Islamophobia and Constructions of Otherness in Monika Maron’s Munin oder Chaos im Kopf

Eva B. Revesz


Presented against the backdrop of the New Right movement in Germany, this analysis of Monika Maron’s novel Munin oder Chaos im Kopf (2018) is aimed at uncovering the problematic Islamophobic aspects of the novel. By comparing Maron’s recent work with the platform of the extremist AfD party and the Pegida movement, I argue that her protagonist’s fear of a hostile Islamic takeover ultimately becomes irresponsible fearmongering. The novel participates, I claim, in cultivating Islamophobia as a form of cultural racism, what Etienne Balibar refers to as neo-racism or “differentialist racism.” I conclude with a comparison between anti-Muslim racism and antisemitism, whereby in both cases a racialized Other represents a threat to the putative German Leitkultur. (EBR)

The Death of Multiculturalism and the New Right in Germany

When former German president Christian Wulff proclaimed in his 2010 speech commemorating the twentieth anniversary of reunification that Islam now belongs to Germany too—”Der Islam gehört inzwischen auch zu Deutschland”—he ignited a heated debate.1 Numerous members of his own CDU party distanced themselves from his declaration,2 to say nothing of the backlash his statement created in the German press. Writing for Die Zeit, the well-respected journalist Ulrich Greiner raised serious concerns about Wulff’s inclusion of Islam into German society,3 and the popular tabloid Bild immediately conducted a poll—and not just among its own readers—to gage the extent to which the German public subscribed to their president’s view: 66% of those polled disagreed with Wulff while only 24% agreed.4 In the immediate aftermath of his controversial statement, former chancellor Angela Merkel, in her Potsdam speech on October 16, 2010, emphatically reiterated Wulff’s dictum, but she had to admit—no doubt also in reaction to the pushback Wulff had received—that multiculturalism in Germany had utterly failed: “Der Ansatz für Multikulti ist gescheitert, absolut gescheitert.”5

The country’s political polarization around the “Muslim question,” from Germany’s Willkommenskultur on the one hand to the AfD and Pegida on the other,6 became even more pronounced following Angela Merkel’s embattled open-border refugee policy of 2015, which significantly bolstered membership for Pegida and was without a doubt the major cause for the AfD’s strong showing in the 2017 elections.7 Shortly thereafter the newly appointed Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer (CSU) announced in March 2018—in an obvious refutation of the official position of Merkel’s government—that Islam does not belong to Germany. Echoing the AfD’s campaign slogan “Der Islam gehört nicht zu Deutschland,” he reinforced what is generally accepted as a “Rechtsruck” in the contemporary German political landscape. That Germany, a decade since Wulff’s pronouncement, has come not closer but even farther from Merkel’s attempt to foster a more inclusive, multicultural German society, is the sad result. As Luis Aguilar, in his well-researched chapter “Countering Islamophobia in Germany” has claimed, Seehofer’s stance represents the general acceptability of anti-Islam sentiment in German society today: The political stance of Seehofer exhibits not only the normalization of Islamophobia, the political instrumentalization of Muslim hatred as political currency, the anchoring of this racial structure in the German political system, but equally the usual dismissal of Islamophobia as a phenomenon permeating German society. (Aguilar 296)

Such an increasing normalization of anti-Islam sentiment among Germany’s population is due at least in part to the legitimacy that this new political conservativism has garnered among Germany’s intellectual elite. The “Neue Rechte,” as this loose movement of rightwing thinkers is called, sees itself as an outgrowth of the Weimar Republic’s “Konservative Revolution,” which is generally viewed as the intellectual precursor to National Socialism. While the New Right emphatically distances itself from the antisemitism of this older movement, it nonetheless shares its doomsday prophecy for Western civilization, as exemplified by one of the leading conservative revolutionaries of the time, Oswald Spengler, with his provocative 1918 publication Der Untergang des Abendlandes.

