HEIMAT

26TH DEZEMBER 2018! What a fabulous read ( and fabulously easy really ) in the format of a comic picture book! Rather Sebaldian in many ways as Krug examines her own feelings of identityas a member of the family Krug and as a German living in a post war world of negation and national forgetfulness.

I found the format easy to follow; Krug works as a Professor in Illustration in NYC, and the use of personal photographs, photographs and cards from “flea markets” plus archival photographs interspersing her search narrative , made for fairly easy reading. The only hiatuses were for the occasional writing up German words and their English meanings. Max Sebald would approve the methodology but maybe a lot fewer picture insertions and a lot more textual depth would have been seen.  Krug questions the memories of her mother, aunts and cousins spread  over several generations. She investigates her deceased grandfather and his siblings and herself as she wants to know why she feels an inner guilt for German-ness which she can’t easily define nor can she find any real sense of Heimat in her homeland. Rather as Sebald left Germany as a post graduate, Krug had done the same but then, not as any token gesture, she had met and married a New Yorker of Jewish heritage. Then the finding of answers to her internal questions becomes paramount as she tries to find answers which will be for her child. 

The finding in her search for her is whether German guilt be carried forward to a 41-year-old relative living in Brooklyn today is I think reconciled in her discovery of a sense of Heimat in the Germany of the early 21stcentury; something which she had not thought possible in the first years of her travels to Liverpool then New Jersey. There is also the naïve/stupid association in her early travels that all Germans = Nazis! Strangely, I thin this attitude persists today as is seen in the tabloid headlines whenever England play Germany in football, evinced in the crass allusions by people who I believed fairly educated and aware when making comments in German Class or just that whole ‘reference-set’ of the Far-Right UK in racist language, attire or cross reference especially in terms or anti-Semitism. 

In her Guardian interview, Krug states, “In hindsight, …. the family history she embarked on was the kind of project she wished she had done when she was much younger: ‘ What I found problematic about the way in which we were taught at school about the Holocaust and the war was that it conveyed a very generalising sense of guilt. You learned about the facts, but you weren’t encouraged to research what happened in your own city, or your own family.

If that had happened, we would have learned to deal with this guilt in a much more constructive way. You would have been able to say: ‘I am doing something positive now, I am contributing to retelling the story in a new way.’ The sense of paralysis would not have been so strong. ‘ ”

There is no resolution for her or her father in the relationship with her aunt Annemarie, Franz Karl’s older sister who still grieves for the alter Franz Karl, killed in the war. Krug and her aunt have a rapprochement but it stops at their level, the father cannot forgive his sister.

I’m passing this book on to Tom and buying it for several friends. It is definitely one of my ‘discovered’books of this year. There’s a written, longer version of my initial responses in my Reading Log §6 27/12/2018


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