Glossen Sonderausgabe/Special Issue: 19/2004

It’s not a Duck: Reading the Other - Preserving Self

Amerikabild, Amerikanismus, Amerikanisierung – wherever Germans come together, “Reizwörter” like these will open a floodgate of opinions. Books and articles have been written in ever increasing numbers, even poems, all attempting to streamline the public debate on a topic of inexhaustible fascination, “Amerika." The opening-up of a whole new continent only a few centuries ago seemed to promise a wellspring of opportunity, unlimited by the restrictions that tied Europe to its antiquated traditions. Goethe’s well-known ironic poem “Amerika, du hast es besser”[1], depicted the new world as free of the burden of history - no ruins, no useless memories, no bad literature, yet.

Even Herder’s concept of “palingenesis” assumed a new twist. Aging cultures could now rejuvenate not by the romantic, yet tedious return to their origins - which first had to be discovered and redefined -, but by starting afresh in a vast virginal continent inhabited by noble savages. Their youthful energies would be shared with the immigrants from old Europe, the bringers, however, of refined culture and the ultimate religion.

Ancient theories of the westward course of civilization gained new support in view of an immensely extended horizon. The sun sets in the West. This would simultaneously inspire Wagnerian visions of vanishing cultures, but also of glorious rebirth in an unspoiled environment [2]. In Novalis’ Heinrich von Ofterdingen, the question “where are we going?” received a simple answer, “forever home”, implying the utopian return to an idealized past. The yearning of early Romanticism for the revival of the Middle Ages competed with and was soon replaced by a no less utopian escape toward the future, to be found in the far West.

The idea of exporting one’s own group culture to an environment that seemed to be waiting for cultivation appeared irresistible to many [3]. But such transplantation would have to be done on a grass-root basis, by people quite literally on and from the same boat, willing to give all, risk all in the pursuit of happiness for everyone. A democratic element, one might say an element of mass culture, was inserted at the very

But early on, America was also seen as a nesting ground for the untamed evils of modern times. Mass production, mass consumption, mass culture would create commodification, reification, materialism, consumerism, imperialism, not to mention a diversity of life styles and - pollution. So the multiple images of America soon fell into a binary path, vacillating between the extremes of glorification and demonization. During the second half of the 20th century, accusations of cultural imperialism and, lately, linguistic imperialism were added to the list. One might agree with one critic’s comment: “this seems to be a bit much to pack in one term [Americanism] and blame on one people.”[4]

It also seems that criticism of America has become more aggressive after the Iraq war. While the daily Americanization of life appears so obvious to the visitor, Germans will almost violently deny that any of them had “Americanized”. The general agreement seems to be that present day Germany is truly German, different of course, more modern or more post-modern, but not a decoy (not all ducks that look like ducks are ducks). And the linguistic infiltration? That could be a problem. However, what might appear like a loss of cultural roots to the outsider, does not feel that way to the natives.

Contemporary literature does not yet seem to represent these latest, more aggressive attitudes toward the USA. America is still “in”. Hordes of protagonists are being sent West to observe, absorb, appropriate and go home. Maybe, these migrations will shed some light on the mechanisms of cultural transfer.

The pilgrimages to America may have different destinations, but New York is the Mecca. Even a novel that hardly deals at all with America, Uwe Timm’s Die Entdeckung der Currywurst [5], mentions America three times and finally has its lead figure go to New York. It is quite interesting how the three brief citations not only mark three historical time periods, but also evoke three different Amerikabilder.

A young couple takes a trip on a small boat in Hamburg harbor in the early Thirties. It is only the ferry across the Elbe, but the wind whips up waves, the boat sways, and the young man, bride in arm, says the magic words: “Some day we will just leave, cross the Atlantic, go to America and find us an island”[6]. America, the dreamland in the West, the escape, the place where people go to live happily forever after. In stark contrast, the East is defined as the other escape, cynically proclaimed by the Nazi regime as “Lebensraum” (175). But Frau Levinson from Hamburg is sent there to die.

The second citation refers to 1945. The carpet bombardments are over, Hamburg has been reduced to rubble, people are starving, someone gets lucky and turns up with a package of canned food: “A last reserve… from old American army supplies”[7]. There it is, America the rescuer, the messenger of better times to come.

