Cultural 'Diskontinuität' and Thematic Continuity: Ernst Wiechert after 1945

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Abstract

Despite his early reputation as a writer in sympathy with Nazi ideals, Wiechert's writing from the late 1920s, his public speeches in Nazi Germany, and his brave public defence of Martin Niemoller ensured he was seen in the immediate post-war period as a champion of the 'other Germany' and a leading 'inner emigrant'. Subsequent disagreements with the American occupation powers, the civil authorities and returning exiled writers, allied to his instinctively anti-democratic mindset and deeply traditional artistic ideas, meant the author could never feel at home in a world of simplistic denazification, enforced democratisation and radical literary 'Kahlschlag'. The ideas expressed in a range of post-war essays and the thematic concerns of his last two novels reveal a very different writer from the anti-Nazi whom the allies had originally hoped to harness to their cause. His enduring national conservativism, the inwardness and the resigned turning away from political reality, along with the affirmation of eternal spiritual values and a deep-seated historical and cultural pessimism, all confirm positions and ideas adumbrated in the archetypal novel of 'inner emigration', Das einfache Leben (1939), and suggest a thematic and ideological continuity beyond the 1945 divide.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)430-447
Number of pages18
JournalGerman Life and Letters
Volume62
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2009