K ulturwissenschaftliches Institut für Europaforschung
Metadialogue of contemporary literature.
Julia Schoch / Emil Tode.
Following the approaches of Bakhtin and Lotman we concentrate on the phenomenon of identity being determined by space and time in Emil Todeīs "Borderstate" (1993) and Julia Schochīs "Engagements with Mattock" (2004). Comparing the main points of dialogue between these two books, we examine the way different types of identity problems are reflected in them. We concentrate on three notions: border, time-space-relations and utopia, which are highly connected to each other and related to problems of identity.
Concerning to Jurij Lotmanīs given definition of the event in "The structure of poetic text", we can notice the important function of border for literature. An event is defined as one figure is overcoming a border from one to another semantic field.
In "Engagements with Mattok" we have the special case that overcoming the border really means overcoming a border, when Mattok wants to overcome the border from Germany to Poland. But this geographical border also becomes a metaphorical one for Claire, the other protagonist of this novella. As pointed out right in the first sentence of this story, she can not go on with her `normalī life as a famous trick artist, caused by a non-healing eczema of her right hand. This personal catastrophe thereby is embedded in an ecological catastrophe: a ship transporting heavy oil is sunken at the coast next to the health resort. So she has to look for a new orientation, which is metaphorical expressed by this border issue, what can be visualised by the following quotation: "She absolutely does not know, if she could make it, to overcome the border. Four kilometres! said Mattok. Thatīs not what I meant, she said." (Schoch 2004, 38) Overcoming the border to Claire means to overcome her personal border. She has to built up a new life. But in this state - out of order - she wants to overcome with every order as we can imagine, when she is admonishing herself as followed: "Do only the impossible! .. Or nothing!" (Schoch 2004, 117) The open end shows her acting impossible, when she dives her arms into heavy oil, while going on the beach. But this act is a deeply symbolic act. She is overcoming her personal border, so we can formulate the event as a concessive clause: Claire is purified by heavy oil. The meaning of oil changes from smut to energy. And the Novella ends with Claire is thinking "I could make it..".
In the case of "Engagements with Mattok" the ecological catastrophe and the personal catastrophe are deeply connected by Schoch using the German expression of >Riss< (like rip in a ship and chaps in skin). that makes clear: space and time are more than just a scenery, instead they are constitutive for identity processes. another connection becomes possible, when claire is looking through binoculars at the landscape, which got a rip, caused by falling down. also her perception is determined by the rip, which can be seen in the context of transformation processes of german reunification, which are reflected in this novella like in the following example: "They were going in a quarter with new painted houses and clean areas. Meanwhile the streets are called by the names of kings, emperors or earls, who had lived in a town while staying at a health resort. How flexible everything is! The earlier names have been changed, sometimes over pasted with another shield. Claire imagines again and again further layers, pasted on by years, till the rod easily is broken " (schoch 2004, 44) very important is the sentence "How flexible everything is!". but claire does not mean it in a positive way of fascination. she is shocked about everything is so flexible. also in the time of ecological catastrophes things keep going on in a kind of mechanical way. she especially criticises a slogan, she heard in radio: "As times are changing, we have to change with them" (schoch 2004, 117) she react in a very strict way, it says: "In despise Claire rips of the wall paper next to her." (schoch 2004, 117) against this flexibility as a kind of adaptability we can understand forms of utopia, which are generated in this novella.
In contrast to a progressive time, Claire and Mattok attempt to get beyond ongoing processes. What means: breaking with 1. a linear time conception, 2. a mechanical acting and 3. a planful acting. In companionship with Mattok, Claire experienced other forms of acting, which can be read as "overcoming a boarder" and fulfilled in Claires act of purification.
Crisis or problems of identity are highly related to time-space-relations, this becomes very clear. In this case problems of identity must be seen in connection to the sujet of >Riss< (like break, chaps or rip), which is artistically organising the novella.