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Alwan's Quest of Home: Re-Mapping Heimat and the Nation in Hussain Al-Mozany’s Der Marschländer: Bagdad–Beirut–Berlin


The German-Iraqi writer Hussain Al-Mozany’s novel Der Marschländer (1999) makes an important contribution to German transnational literature by its productive critical engagement with an ethno-cultural understanding of German nationhood. The novel is based on the travel experiences of the Iraqi male protagonist Alwan to Baghdad, Lebanon, East and West Germany in the turbulent time periods of the 1970s and early 1980s. After experiencing the traumas of war in Iraq and Lebanon, Alwan hopes to start a new life in the Federal Republic as an asylum seeker. The paper’s objective lies in the close examination of Alwan’s initial experiences with West German society, culture, and politics in a small town called Hilter, which is located in the Teutoburg Forest. I analyze the ways Al-Mozany forms transnational negotiations with German national imagination of the 1980s. I do this by exploring Alwan’s engagement with the romantic nationalist discourse and the Holocaust memory culture. I argue that Al-Mozany distorts the harmonious image of the Hilter village community and shows the fallacies of a biological conceptualization of the nation by depicting Alwan’s alienation process in the community. While Al-Mozany challenges a homogenous conceptualization of German identity, he also becomes critical of the exclusion of non-German minorities from the discussions about German history. I contend that by juxtaposing Alwan’s diasporic memory with German collective memory and the private memories of other characters, Al- Mozany explores new imaginative spaces in Germany in which a dialogic and transnational consciousness can arise.

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