Pleasures of fear: Antifascist myth, holocaust, and soft dissidence in Christa Wolf's Kindheitsmuster

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In an interview in 1990, Christa Wolf asserted that her generation, socialized under fascism, felt reluctant to organize resistance against people who had been in concentration camps during the Nazi period. Here, Wolf perpetuated the commonly held notion that the GDR's foundational narrative of antifascism constituted an inevitable and immutable link between the so-called critical writers and the East German state. Revisiting the politics of memory in Wolf's "Kindheitsmuster", and particularly the novel's engagement with the Holocaust, this essay argues, however, that even Wolf's own attempt to rewrite the state's antifascist master narrative in the mid 1970s simultaneously exposed and contained a contestation of antifascism as a discourse of power. Crucial to this linguistic suspension is the novel's discourse of fear. While fear poses as the obstacle toward the realm of the unspoken, it continuously restages the liminal experience necessary to sustain the "peculiar intimacy" that lies at the heart of a symbiotic dissidence, in which critical writer and state feed on each other.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-37
Number of pages13
JournalGerman Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2003


  • wolves
  • Holocaust
  • protagonists
  • socialism
  • fascism
  • Jewish peoples
  • antisemitism
  • guilt
  • disgust
  • memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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