Representations of German-Polish Border Regions in Contemporary Polish Fiction: Space, Memory, Identity

in German Politics and Society
Author: Irene Sywenky
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This article examines post 1989 Polish literary production that addresses German-Polish history and border relations in the aftermath of World War II and participates in the German-Polish dialogue of reconciliation. I consider the methodological implications of border space and spatial memory for the analysis of mass displacements in the German-Polish border region with particular attention to spatiocultural interstitiality, deterritorialization, unhomeliness, and border identity. Focusing on two representative novels, Stefan Chwin's Death in Danzig and Olga Tokarczuk's House of Day, House of Night, I argue that these authors' attention to geospatiality, border space, and displacement forms a distinct characteristic of Polish border narratives. Chwin's and Tokarczuk's construction of interstitial border spaces reflects a complex dynamic between place, historical memory, and self-identification while disrupting and challenging the unitary mythologies of the nation. With their fictional re-imagining of wartime and postwar German-Polish border region, these writers participate in the politics of collective memory of the border region and the construction and articulation of the Polish perspective that shapes the discourse of memory east of the border.