"Das ist also das einzige, was bei allen unseren Überlegungen herauskommt: Dass wir irgendwann irgendwohin laufen." Zur Absurdität und Relativität im Werk Reinhard Lettaus

by Nahlbom, Katharina, PhD

Abstract (Summary)
This study focuses on the thematic and narrative continuity of the literary prose work of the German writer Reinhard Lettau (1929-1996). Reinhard Lettau published six pieces of literary prose, including experimental short prose, a political, satirical play and a novel with autobiographic traits. The main argument of the study is, that in spite of the apparent disparity of the pieces there are certain themes and narrative structures, which appear constantly throughout Lettau’s work. A second argument is, that this thematic and narrative continuity consists on the one hand in a totally relative, instable and changeable world and on the other hand in the different ways the characters and narrators relate to this relativity and instability of their world. Each of the six analysis chapters addresses one of Lettau’s pieces Schwierigkeiten beim Häuserbauen (1962), Auftritt Manigs (1963), Feinde (1968), Frühstücksgespräche in Miami (1977), Zur Frage der Himmelsrichtungen (1988) and Flucht vor Gästen (1994) in terms of their thematic and narrative structure. Through a close reading, inspired by Gerard Génette’s narratological theory, the study shows that throughout the work the fictive world is relative and changeable and lacks given truths. Different world categories, for instance material reality and fantasies, merge and the characters do not have a stable identity, but play roles. There is no point of origin, from which the world appears in an absolute true way, but the worldview is always a matter of perspective. The relativity theme corresponds to the narrative openness of the texts, which often lack an omnipotent narrator as well as a given intention. To this relativity and instability the characters and narrators respond in two different manners. Some of them consider the world a joyful play, whereas others restlessly seek a stable ground, an absolute truth in form of a given identity or eternal values. This search always fails, which underlines the relative foundation of the narrated world. Mainly the last chapter places Lettau’s work in a literary tradition. The narrated relativity of the world and the search for an absolute truth bear a resemblance to the work of Franz Kafka, Jorge Luis Borges and Samuel Beckett among others. Furthermore the thematic and the narrative structure of Lettau’s work show a similarity to modern as well as to postmodern literature and philosophy, basically in that the two ways, in which the characters and narrators relate to the relativity of the world could be said to correspond to either a modern or a postmodern attitude. The study also questions the common opinion of Lettau’s work as merely ‘light’ and entertaining. It shows that beside the ‘light’ traits Lettau’s work also deals with philosophical questions like the existence of an absolute truth.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Göteborgs universitet

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation

Keywords:HUMANITIES and RELIGION; Languages and linguistics; Reinhard Lettau; german literature; modernism; postmodernism; narratology


Date of Publication:01/01/2009

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