Kritik an Charlotte Gneuß‘ „Gittersee“: Ostdeutscher kann ein Vorgang nicht sein

Jede Saison braucht einen Literaturskandal, der bedürftigen Feuilletonisten Fingerübungen in Sachen Polemik erlaubt. Wie bestellt haben wir nun den Salat, äh, Skandal, in Form einer mehr als despektierlich geführten Debatte um einen Debütroman. Was war passiert? Der Dresdner Autor Ingo Schulze hatte eine „Mängelliste“ zu dem für die Longlist des Deutschen Buchpreises nominierten Roman Gittersee der Autorin Charlotte Gneuß erstellt und dem S. Fischer-Geschäftsführer Oliver Vogel zukommen lassen. Die Bücher beider Autoren erscheinen in dem Verlag.

Schulze complained that people did not swim in the Elbe in the 70s. This could be considered as paternalistic know-it-all behavior. Unfortunately, the list of shortcomings reached the jury of the German Book Prize and was reported by FAZ. This made the matter public and embarrassing. It was embarrassing for Schulze because it is not becoming for an author to act like a know-it-all. It was embarrassing for FAZ, which made the peculiar incident public under the headline „Akte Gneuß“.

The FAZ also made a significant statement by featuring portraits of the two authors with meaningful captions. It was revealed that Schulze was born in Dresden and has received numerous awards. On the other hand, Gneuß is portrayed as a Western author, despite having parents from East Germany and living in Dresden. However, correcting this false framing can already lead to a complicated debate on identity politics. After decades of naive nostalgia for the East, we have now reached a peculiar form of identity politics in the East, according to which the „Wessi“ (Westerner) should no longer interfere in debates about our existence due to their lack of knowledge.

Neuer Stellvertreter, alte Debatte

The dispute simmers on a low flame. Like in a pot, it occasionally bubbles up and dirties the kitchen tiles. Now, a debut novel is being dirtied, which has caused a lot of attention solely through its longlist nomination and has convinced even the older writer colleagues in terms of its literary merit.

Nun erinnert der Modus der Kritik Ingo Schulzes auf tragikomische Art an eine Eingabe beim ZK. Ostdeutscher könnte ein Vorgang nicht sein. Schulze hätte Gneuß ebenso gut eine Mail schreiben können. Ob Schulze sich gegen die Zustellung einer Mängelliste durch einen DDR-Kulturfunktionär verwahrt hätte?

Now the novel is likely to stir up emotions for one essential reason: Here, a young woman and member of the post-reunification generation writes about a time she did not experience. Once again, the novel deals with a Stasi story. Hasn’t the narrative of the surveillance state been overcome? However, it is only logical that Gneuß confronts her protagonist Karin with a dilemma involving spying: There are numerous novels about unhappy families, but few about happy ones. In movies, the world often ends more frequently than in reality. It doesn’t matter how many novels have already tackled a Stasi story. Essentially, it is the misfortune of being born late because others, due to their age, told this type of story before Gneuß.

Both authors come out of this scandal with damage. Now one could cold-bloodedly say that any press is good press. For sales figures, that may well be true. However, it does not justify in any way the symbolic working through of a text that must serve as a new representative for an old debate.