After the collective: Judith schalansky on postsocialist patterns of thought

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Judith Schalansky’s novel The Giraffe’s Neck (2011) lucidly and trenchantly analyzes the logic underlying a hard turn from leftist to rightist ideology. Schalansky’s narrator is a disoriented and disaffected biology teacher who has experienced the collapse of the GDR and draws on her discipline to explain the demise of the socialist project. Specifically, the novel traces the transition from a radical socialist egalitarianism to a biologistically motivated belief in intractable because natural and heritable differences in human abilities. She thinks back to grand socialist projects of generating unlimited resources for a human collective undivided by exploitation, but now invokes natural constraints to such projects. Humanity, she implies, does not have a special position or calling in nature, and its members have no particular moral or political obligation to one another. Mingling cynical reflection and pained recollection, The Giraffe’s Neck maps a momentous ideological shift from socialist principles of redistribution to a biopolitical concern with inheritance, from the ideal of collectivism to reliance on kinship. This ideological analysis qualifies the novel as one of the most important literary works to date on post-socialist Germany.

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Norberg, J

Published Date

  • June 1, 2021

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 53 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 41 - 57

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0010-1338

Citation Source

  • Scopus