‘Irgendwie wird es gehen’: trauma, survival, and creativity in Saša Stanišić’s Vor dem fest

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This article argues that Vor dem Fest, Saša Stanišić’s second novel, represents a continuation of the author's attempt, begun in his 2006 debut, Wie der Soldat das Grammofon repariert, to write about ‘sad things, positively’. Set in Germany, however, it also engages critically with the particular ethical and cultural‐political challenges that writing about traumatic pasts has posed in this context. Through his protagonists, many of whom are engaged in different forms of creative practice, Stanišić shows how cultural memory is produced in response to trauma but threatens to overwrite violence with fabricated narratives. Nevertheless, creativity, practised in response to, and as a means of, survival, retains the potential – for both the author and his characters – to bear witness to the past while producing something that ensures the continuity of the community. Drawing on theories of melancholy and the archive, and of trauma and survival, this article shows how Stanišić develops a mode of narrative that is both critical and productive in its response to legacies of violence and loss.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)469-483
Number of pages15
JournalGerman Life and Letters
Issue number4
Early online date12 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019


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