Betiel Wasihun (PhD, Heidelberg) is Lecturer in German at the University of Oxford. In 2010 she published a monograph examining the phenomenon of competition in selected texts by Kafka, R. Walser and Beckett, with a primary focus on Kafka (Heidelberg: Winter). Her research interests lie in German and Comparative Literature from the eighteenth-century to the present with a particular emphasis on 20th- and 21st-Century Literature. Further publications include articles on Kleist, Kafka, R. Walser, Özdamar, Murakami, Philip Roth and the co-edited volume “Playing False: Representations of Betrayal” (Oxford: Lang, 2013). Her current book project explores the ethical and emotional dimensions of betrayal in a cross-section of literary and filmic traditions.

 

Kafka, Orwell, and Ulrich Peltzer’s Post 9/11 Novel Teil der Lösung

9/11 has marked a caesura in many respects: questions of privacy, civil rights, and freedom ask for renegotiations in the light of digital surveillance practices – as claimed by German writers Ilija Trojanow and Juli Zeh in their polemic pamphlet – Angriff auf die Freiheit. These global changes seem also to be calling for a need to reexamine traditional narrative forms after 9/11. For example, in her 2002 essay “Sag nicht Er zu mir – oder vom Verschwinden des Erzählers im Autor,” Juli Zeh provocatively describes the third-person narrator as a model of state surveillance. Authorial narrative situation has become problematic; the authorial narrator, holding a position of absolute authority which allows him/her to know – and to see – everything, is perceived as a highly suspicious surveying authority. On more than one occasion, the narrator has been treated in terms of Foucault’s ideas on surveillance developed in Surveiller et punir: Naissance de la Prison. The panoptic viewpoint of the authorial narrator, however, is ultimately subject to the author who is “responsible for the effectual control of the characters” (Fludernik: Towards a ‘Natural’ Narratology, 275). In comparing Kafka’s Process, Orwell’s 1984 and Peltzer’s post 9/11 novel Teil der Lösung, I will examine how the dynamics of seeing and being seen, observing and being observed determine the narrative situations. The questions I will be addressing are: How do these texts perpetuate a constant state of surveillance on the narrator? How can we describe the relationship between authorial narrator and author in view of the represented ‘surveillance strategies’? How do Kafka’s and Orwell’s visions of surveillance paranoia inform Peltzer’s Berlin novel where ubiquitous surveillance cameras thwart the traditional dichotomy between the private and the public?

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