Much like the Old Right, the New Right has a surprising number of former centrists and even leftist politicians, journalists, writers and other intellectuals within its ranks. A prominent adherent is the former SPD senior politician and Berlin Senator of Finance Thilo Sarrazin, who has contributed significantly to giving an authoritative voice to the notion that Islam constitutes a threat to Germany society. In the wake of his 2010 bestseller Deutschland schafft sich ab, and even more so following his most recent book Feindliche Übernahme: Wie der Islam den Fortschritt behindert und die Gesellschaft bedroht (which also topped Der Spiegel’s bestseller list in 2018),8 such an anti-Muslim stance among the rightwing intelligentsia has become—quite literally—”salonfähig.”9 Sarrazin’s mainstream SPD origins have no doubt encouraged others to take this self-declared Islam expert seriously, despite the fact that his allegedly well-documented study regarding the threat of an Islamic takeover has been largely discredited as racist, pseudoscientific, and strongly biased.10

Another prominent erstwhile leftist who decries Islam as a threat to Germany is the former leading second-wave feminist Alice Schwarzer, who publicly rails against what she sees as the inherent misogyny and violent extremism of Islam.11 The well-known journalist Henryk Broder, whose anti Muslim stance appears motivated by his strong identification with Judaism and his Zionist leanings, belongs into this camp as well. The philosopher Peter Sloderdijk has loosely aligned himself with the New Right too, not only by openly criticizing Angela Merkel’s refugee policies but more generally by denouncing what he sees as the pieties of a liberal democracy.

A pre-eminent member of the German literary scene who has become something of a figurehead for the New Right is the playwright and author Botho Strauß. His liberal pedigree as part of the ‘68 student movement make him just one more intellectual who has clearly switched sides. Following the publication of his essay “Anschwellender Bockgesang” in Der Spiegel in July 1993, in which he distances himself from his leftist origins and declares his allegiance with “the right,” Strauß attracted the attention of the rightwing intelligentsia. The essay has become programmatic for the New Right and is reprinted as the centerpiece of the publication, Die selbstbewusste Nation: ‘Anschwellender Bockgesang’ und weitere Beiträge zu einer deutschen Debatte,12 edited by Heino Schwilk and Ulrich Schacht.13 The volume positions itself as a continuation of the Historikerstreit of 1986–1987, which likewise revolved around a confrontation between the Right and the Left in German Vergangenheitsbewältigung. Strauß’s leading role in this “new” debate, where the emphasis is now no longer on Germany’s past but rather on Germany’s future, is exemplified by the fact that Götz Kubitschek, prominent Pegida supporter and key speaker at their events, has openly declared Botho Strauß his intellectual mentor.14 Not only does this demonstrate Strauß’s newfound importance within the movement, a role that Strauß appears to have willingly embraced, it also demonstrates how far to the right he has indeed gravitated.

