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Migration as Textual Strategy in Barbara Honigmann's 'Eine Liebe aus Nichts' (1991)


Second-generation authors of German family novels have been increasingly on the move in their literary works ever since German unification in 1989/90 which has precipitated renewed literary engagements with often migratory family pasts of exile, deportation, flight, for example, due to the Second World War, the Holocaust, or both. Concurrently, memory studies scholarship has increasingly focused on spatial migration as condition for memory. However, discourses of migration in memory studies as well as those within literary studies have focused on spatialmigration as content, thus neglecting the intersection of memory, literature, and migration on the structural level of a literary text. Søren Frank has conceptualized “migration literature” to encompass texts that are migratory in their formalistic aspects, rather than through their content. 1 Here, I elaborate on Frank’s idea of “migration as a textual strategy” by conceptualizing a textual form of migration present in second-generation family novels, such as Honigmann’s Eine Liebe aus nichts. The second generation’s self-reflexive, often experimental, writing processes when attempting to represent or narrate others’ experiences constitute the textual form of migration that I suggest. By examining the epistemological gaps that arise in the narration of the father’s story in relation to one’s own in Eine Liebe aus Nichts, I attempt to articulate a textual form of migration underway in the postmemory work it performs.

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