This chapter focuses on the experience of precarious times in contemporary German fiction. The first part queries the binary distinction between modernist and postmodernist literature in the light of striking epistemological and narratological continuities that capture the uneven experience of time. Brian McHale argued in his classic study of the postmodern novel that the narratological experiments of modernist novels pose epistemological questions, such as “What is there to be known?; Who knows it?; How do they know it, and with what degree of certainty?... How does the object of knowledge change as it passes from knower to knower?” By contrast, the postmodern text asks ontological questions: “What is a world?; What kinds of world are there, how are they constituted, and how do they differ?... What is the mode of existence of a text?” The chapter then analyzes diverse articulations of precariousness in contemporary literature. Julia Schoch's novel Mit der Geschwindigkeit des Sommers (With the Speed of the Summer, 2009), Karen Duve's Taxi (2008), and Clemens Meyer's Als wir träumten (When We Were Dreaming, 2006) deal with protagonists for whom 1989 represents a nonevent yet also, paradoxically, a disturbing rupture in their biographies. The chapter also looks at Jenny Erpenbeck's novel Gehen, ging, gegangen (2015; Go, Went, Gone, 2017), which tackles one of the most urgent political issues of the times: the refugee crisis.
Keywords: contemporary German fiction, modernist literature, postmodernist literature, narratological continuities, precariousness, contemporary literature, Julia Schoch, Karen Duve, Clemens Meyer, Jenny Erpenbeck
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