Dimension2: Contemporary German-Language Literature

Volume 2, Number 1

Forward! -- Reality Check

Ingo R. Stoehr

A reality check seems to be a good way to begin this issue ot DIMENSION2. First of all, the issue--though still nominally the January issue--is late; however, I hope to follow with the May 1995 issue in a relatively short time in order to be "on track" again. Second, this issue begins an era of less money; while the journal still enjoys generous suport, budgets have been cut. Initially, I had based my calculation on about 160 pages per issue, but I had been able to publish an issue with as many pages as seemed appropriate because of the funding situation. Now that this has changed, "one hundred and sixty" will be the magic (page) number--give or take a little. This will still amount to almost 500 pages of German literature every year. Finally, German literature is alive and well, and I am proud to present a subjective, though hopefully representative, selection of new books of fall 1994.

New books of fall 1994: Volker Hage in Der Spiegel takes issue with the way contemporary German literature treats love. His diagnosis is that German literature has not been prudish at all in 1994; however, he finds hardly any sensuality: "The male protagonists are afraid and tired; the women are demanding and not content." Tired men and demanding women, of course, are legitimate topics of literature; what really seems to be at issue is perhaps best expressed in Voltaire's bon mot about all styles of writing being legitimate--except for the boring one. I agree with Hage's favorites while I do not agree with every of his negative judgments on the others; it perhaps amounts to a subjective decision even when it comes to Hage's favorites and to mine. Two of them stand out, though.First, Jen Johler's Der Falsche [The Wrong One], is rightly praised by Hage for its comical effects: Johler succeeds in showing the ridiculous in the licentious and the drama in what seems droll. Johler's protagonist and first-person narrator, who is insecure and perhaps even afraid but above all very funny, can be seen in action in the chapter »Hier schdinkt's nach Zigaredde,« which has been translated for this issue as "It stinks Like a Cigarette 'round here."Second, there are authors who are not mentioned in Hage's survey article, such as Botho Strauß and Mario Wirz. I agree with Michael Krüger when he, in the interview printed in this issue, refers to Botho Strauß as one of the truly great prose writers of German literature. But since Strauß, controversial as he might be, is nonetheless one of the established writers, I would like to emphasize Mario Wirz's new publication that is anything but mainstream.Biographie eines lebendigen Tages [Biography of a Lively Day] gives a voice to a very different experience of love as sex and sensuality: It is a homosexual voice of a narrator who has contracted the Aids virus. It is not a pleasant text because its topic irritates, but it is an unusually powerful text, which seems to continue a narrative technique that is exemplified by the late Hubert Fichte. Authors who write from a minority position, such as Mario Wirz and Christoph Geiser (see Irmgard Elsner Hunt's essay in this issue), offer views on the human condition that may lead to insights for us all.Reality check revisited: On a total of about 160 pages (this includes unnumbered pages such as the table of contents), this issue presents introductory essays, an interview, and literary texts and a set of drawings. The literary texts are all from new publications from the previous fall--not as in the last January issue, where the newly released reprint of Peter Rosei's Bei schwebendem Verfahren was included.

And last but not least: Just a couple of days ago I received my copy of volume 20 of Leslie Willson's Dimension. It is the final volume of a magazine that set the standards of a journal that presents German-language literature to a primarily English-speaking audience. DIMENSION2 was founded on my own initiative, but with Leslie Willson's active support, to make sure that the tradition that he started can continue. Due to unforeseen circumstances, our journals overlapped for about a year. Now that DIMENSION2 has truly become the successor to Dimension, it is not a truly happy occasion because Dimension is no more and all of a sudden there is a lonely feeling. Yet I know that Leslie Willson has turned to translating whole books. So, with many thanks again, I bid him "farewell, but not goodbye."

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