German and German Studies, Political Science
"Identity Construction in a Post-War Context: Social, Political, and Cultural Memory in Uwe Timm’s Am Beispiel Meines Bruders"
I have always been fascinated by post-war German literature, so the transition to Uwe Timm was natural. My advisor guided me in the right direction based on my interest in W.G. Sebald, a contemporary of Timm's.
With the close of the Second World War came the need for Germans to confront their past and collective identity as a nation. However, this process was delayed due to a variety of reasons, among them the traumatic experiences shared by many German civilians and the unfavorable atmosphere created by the partition of Germany and the Cold War. Finally, those of the 1968 “student generation” began to confront openly and directly the atrocities committed by the Third Reich, the collective silence or suppression on the part of German people, and the question of memorialization, remembrance, and history. One such member of this generation was Uwe Timm, who in 2003 published Am Beispiel Meines Bruders, an investigation into his family’s history and problematic relationship to the past.
This paper will endeavor to evaluate the complications associated with an upbringing antithetical to one’s own beliefs, and in light of the research behind collective memory encapsulated in Aleida Assmann’s Der lange Schatten der Vergangenheit, how such immersion can hinder one’s self-identification. The following is a close reading of Timm’s text with special attention devoted to Timm’s identity formation, writing process, and effort to bear witness on behalf of his family. The unique social, political, and cultural milieu into which Timm was born necessitated this effort of articulation and reclamation of his family’s legacy.