In Search for the ‘Great 9/11 Novel’. Kristof Magnusson’s poetological rejection of crisis literature in Das war ich nicht (2010)

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Julia Ilgner


Kristof Magnussonʼs German bestseller and new economy novel Das war ich nicht (2010), whose subtheme is the failure of a large announced 9/11 century novel, questions and satirizes the media dictation and its exaggerated expectations of an aesthetic and morally adequate artistic reception of 9/11, which consequently limits both the writer and writing itself. By means of an ironic ductus and by reference to Theodore Dreiserʼs novel Sister Carrie, a masterpiece of American naturalism, Magnusson distances himself from the discourse in order to establish an alternative poetic program: Unlike those German novels, which were written in the immediate aftermath of the attacks (as Ulrich Peltzer’s Bryant Park or Kathrin Röggla’s Really Ground Zero), Das war ich nicht does not repeat the impression of an aesthetic and poetic caesura. So Magnusson denies a medial postulated and inflationary served ‘crisis management narrative’, which is literature ought to accomplish. Instead, he pays homage to the epic storytelling by opposing with the example of Stock Market Crash a kind of ‘counter-crisis’. Replacing one crisis by another Magnussonʼs treatment approaches a paradigm of terrorism and assassination research, according to which violent attacks do not affect the course of history in a long term. Nevertheless, it is not the novel’s intention to marginalize the events. Rather Magnusson’s example shows the historical genesis and variability of literary crisis management, which with increasing time has to devise alternative modes of coping with 9/11.

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Author Biography

Julia Ilgner, Julia Ilgner Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg Deutsches Seminar - Neuere Deutsche Literatur Platz der Universität 3 79085 Freiburg

Scientific associate at Freiburg University, Department of German.

As Ph.D. student at Freiburg University Julia Ilgner is currently completing her dissertation project Historias narrare. Genre transformation in the historical Renaissance novel. 1860–1945. She was scholar of the German National Academic Foundation and associate member of the international doctoral program Geschichte und Erzählen/Faktuales und Fiktionales Erzählen. Research visits at KHI Florenz and DLA Marbach. Previously she studied German Literature, History and Philosophy at Freiburg. Her research interests are German-Italian Cultural Relations, Viennese Modernism/19th Century, Faction/Fiction, Transgeneric Narratology, Intermediality (Film) and Contemporary Literature. 

She is co-editor of the reading edition Arthur Schnitzlers Filmskripts (supervised by Achim Aurnhammer, 2015), Ehrliche Erfindungen. Felicitas Hoppe als Erzählerin zwischen Tradition und Transmoderne (with Svenja Frank, 2015) and Geschichtstransformationen. Transformations of History (with the correspondent young research network at Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz, 2017).


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