The third time around, we are back in the present. The narrator had to interrupt his report because of a trip to New York (219). He, once the little boy that grew up in Hamburg, eating Currywurst, has made it in the new Germany: he gets to take urgent business trips to America. When he returns, he finds out the woman in the nursing home, who had claimed to be the inventor of the Currywurst and had taken him on a discovery trip into the past, has died. End of story, end of looking back. The future has arrived, and it came from the West.

Sometimes it is the more trivial story that picks up the latest trends in judging America. Petra Durst-Bennings novel Die Amerikanerin presents a strange amalgam of about every America cliché there is, good and bad, and fuses it with elements that could have been taken from the Bitterfeld program. The story takes us back to the year 1911. It happens in Lauscha, a small town in Thuringia, that a young American society girl finds her roots, love and self-fulfillment. She joins the local glass blowers threatened by cheap mass production and foreign imports and saves them with new (American) business concepts they had not thought of themselves. We also learn that the mother and the aunt of the young American had left Lauscha for New York in self-deception. One marries rich and happily attends and plans society parties, completely unaware that this, in the eyes of the author, is an empty life. Her sister, following the American lure, meets and marries a wealthy Italian aristocrat who, as it turns out, makes his money by smuggling in illegal immigrants.

A bit on the trashy side, this story introduces and then “unmasks” the most commonplace clichés: America is the land of hope, the land of freedom. The first sight of the statue of liberty leads to the following outburst: “‘The Lady of Liberty! Look how she holds up her golden torch!”[8]. Then there is a clumsy fascination with the bridges: “Look, the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge….14,000 miles of iron cables!”[9] Initially, New York is praised as “the city of a thousand chances” for everybody (82). Endless platitudes [10] build up what may be called “Amerika-Rausch” culminating in the exclamation “New York ist ein Gesamtkunstwerk!” (81-82).

However, the awakening follows. The protagonist discovers there are strikes, sweat shops, dubious business deals, garbage piles and rats in the streets. She begs her lover to take her back home. America, and most of all New York, are now seen as breeding grounds of chaos and corruption. This view prevails through the major part of the novel.

The book came out as hardcover in 2002 and sold well enough to justify a paperback version in 2003. Does it owe its success in part to the fact that it may reflect a recent change in the valuation of America, a change that connoisseurs of trashy novels can identify with?

It is not unusual for “Trivialliteratur” to be entirely void of humor and irony. But these elements of style are quite useful in dealing with the changes that touch everybody’s life now that history has gone from Europeanization (as seen by Husserl and Heidegger) [11] to Americanization and globalization, and within the latter to a renewed Europeanization of Europe toward economic and political union.

Humor and irony, however, are what turns Hans-Ulrich Treichel’s elegantly written novel Tristanakkord [12] into a true reading delight. The novel takes most of its satiric energy from the figure constellation simpleton-genius. Georg, the Ph.D. candidate from Emsfelde who plays the part of the simpleton, meets the world-renown Composer Bergmann who acts the eccentric genius. One of their encounters takes place in New York where Georg arrives with all the clichés in mind that he remembers from reading the travel guide someone happened to give him, New York für Frauen, and listening to the reports of the many New-York-Kenner he met at the university cafeteria in Berlin, as well as at the Sozialamt Kreuzberg where some of the “Sozialhilfeempfänger”, fashionably fitted in black suits, T-shirts, three-day-beards and short haircuts, would generously share their New York experience as if they had settled down in New York and only came to Kreuzberg to collect their social security checks. These pilgrimages to New York, however, are seen as passing fads [13], the latest after previous ravings about Greece, Italy or Cuba [14].

New York, however, means mostly Manhattan, occasionally Brooklyn. In previous times, visitors, immigrants and literary protagonists arrived by boat. This provided ample time to reflect on one’s own roots before immersing into the great unknown of the American continent. Thomas Mann provides in his Meerfahrt mit Don Quijote [15] an exemplary report of such a crossing. He sees himself as the exponent of a great old culture defined by its literary masterpieces. Reading Don Quijote evokes reflections on the evanescence of historical greatness – “Spaniens Geschichtsgröße liegt in fernen Jahrhunderten”(26). This creates an ironic distance to a nation on its way to world leadership, the 20th century will be the American century.

