n Acta Germanica : German Studies in Africa - Der sehr lange Schatten von 1914
Anmerkungen zu Stephan Wackwitz

Volume 42, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0065-1273



In 2014, it is a hundred years since the beginning of the First World War (1914-1918), widely seen as "the great seminal catastrophe of the 20th century" (George F. Kennan 1979). With this Great War, the old European world of the 19th century came to an end, and the seeds of destruction were laid for so many great disasters of the 20th century, such as National Socialism, the Holocaust and the Second World War. In German communicative memory however, the First World War only has a secondary place; the preoccupation with 'Auschwitz' and the Holocaust seems to overshadow everything else. This is especially true for German contemporary 'Family Novels' or 'Generational Novels', the narratives of which trace resistance or the guilt of the fathers, combining personal and social history in family memories. Stephan Wackwitz' (2003) cannot, as has been done, simply be categorized as another 'family novel' in this context. Only indirectly does it deal with family guilt and the Holocaust. Rather it describes a grandson's quest for the world of his grandfather who returned from the battlefields in 1918 without being able to concede defeat. Instead, he stubbornly preserved the "ideas of 1914", a culture of extreme German Nationalism, combined with an overreaching masculinity, and turned it into a world of phantasms. Wackwitz' hybrid autobiographical text, hovering between the documentary and the fictional, does not only follow his grandfather's tracks, but also has a genuine autobiographical dimension, as the grandson finds himself deeply entangled in his grandfather's "Invisible Land", the features of which he describes as ghosts and phantoms. Wackwitz' rebellion within the German Student Movement turns out to be, unwittingly, a reproduction of the very thought patterns that had dominated his grandfather's life, with only the authorities changed. In a thorough reflection of the roots of his own values, Wackwitz is able to overcome the old structures and their roots in a destructive trait of 19th century thought.

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