Sarah Fortmann-Hijazi

Intertextuality in German-Arabic Literature  (Modern German Literature)

Alumna FSGS

Email Sarah_fortmann@gmx.de

Sarah Fortmann-Hijazi is a doctoral candidate at the Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School of Literary Studies, Free University Berlin. She is currently working on her PhD thesis, “Intertextuality in German-Arabic Literature”. Her Masters dissertation was entitled “Cultural Interferences in German-Arabic Literature”. At the University of Cologne (2001-2007), her research focused on German language and literature, English language and literature, and medieval/modern history, and at Universitaet Antwerpen, Belgium, her research focus was on Jewish literature. She has worked in France for the Instiut Historique Allemand Paris and has organised a graduate conference entitled “Early-Modern Research as Cultural History”.

The term autofiction was first mentioned by Serge Doubrovsky in 1977 with reference to his novel Fils. Many contemporary texts, in particular those that oscillate between two languages, play with the concept of autofiction. This project examines this genre in five German-Arabic texts as one that, I suggest, simultaneously destroys and re-animates the concept of autobiography.

This project critically examines and compares two groups of German-Arabic authors: those born and raised in an Arabic country; and those born and raised in Germany. In recent decades there have been a number of authors writing in German who were born in an Arabic country and had grown up in Arabia. These authors left their home countries due to political oppression, war and unemployment. More often than not, they came to Germany to escape socio-political circumstances and they attempted to deal with their experiences through writing. Another group of authors were born and raised in Germany but have parents with an Arabic background. This background appears in these texts as a distinct Arabic influence on the writers’ usage of the German language.

Much of the research in this area has to date focused on socio-political background information in order to situate these German-Arabic authors, namely their literature. The focus on my doctoral thesis, however, is the way in which these writers mix up various forms of fiction with an autobiographical background. This study analyses the way in which autofiction offers a critical and self-reflective form of expression; how it simultaneously questions, destabilises, and inhabits opportunities afforded by autobiography; and finally, how it can be used to deconstruct the limits of memory. The autoficitonal text offers a place for the German-Arabic author to formulate new parameters of autobiography – ones that undermine and destabilise normative assumptions that determine what it means for an individual to be successful. Their writings transgress the normative codes that would maintain the separateness of fiction and non-fiction. A new genre emerges that is neither one nor the other, but something in between – autofiction.