After ten days the journey is completed. This is Thomas Mann’s first arrival in the United States, but he is met by a familiar sight, well known from photos and descriptions, gradually taking shape while the boat approaches the coastline: “Schon hebt im Dunst der Ferne eine vertraute Figur, die Freiheitsstatue, ihren Kranz empor, eine klassizistische Erinnerung, ein naives Symbol, recht fremd geworden in unserer Gegenwart…”(92) Nostalgia and anticipation create a feeling of stage fright, and finally the city itself moves in sight: “Vorn aus dem Morgennebel lösen sich langsam die Hochbauten von Manhattan, eine phantastische Koloniallandschaft, eine getürmte Gigantenstadt.”(93)

This was in May, 1934.

Georg, in Treichel’s novel, jets into New York and arrives in the evening. He feels stage fright, too, sees the glittering lights, thinks that every bridge must be Brooklyn Bridge, runs through the usual gamut of tourist surprises, most of them foreseen and pre-described by the guide-books. There are tax forms to be filled out on the plane, dispatchers controlling the flow of taxis, the soupy night air, the quiet cars, the taxi-driver who speaks no English, and so forth. Georg visits Central Park and looks for the panoply of “strange” people advertised in his brochures, bankers, baby sitters from Trinidad, Marathon runners, homeless people, the handicapped, story tellers, failed opera singers, joggers, roller blade skaters, but sees only “normal people”. However, they all emerge later in the day, not only in Central Park but even more so in Washington Square Park where they are joined by drug pushers and prostitutes.

The world-wide renown composer meanwhile resides in a luxury suite at the Plaza, complains about the life-size porcelain dogs guarding his entrance, refuses and then accepts to be taken in a stretch-limousine to a popular talk show, where, much to his dismay, his appearance is squeezed in following an oddity show with a young woman in a large basin trying to achieve a new under water record right on stage.

There is no end to such adventures and impressions. New York seems to be a big zoo where anything can happen and does, where the sublime coexists effortlessly with the ordinary. After all, there is also the Lincoln Center where the composer’s latest work, the "Pyriphlegethon for Great Orchestra" has its premiere.

The one thing, Georg never gets to see is the Statue of Liberty. Actually, he wanted to see it on the way to Ellis Island. When the waiting lines for the ferry seem unbearably long, Georg decides to take the free ferry to Staten Island instead. He runs right into the harsh reality of American blight at the neglected harbor site. He encounters decaying warehouses, rotting trucks, abandoned homes, broken windows, suspicious young men bending over a parked car. When they stare him down, Georg’s blue-eyed tourist curiosity vanishes. He does not seek the dialog, he “capitulates” and runs away fast; but nobody pursues him. “Never again Staten Island” (164) is his response.

New York is overwhelming to the newcomer whose mind is bubbling with all the media and tour guide information, the movies he has seen, the rumors he has heard. The boundaries between reality and preconceived concepts are blurred, one does not serve to verify the other. Georg feels foggy, displaced, in a dream, in a film, irresponsible. When he returns to Berlin, he will join the initiated, the “Amerika-Kenner," will brag about his experiences, and contribute to the myth.

Part of the American myth has always been that dreams can materialize. Is there a place where Germans can do better than wear the dunce cap in New York? There is a film story, which, however, does not center on New York. Percy Adlon's film Baghdad Café or Out of Rosenheim deals with the other fascination America holds for Germans who habitually feel claustrophobic about their own borders; this leaves them susceptible to a certain “Poetik der Weite,”[16] inspired by the romantic beauty of those vast, empty landscapes, so well known from the old Western movies. The cowboy does not dominate the screen anymore, but the intensity of Western landscapes, the outpost atmosphere, has not lost its attraction. It’s a romantic escape from the garden landscapes of Germany; the deserts in particular seem to hold challenges that remind of Frontier times, when Germans still meant to bring culture to the “Wild West." In a way Baghdad Café is an ironic repeat of such visions.

