“Verstummung”: Carmine Abate’s dislocative voices

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‘Verstummung’ (silencing, unvoicing) is the term used by Gino Chiellino, an Italian first-language speaker living and writing in Germany to convey a sense of how a national language allows both non-native voices to fall into silence yet paradoxically offers lexical and morphological options for its undoing. Chiellino writes to ‘dislocate’ the German language through the invention of linguistic forms that give unique expression to the migrant presence in German(y). This essay investigates the critical cultural work of ‘dislocative’ linguistic practices in the fiction, essays, and poetry of Carmine Abate, one of many Southern Italians who moved to Germany to work in the post-war period. Abate’s first work was published in German, but since the late 1980s he has written in Italian. His work deals primarily with intergenerational patterns of migration from his native Calabria and its effects. His writing is punctuated with traces of German but also with Arbëresh, the language of the historic Albanian-speaking community in Southern Italy in which he grew up. His work layers the experience of the post-war Gastarbeiter onto memories of earlier patterns of mobility. The presence of languages other than standard Italian in his text is the stubborn residue of these experiences of economic need and cultural marginalisation. This presence also functions as a creative resource testing the limits of the Italian national idiom.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave handbook of European migration in literature and culture
EditorsCorina Stan, Charlotte Sussman
Place of PublicationCham
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9783031307843
ISBN (Print)9783031307836, 9783031307867
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2023


  • Carmine Abate
  • Heterolingualism
  • Arbëresh
  • Germany
  • Calabria, Italy


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