Identity and Space in Works by Emine Sevgi Özdamar and Olga Grjasnowa
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Examining two works of German transnational literature -- Emine Sevgi Özdamar’s “Der Hof im Spiegel” (2001) and Olga Grjasnowa’s Der Russe ist einer, der Birken liebt (2012) -- I argue that globalization has ambivalent effects on contemporary understandings of “nation” and national belonging. It reaffirms and undermines them at the same time. On the one hand, individuals become more cosmopolitan, and communities are formed cross-culturally and independent of national boundaries. On the other, notions of national identity are reinforced in situations of border crossings, by means of the “nationalizing gaze” (Löfgren) and conceptions of “self” and “other”. I demonstrate that the protagonists in both works are portrayed as cosmopolitan subjects, but with important differences. Grjasnowa (born 1984 in Azerbaijan) belongs to a generation that has a disposition to “rootless” identity, which is mirrored in her novel. Özdamar (born 1946 in Turkey), in contrast, portrays a “rooted” protagonist, who is at home in Turkey and Germany. By reading particular spaces of the private realm as heterotopia, and comparing them to public spaces of the German city that I interpret as Third Spaces, the diversity within the German metropolis is emphasized. The society of the German metropolis is depicted as pluralistic of diverse populations, but with indications of failing coexistence. Hence, in order to depict alternatives to the Third Spaces of the public sphere, the figures create utopian sites within the realm of the private, via the “mirror”, a combination of heterotopia and utopia, as described by Foucault in Of Other Spaces (1984). These sites link real and imagined spaces and thus illustrate an ideal model of multicultural space.