The film opens with a landscape dipped into reddish desert gloom, dusty, hot, empty. The camera zooms in on a run-down gas station, a highway stop for trucks. It is the “Baghdad Café." The black inn-keeper is amidst a terrible fight with her drunk husband. She throws him out and finds herself alone with a run-down motel, a rebellious daughter, and a teenage son who holds his baby in his arms and dreams of Beethoven. At the same time, there is a German couple on the highway, riding along in a big American car, quarreling. She insists on leaving the car, he stops, and there she is, literally displaced, a heavy set woman in a Bavarian outfit, high heels, hat with feather, brown suitcase in hand. She is, indeed, “out of Rosenheim." In grotesque resolve she walks down the hot lonely Road, and finally arrives at the Baghdad Café. She decides to stay and clean up. After some initial trepidation, the American woman and the woman from Rosenheim bond with each other, and soon a miracle happens: the dump turns into a major tourist attraction, all problems resolve, there is love and song, and everyone lives happily ever after.

This ironic fairy-tale appears as a post-Wende adaptation of the German fascination with the extreme, the melancholic, the chaotic, the decrepit found in those scenic badlands and their desolate townships that seem to be “dead in a bizarre way”[17]. Maybe, the ataxia of such places evokes the hour zero determination Germans felt within their own borders after the war. There is excitement in rebuilding a country which calls for repetition; in a similar way, children will build and destroy their sand castles at the seaside. Displacing fictitious characters into the badlands of America provides arenas where a man can still be a man or, sometimes, as in Baghdad Café, a woman an angel.

This is part of a thematic tradition played out previously in movies by Wim Wenders or Werner Herzog. We find some of it in Wender’s Paris, Texas. Herzog prefers for his epic parables the even more exotic landscapes of South America (or Bohemia as in Nosferatu). But in Strossek, the protagonist is catapulted from his underclass circumstances in Berlin to the vicissitudes of trailer park life near Chicago. Class differences, economic hardship, fragile relationships, racial tensions and the ensuing rogue mentality seem rougher and tougher in the United States than in Germany, or simply become more visible in the alien, i.e. American model [18].

However, the challenges of American life as reflected in the media and in literature are largely accepted as part of the American adventure. There almost seems to be an anti-Dallas bias at work. What the tourist would fiercely criticize at home, now looks more like the back-to-nature excitement of a camping trip. This applies to the “Wild West” as well as to the big city “landscapes” of Chicago or New York , those asphalt jungles of America that inspired Bertolt Brecht even before he ever visited the country [19].

In the age of mass tourism, not all pilgrimages to New York are made by the well-to-do. A German tourist may easily find himself restricted to the less glitzy places. In Wim Wender’s early classic Alice in the Big Cities, the plot evolves from the fact that the young protagonist is down to his last 200 Dollars, yet must still buy a return ticket. He rents a room in a shabby hotel and takes in a young mother and her child who are down to less.

A couple of decades later, Ingo Schulze sends two of his characters from Simple Storys on summer vacation to New York where they hold themselves captive in a dilapidated apartment, surviving the sweltering heat by cruising between bathroom and double bed [20].

In the “Dickicht” of New York, this provides something like a survival test or “Grenzerfahrung”; or it would have done so, had the characters been designed by Beckett or Bachmann. But in Schulze’s topsy-turvy world of post-Wende absurdities this is just another odd episode.

There is a different hotel story which attempts to do more than depict the bewilderment of the traveler. It invades the mind of an American living in New York, “inmate” of a hotel so shabby that only the poorest of the elderly will live in it. And die. The inhabitant of number 95 just did. The hotel assumes the role of transit station for those whose lives are over. It is Judith Hermann’s “Hunter-Thompson-Musik” from the collection Sommerhaus später [21].

Even more so than in most stories by Judith Hermann, the atmosphere is eerie, unreal; it’s a twilight zone; the hectic pace of big city life has not entered this building; time seems to stand still; everybody has given up expectations, but some faint remnants of desire have survived. People are still asking for their mail, but there is no mail for anybody. The protagonist, Hunter Thompson, arrives at his floor. The hall lights are broken. Only the green neon letters of the EXIT sign near the stairway are flickering. Hunter has managed to establish himself quite comfortably in his furnished room. He has some books, a refrigerator, TV, even a guest chair. The curtains are blue. We learn that all that costs him 400 Dollars a month, but the heating works. He eats something, then it is time for Whisky, time for a cigarette, time for music, “time for the time”(119). Like everybody else in this house, Hunter shuts himself off in his dream world. His music inspires him. Tonight it’s Glenn Gould playing Bach, "Wohltemporiertes Klavier." Time seems suspended. - Edward Hopper’s shabby hotel rooms come to mind: people sitting on their beds, leaning against walls, staring out of windows, motionless, waiting.

