The language of uncertainty in W.G. Sebald's novels
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This dissertation investigates two of W.G. Sebald’s novels, "Die Ausgewanderten" and "Austerlitz" as examples of a unique kind of Holocaust fiction by a non-Jewish German author. Sebald’s fiction represents a radically different German depiction of the Holocaust and its effects on Jewish victims, as it deconstructs critical discourse and debates about the Holocaust in Germany, establishing an ethical approach to Jewish suffering and the idea of coming to terms with the Nazi past in the German context. Through the narrative structure, ambiguity and the language of the German narrators, what I term its language of uncertainty, Sebald’s fiction avoids appropriating the Jewish voice as well as identifying with Jewish Holocaust victims and survivors, while giving voice to the underrepresented Jewish perspective in contemporary German literature. In addition, this dissertation examines competing discourses on representation, victimization and memory in regard to the Nazi past and views Sebald’s work as a critical response to these discussions. Indeed, Sebald’s fiction moves the discussion beyond the trope of Vergangenheitsbewältigung (“mastery of the past”), which has for so long dominated discussion of the Holocaust in Germany, towards a reconsideration of the victims, whose voice has been marginalized in the focus on the non-Jewish German handling of the Nazi past.