Violence and Intransitive Writing in Uwe Timm’s Der Freund und der Fremde

Gary L Baker


This essay examines the connection between the eulogizing elements of Der Freund und der Fremde and the author’s response to the violent and tragically early death of his friend Benno Ohnesorg. With interpretations of violence as inherently transitive and autobiographical writing as potentially intransitive, I examine the place of the violent act that killed Ohnesorg in a writing process that, though ostensibly about a third person, must become distinctly autobiographical before it can proceed. Timm’s unusual autobiographical approach to Ohnesorg’s biography is the direct consequence of the dichotomous views of Ohnesorg as student protestor and victim. By disarticulating Ohnesorg from his student movement iconography Timm interprets his friend’s death as an absurd event, in Camus’s sense of the term, while focusing on Ohnesorg’s existence as an aesthetic one. Moreover, the essay demonstrates that Timm makes an astonishing discovery in as far as his friend adhered to an approach to writing that they both at one time held in common. The absence of evidence of Ohnesorg’s writing indicates that he practiced “intransitive writing” in the truest sense of Roland Barthes’s notion of this concept. (GLB)

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