Literatures of the Contact Zone: Hans Keilson, Nico Rost, Albert Vigoleis Thelen, and the Literary Spaces of the Late 1940s and Early 1950s

Carl Niekerk


1959, the year in which Böll, Grass, and Johnson all published major novels, is often associated with the breakthrough of a new generation of German authors and a new canon in German literature. But such a view of postwar German literary history ignores the work of many other authors who were active before 1959 and produced innovative and critically acclaimed texts that still deserve our attention today. The following essay offers readings of texts by three authors (Nico Rost, Albert Vigoleis Thelen, and Hans Keilson) who were part of both German and Dutch literary and cultural discourse and whose works were successful at the time, but whose texts are also indicative of a different profile German literature could have developed—not towards a national literary canon, but rather in the direction of openness towards other linguistic and cultural communities. These authors envisioned a literature ‘outside the nation.’ The essay focuses in particular on the spaces that function as settings for the texts discussed, and argues that these spaces are contact zones, where people with different linguistic, national, and cultural backgrounds meet, sometimes clash, but also may engage in a dialogue with each other.


Hans Keilson; Nico Rost; Albert Vigoleis Thelen; post-war German literature; naoorlogse Duitse literatuur; heterogeneity; heterogeniteit

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