‘Ein Land der Anwesenden’: Dorothee Elmiger's Political Engagement with Switzerland
German Life and Letters
The fiction of Dorothee Elmiger combines formal experimentation with political engagement. Her first novel, Einladung an die Waghalsigen (2010), depicts an isolated, stagnant territory which, as in the parables of Max Frisch or Friedrich Dürrenmatt, stands at an allegorical remove from Switzerland. By contrast, the formally starker and thematically bleaker Schlafgänger (2014) engages with disturbing conditions in actual places within or in relation to a Switzerland which is clearly inseparable from the rest of the world. Elmiger's representation of a transnationally connected, porous Switzerland can be interpreted as a response to the recent political swing to the right and to escalating controversies about migration, asylum seekers and foreign policy, and located within the literary discourse of ‘critical patriotism’. In opposing the exclusionist insularity of the ‘Schweizerische Volkspartei’ (SVP), which remains rooted in the popular convictions and propaganda symbols of the Second World War, Elmiger envisages a pluralistic, inclusive country. This imagined community is evoked through an innovative form which has evolved from Elmiger's experimental text, ‘Die Anwesenden’: in polyphonic collaboration, her characters voice an emergent, collective consciousness that registers subtle shifts in sensibility and public discourses and explores complex issues of collective responsibility, complicity or guilt.
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Oxford ; Malden