The turning point comes with a knock at the door. Hunter freezes. “New York ist eine kriminelle Stadt.”(120) This image has been projected directly into the brains of people by news programs and countless mystery movies. But then it is only a young woman standing in the green light of the EXIT sign; she looks unearthly, like a sea maid, her hair still wet from a shower. Hunter, fully alert, notices every little detail, the mosquito bite on the left ankle, the brown spot under the left eye, the tiny bit of dirt under the nail of the big toe, the shampoo bottle in her hand; there is a bunny appliqué on the pocket of her robe, with her fist in it. In Hunter’s mind it bulges out obscenely. He is suddenly aware that he himself looks neglected; his stomach is heavy. The gaze of the hungry hunter – the name of the protagonist is now very becoming – eroticizes the scene. The young woman is interested in the music he listened too. She has lost her backpack at Grand Central with her recorder and all her tapes in it. Could they go out for dinner, maybe? Hunter is terrified, but says “Yes, of course”.

The EXIT sign is still flickering while the woman disappears into room number 95. Is this a lure back to life or to death? Is the woman a Hermes-figure, a guide to the other world like the young boy in Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice? The symbolism is heavy and as of yet undecided.

Hunter spends the next day, it is the Saturday before Easter, in apparent limbo. The city closes in on him with all its hectic; a crazy man in front of Macy’s keeps yelling “Too much electricity”(128). Hunter visits his old friend Lenny in his Nickel&Dime store. Here, time has come to cessation, too. Lenny does not sell anything anymore. He just sits there. Lenny hands Hunter a tape recorder for free. Back in the Hotel, Hunter puts on his old good suit and waits for the girl to come. Around Midnight, the suit goes back into the closet. Another missed opportunity.

Hunter looks at his records. Now we learn what makes up the texture of his mind: Mozart, Bach, Schubert, Schumann, Sati, Janice Joplin, Truman Capote, Jazz and lyrics. He puts all of it into a box, then the girl comes. “Sorry, I am late”(136). Hunter will not go out anymore, but hands her the recorder and all his music, “Happy Easter”(136). A brief dialog ensues. Why would a man like Hunter stay in a hotel like this? Hunter assures her he could leave anytime. Where would he go? No answer.

The claustrophobic interiors in this story clash with the restless activities of life outside in the city. Plato’s Cave. As with Edward Hoppers paintings, it is hard to tell whether events have passed or are still to come. It is the undecided juncture when time seems to be suspended.

When Hunter Thompson closes the door behind himself - the girl and the music gone - it is up to the reader to assume what happens next. Will he leave his dream world and start afresh or will he cut his wrist?

The unanswered question “where are we going, what are we doing here” is in the background of most stories by Judith Hermann [22]. This, in complicity with the heavy symbolism, provides these texts with a touch of melancholy and an existential twist [23]. There is a seriousness inspired not by engaging in causes or questioning history [24], but by the intricacies of one’s own Being here, now. This is what Hermann stated herself in an interview with a NYT critic: “There has been a very remarkable German revival. The older generation has been more interested in the past, the war, politics. My generation looks at itself.”[25] And it looks for meaning without being able to grab it.

The superficiality of living as a member of the Fun Society of the Nineties creates what Milan Kundera calls “the unbearable lightness of being”. Kundera sends his Prague protagonists as far West as Paris where they learn from heartbreak, national catastrophe, and marginalization that they need personal commitment and an identification with their roots to add substance to their lives. Hermann’s characters never go that far.

