Geskiedenis vasgevang in ’n net van fiksie : Harry Mulisch se Siegfried as postmodernistiese historiese roman

Brink, Lucille (2006-03)

Thesis (MA (Afrikaans and Dutch))—University of Stellenbosch, 2006.


During an interview, the author Rudolf Herter in Harry Mulisch’s novel Siegfried states that Hitler would only be comprehended if an imaginative experiment is conducted by capturing him in a net of fiction. This is indeed what Mulisch does in this novel. The combination of historical and fictional data resulting from this strategy is typical of the conventional historical novel, while Siegfried also manifests modernist characteristics. In this study, however, special attention is paid to aspects such as metafictionality, selfreflexivity, subjectivity and an emphasis on ideology which Siegfried shares with other postmodern historical novels, with specific reference to Linda Hutcheon’s view on historiographic metafiction and Lies Wesseling’s definition of uchronian fiction. The focus in this study lies, inter alia, on the ways in which Mulisch utilizes open spaces in history and fits the fictitious data like pieces into the puzzle of the history of the Second World War in general and specific events surrounding Hitler in particular. Mulisch’s play with autobiographical data in the novel further diminishes the boundaries between fact and fiction. Of particular importance is the metafictional statements about the nature of history which Mulisch delivers in the process. Not only the political side of history, but also its subjective and one-sided nature is emphasised. Finally a question is posed about Mulisch’s intentions and aspirations in writing another novel about Hitler, who as a character in this novel awakens sympathy on the one hand and on the other is demonized as inhuman with superhuman qualities. This demonstrates the problems involved in gaining insight into the real Hitler. My opinion is that, in the final instance, Mulisch intentionally magnifies the enigma surrounding Hitler in his characterization of the man who can be regarded as one of the most destructive people of the 20th century.

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