Modern Languages and Literatures, Department of


Date of this Version

February 1986


Published in Modern Philology 83 (February, 1986):333-335. Copyright © 1986 The University of Chicago Press. Used by permission.


Alan Frank Keele sets out to identify an "apocalyptic vision" of German society in postwar German literature and to describe the literary figures who see it and spread their warnings about it. The vision consists of runaway technology, evil toys, aborted children, and "de-humanized robot/citizens" (p. 125). Those who see and seek to share this vision are the physically and psychologically walking wounded, refugees from a war-torn world, who reject the values of postwar society.

Before examining the author's argument and evidence, it is important to point out two serious terminological weaknesses. Whereas the subtitle promises an exploration of "postwar German literature," the book discusses exclusively West German literature, primarily of the late 1940s, the 1950s, and the early 1960s. The enormous literary production of writers in the German Democratic Republic, Austria, and Switzerland is never mentioned. The author uses the term "German literature" as though it ceased at the accidental boundaries of the Federal Republic.

The term "postwar" is admittedly problematic, for it is often used both for the immediate postwar period and for the entire span from 1945 to the present. Keele does not define how he wants to use this term, and, although his argument is best suited to the period from 1945 to about 1960, he draws on literary examples from as late as 1969 and on social evidence from the 1970s. A clear definition would have been welcome.