But the American experience has become part of the German experience. The “Thompson Hunter –Music” story expresses an almost eerie familiarity with American moods, art, literature, music. The name of the title figure is the name of Thompson Hunter, the inventor of “Gonzo” journalism, the author of Hell’s Angels and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The hotel with the ominous exit sign reminds of Edward Hopper scenes, but Hunter’s tape collection presents a unique mix of classical music (the German element) and American music. This mix may well be indicative of the components of the new German consciousness. In the title story of the collection “Summerhouse later”, we find the description of a young group of artists and students who have created their own “scene”, generously including a taxi-driver whom they call a “drifter”. This designation, borrowed from the American “scene”, may well apply to most of them. They live in fluctuating “Wohngemeinschaften," take ecstasy, smoke, drink, and everybody sleeps with the taxi-driver; they listen to music and talk. Their music is a wild mix of Callas arias, Bach, David Bowie and Trans-AM. One talks about Castorf, Heiner Müller, Wawerzinek, and reads Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho with each other. The good citizens around them don't appreciate their presence, “but we wanted to be there, nonetheless”(143). There is a longing for orientation, a longing for a place to stay. The taxi-driver takes this literally, buys a crumbling manor house for his friends, drops out of sight and repairs the house. When he announces to his friends that there finally is a house, it goes up in flames. The symbolism is heavy, there is a tragic touch.

This may be a new wave of existentialism, but Sartre is not speaking. This generation has turned to America to find a language. Does this imply they are Americanizing themselves? One might ask whether those young Americans in the Sixties who read Hermann Hesse, and invented a whole Steppenwolf culture, “Germanized” themselves.

Judith Hermann shows us how cultural amalgamation happens. One does not turn into the other, rather creates a changed identity with the “substrate”culture remaining dominant.

This might explain why everybody so vehemently denies having turned American just because of fast food, blue jeans and pop music. Admittedly, being German now is not the same as being German half a century ago, much of the old German folklore has simply gone out of style. If dinner is often served in the evening instead of the middle of the day, if more and more pre-cooked food is used, this responds to the fact that man and wife are both working; if Computers are being used by everybody, this is a natural requirement in today’s professional world, if the English language is used everywhere, it’s for practical reasons and because it’s fashionable.

When in the Middle Ages and during the Renaissance, Italy was the country where everything happened first, in the arts, in architecture, in medicine, in philosophy, in banking, the rest of Europe followed suit; profound changes occurred in all areas of life, whoever had access to education spoke Latin, yet the presence of the substrate cultures made its impact known so that an array of national states developed. The old Germans, if there ever had been any, disappeared. A new Germany arose, not another Italy, and in the seventeenth century this changed. Germany turned toward France “qui marchait a la tete de la civilization." The period of German classicism and idealism could not have developed without the intense absorption of foreign inspiration. Now, everybody is aware that America is the big trendsetter, the place where the future begins. Subsequently, there will be an ongoing Americanization in Germany and globally, but again the substrate cultures will have enough energy to forge individual identities. Or will they?


1 “Den Vereinigten Staaten Amerika, du hast es besser/ Als unser Kontinent, das alte/Hast keine verfallene Schlösser /Und keine Basalte./Dich stört nicht im Innern/ Zu lebendiger Zeit/Unnützes Erinnern/Und vergeblicher Streit.//Benutzt die Gegenwart mit Glück!/Und wenn nun eure Kinder dichten,/Bewahre sie ein gut Geschick/Vor Ritter-, Räuber- und Gespenstergeschichten.” The poem contains a clear warning of romanticizing and restoring the European past in America.

2 Harold Janz refers to old myths about the West as the realm of death, but also of immortality and bliss. “The Myths About American Origins and Extensions," Deutschlands literarisches Amerikabild, ed. Alexander Ritter (Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 1977) 41-42.

3 If Germany was a culture, not a nation, looking for a state, then America was soon seen by many as a state looking for culture. Cf. Kathleen V. Conzen, “Phantom Landscapes of Colonization: Germans in the Making of a Pluralist America,” The German American Encounter: Conflict and Cooperation between two Cultures. 1800-2000, eds. Frank Trommler and Eliott Shore (New York: Berghahn Books, 2001) 10.

4 Berndt Ostendorf, “The Americanization-of-Germany Debate,” Frank Trommler and Eliott Shore, The German American Encounter 278.

5 Uwe Timm, Die Entdeckung der Currywurst. Novelle (Köln: Kiepenheuer&Witsch, 1996).

6 “Irgendwann fahren wir einfach los, übern Atlantik, fahren nach Amerika, suchen uns ne Insel.”(117)

7 “Eine eiserne Ration… Aus alten amerikanischen Armeebeständen.”(145)

8 “’Die Lady of Liberty! Schau, wie sie ihre goldene Fackel zum Gruß in die Höhe reckt’… ‘Das ist es ja,’ schniefte Marie, ‘Ich habe das Gefühl, noch nie in meinem Leben etwas so Schönes gesehen zu haben.’” Petra Durst-Benning, Die Amerikanerin (München: Ullstein Verlag, 2003) 42.

