eds. Getting a Life: Everyday Uses of Autobiography(Minneapolis: U of Minnesota

F: 1996) particularly the editors' introduction 1-16. Treating these novels as autobiographies could ultimately constitute a reductive read- ing. In sum, although a reading of Drewitz's works as autobiographical fiction would un- doubtedly yield new insights into the author and will in a larger, planned study help to ex- plore further the concept of the self in Drewitz's work, it would not serve the focus of this particular study well. For a discussion of the autobiographical moments in these texts, see Yvonne-Christiane Fischer-Luder, An den Rand gedriickt -zum Opfer gemacht -Subjekt geworden: die Entwicklung der Frauenfiguren in den Romanen von Ingeborg Drewitz (Frankfurt a.M.: Peter Lang, 1990) 113-14, 128.

6Drewitz occasionally over several years expressed many opinions about women's needs and desires that tended toward essen- tializing biological functions and gender roles. See in particular the essays in "Gespaltenes oder doppeltes Leben," "Die ganze Welt um- wenden." Ein engagiertes Leben (Dusseldorf: Claassen Verlag, 1987) 129-66. However, such essentializing gestures give way in the novels to a more historicized view of socially con- structed gender roles. On this topic, see also Yvonne-Christiane Fischer-Luder 260-78 and Katharine Aulls, Verbunden und Gebunden. Mutter-Tochter-Beziehungen in sechs Roma- nen der siebziger und achtziger Jahre (Frankfurt a.M.: Peter Lang, 1993) 134-36.

70ne such passage in Gestern war heute reads: "Keine Frau kann sagen: ICH DENKE, DAHER BIN ICH, weil jede Frau, auch immer die mit den ausgebreiteten Armen ist, undSORGEND ERF&RT, DASS SIE IST." (298)

%ee also chapter 3 "Authority and Trans- parency" 49-75. Walker's critique of the con- struct of the autonomous self is a reconstruc- tion of feminism's constributions to philoso- phy's treatment of the individual as agent.

gAgnes Heller, A Theory of History (London: Routledge, 1982) 44. She also gives us a very good description of how we as individuals actually construct our own history.

lOGerhild Briiggemann Rogers, Dm Roman- werk von Ingeborg Drewitz (New York: Peter Winter 2003

Lang, 1989) 15. Subsequent references pro- vided parenthetically.

llGabriele's daughter, Renate, in Gestern war heute serves as something of a prototype for Christine. Gestern war heute captures this character still caught up in the heady climate of political activism in Germany of the late six- ties, early seventies. Written only four years later, Eis already reflects the disillusioned ex- haustion that characterized many former ac- tivists like Renate and Christine.

121t is for this reason that I cannot accept Helga Kraft's assertion that there is no bond between the narrator and her husband other than sex. Helga Kraft, "Seiltanz der Miitter und Tochter in der Mannerwelt. Schweigen und Sprechversuche," Miitter -Tochter Frauen. Weiblichkeitsbilder in der Literatur, ed. Helga Kraft and Elke Liebs (Stuttgart: Metzler, 1993) 272. The common experience of history proves to be a bond much stronger than any other bond between individuals.

13David Carr, Time, Narrative, and History (Bloomington: Indiana UF: 1986) 115. Subse- quent references provided parenthetically.

14See also Carr 89: "Human existence and action [...I consist not in overcoming time, not it escaping it or arresting its flow, but in shap- ing and forming it. Human time in our sense is configured time. The narrative grasp of the story-teller is not a leap beyond time but a way of being in time."

15Kraft 270,272. I would argue that this is not the only interpretation of the message these two mothers send to their daughters about male-female relationshim. In the case of the youngest daughter in Eis, for example, the narrator repeatedly wonders what keeps her daughter with the man she joins in the squat- ter's apartment and questions whether young women still feel compelled to seek recognition from their male partners. In Gestern war heute the main character leaves her husband be- cause she feels she cannot develop as a person within the constraints of the relationship he wants to have.

believe Drewitz's emphasis on partner- ships and relationships has far more signifi- cance than Kraft would grant it. It pertains im- plicitly at the very least to the concept of human existence in history that takes shape in her work. There is in any case enough material in Drewitz's depiction of relationships in gen- era1 to warrant a separate study.

17Monika Shafi, "Die iiberforderte Genera- tion: Mutterfiguren in Romanen von Ingeborg Drewitz," WIG Yearbook 7 (1991): 35.

18Reprinted in: Ingeborg Drewitz: Materia- lien zu Werk und Wirken, ed. Titus Hausser- mann (Stuttgart: Radius-Biicher, 1988) 73.

IgLeslie Adelson, Making Bodies, Making History: Feminism and German Identity (Lincoln: U of Nebraska e 1993) 43.

201 agree with Leslie Adelson's objection to an overemphasis on the importance of narra- tive in the experience of history, if it does imply overlooking the importance of the body for his- torical experience. She writes: "Without tak- ing issue with the notion that history requires narrativity to be perceived as such (and hence does not exist outside of narrative), I would like to point out that the emphasis on narra- tivity as a grounding or as a function of histori- cal consciousness tends to dis~lace or render of somehow peripheral interest the fact that his- torical consciousness is perforce mediated first and foremost through sentient bodies." Adel- son 23. While space constraints prevent this study from doing so, a thorough analysis of the way Drewitz consistently thematizes the roles of our physical, bodily selves in our perceptions of our selves and others would give us a more thorough understanding of the concept of self underlying Drewitz's characters.

21Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue (Notre Dame: U of Notre Dame F: 1981) 199.

22Drewitz's largely realist aesthetic para- digm may not serve well to approach more ab- stract or symbolic dissections of our history, to create models of the individual in conflict with history, or to analyze the ways in which indi- viduals are destroyed in the confrontation with institutions or collective agents. Gisela Ullrich and Monika Shafi both suggest that the recep- tion of Drewitz's work has suffered because of her realist style, but both agree that a rejection of her work on that basis alone would be unfor- tunate.

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