9 “Schaut, der Bau der Brooklyn Bridge”… “14,000 Meilen Eisenkabel!” (43)

10 One of the protagonists summarizes her expectations: “Weißt du, darauf freue ich mich am allermeisten: Endlich einmal nicht die dicke Georgina Schatzmann zu sein, die keinen Mann abkriegt. Sondern durch die Straßen von New York gehen zu können und dabei nur eine Frau zu sein, die Spaß haben will! Eine x-beliebige Frau.”(40-41)

11 Cf. E. Husserl, Die Krise der europäischen Wissenschaften und M. Heidegger, Unterwegs zur Sprache. Neuzeit und Technik. While Husserl still sees European science and technology as culmination of the Western metaphysical tradition, Heidegger’s view is quite negative. He fears this will bring about the “Verwüstung der Erde."

12 Hans-Ulrich Treichel, Tristanakkord (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2001).

13 Indeed, in recent conversations in Germany, perhaps still under the influence of the Iraq rage, few expressed a desire to go to New York, particularly after already having been there; one seems to be amerika-müde.

14 “Alle Welt und alle seine Bekannten reisten seit einiger Zeit nach New York. Und alle schwärmten von New York. War früher alle Welt nach Italien, Griechenland oder auch nach Jamaika oder Cuba gereist, so ging es heute nach New York.” (96)

15 Thomas Mann, Meerfahrt mit Don Quixote (Frankfurt a.M.: Fischer Verlag, 2003).

16 Cf. Wolf Lojewski, Amerika: Ein Traum vom neuen Leben (Hamburg: Heyne, 2000) 217-218. “Also, da sind wir nun…in Süd-Dakota liegen diese Weizenfelder und Prärien, dieser Himmel, dieser nördliche Teil einer Vision. Schon vom Flugzeug aus… war die Weite nicht zu übersehen… Felder, Felder, Felder… Wieder im Auto… Die Sonne blendet links und rechts flache Landschaft bis zum Horizont, und die Straße führt immer geradeaus…”

17 Cf. Wolf Lojewski, Amerika: Ein Traum vom neuen Leben (Hamburg: Heyne, 2000) 217.

18 Cf. Ursula Engelen-Kefer’s reflections in Die Zeit 7. August 2003: 54, reported by Marc Kayser. Engelen-Kefer is vice-president of the DGB and, as a young student, spent some time in the U.S. Only there she discovered “the other side of capitalism." In her dreams she finds herself in Australia where the limitless horizons seem less darkened by the smoke chimneys of industrialism. But – “Man darf nicht flüchten... Mir fällt meine Zeit in Amerika ein, die mir auf krasse Weise zeigte, wie ungerecht das tägliche Leben organisiert sein kann.”

19 Petra Durst-Benning, however, takes the cliché rather literally: “Nein, sie wollte nicht in den noch immer glutheißen Asphaltdschungel der Stadt eintauchen. Sie wollte mit Franco allein sein…”(Die Amerikanerin, 139)

20 Ingo Schulze, Simple Storys (München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1999)176-186.

21 Judith Hermann, Sommerhaus später (Frankfurt a.M.: Fischer Verlag, 2000) 115-137.

22 “Bali-Frau” in Sommerhaus später 109.

23 Cf. Alexander Kosenina, critic and professor of German literature at the Free University of Berlin who recognizes such a twist as typical of the latest generation of writers, i.e. after Grass, W.G.Sebald, Bernhard Schlink and others: “The critics from the generation of ’68 say they don't have a sense of history. I say they are approaching a new existentialism – experiential, subjective and reflective.” Quoted from Nora Fitzgerald, “For young German Writers, All is Ich" New York Times 24 July, 2003. Arts section: 1 and 5.

24 Melanie Rehak finds in Hermann’s stories, “historical nothingness” , “the blank generation”, and a “cathartic turning away from the past toward an uncertain but promising future" New York Times Book Review 21 April, 2002: 15.

25 Quoted from Nora Fitzgerald “For young German Writers, All is Ich” New York Times 24 July, 2003. Arts section, p.1 and 5.