Monika Maron as New Right Extremist

Another liberal intellectual who has openly aligned herself with the New Right is Monika Maron, who left the GDR in 1988 where she had already been a successful writer. “Links bin ich schon lange nicht mehr,” she asserts in an article written for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung in June 2017, fully admitting that she is Islamophobic: “Die Wahrheit ist, dass ich vor dem Islam wirklich Angst habe. Aber warum ist das krankhaft und nicht vernünftig?” She had already made her anti-Islam sentiment clear in an outraged refutation of Christian Wolff’s reunification speech of October 3, 2010, entitled “Der Islam gehört nicht zu Deutschland,” published just two days after Wulff’s speech in the Tagesspiegel on October 5. Long heralded for her outspokenness, Maron certainly does not shy away from provocation. Yet her anti-Muslim stance may come as a surprise as it stems from one of Germany’s most celebrated authors, who has arguably been writing in the service of what one could call a politically liberal agenda. Awarded the prestigious Kleist Prize in 1992 and also the Hölderlin Prize in 2003, she has been distinguished with numerous other awards for her work to date. These include her debut novel Flugasche (1981), a semi-autobiographical account of the censure and repressive methods a newspaper reporter faces when she attempts to expose the harmful environmental pollution of the brown coal industry in the GDR;15 Stille Zeile Sechs (1991), which targets the corrupt, patriarchal world of the GDR ruling class; and Pawels Briefe (2002), an (auto)biographical chronicling of the persecution her Jewish grandfather and his family underwent during the Hitler regime, to name only three of her best-known and awardwinning works. While transferring her target from the former GDR government to the present-day Berlin Republic, she has also changed the direction of her critique: her previous leftist agenda has given way to rightwing extremism. I claim that this is especially the case with her 2018 novel Munin oder Chaos im Kopf. Countering the tendency of reviewers of the novel to see her protagonist Mina Wolf as an unreliable narrator, I demonstrate that Mina Wolf becomes a spokesperson for Maron’s own anti-Muslim position. Specifically, her novel participates in cultivating Islamophobia as a form of cultural racism, what Étienne Balibar refers to as neo-racism or “differentialist racism,”16 whose “dominant theme is not biological heredity but the insurmountability of cultural differences” (Balibar 28). As Balibar claims, “contemporary Arabophobia […] carries with it an image of Islam as a ‘conception of the world’ which is incompatible with Europeanness” (Balibar 29). Much like Thilo Sarrazin argues regarding German culture, Maron too sees this broader European Leitkultur as under attack by Islam and the Arab world.17 For Maron, this Leitkultur is being dismantled mainly by the nation’s dominant leftwing politics of ‘political correctness’ and its failure to recognize Islam as a threat. Thus, in her view, the more debilitating, immediate clash is between the cultures of leftwing liberalism on the one hand and rightwing populism on the other. The extent to which Maron identifies with the latter is one of the main tenets of the argument I develop here.

This becomes especially evident in her latest novel, Artur Lance (2020), the last to appear with her former publisher S. Fischer.18 The narrator recounts how, in order to protect a demonstration in Berlin from an assault by counterdemonstrators (a women’s demonstration mainly against the threat of foreign migrants),19 the biker scene launched an Internet initiative calling on its members to come to Berlin in order to protect these women protestors against the counterdemonstrators, who considered the event racially motivated: Schon in den Tagen davor waren, wie in den letzten Jahren üblich, heftige Proteste gegen den Protest angekündigt worden, weil die Gewalt gegen die Frauen häufig von eingewanderten Männern ausging und der Protest deswegen als rassistisch verdächtigt wurde. Über das Internet verbreitete sich daraufhin die Nachricht, dass Biker aus verschiedenen Teilen des Landes nach Berlin kommen würden, um die demonstrierenden Frauen vor den Gegenprotestlern zu beschützen. (Artur Lance 102–3)

Her narrator Charlotte Winter thereupon expresses her deep admiration for these bikers and what she calls “diese vom männlichen Urinstinkt getriebene Aktion” (103). As is well encapsulated in this passage, the novel is a type of panegyric heralding a lost culture of masculine heroism as exemplified in the Arthurian legends after which her titular character gets his name. As the passage above demonstrates, the biker scene positively embodies for her such a cult of masculinity. She concludes the passage as follows: Ausgerechnet die tätowierten Bikerhorden als letzte Verfechter der Ritterlichkeit? Wenigstens sie selbst schienen sich so zu sehen, wie sonst hätten sie auf die Idee kommen können, nach Berlin zu fahren, um Frauen zu retten. (Artur Lance 104)

The nostalgia Maron’s narrator expresses for such a lost masculine ideal is one of the New Right’s common grievances in terms of promoting the country’s need to regain its “manly” character.20 This is just one of many communalities between Maron’s discourse and the rhetoric of German rightwing extremists. Add to this the xenophobia inherent in the threat of violence against women by sexually deviant migrants, as also expressed in the passage above, and Maron’s discourse overlaps neatly with that of the AfD, Pegida, and even with the ultra-extremist Identitarian movement.21 While this hotbutton issue is downplayed in Artur Lance in comparison to Munin, it is nonetheless very much a part of its underlying political message. It appears that after the controversial reception of Munin, Maron has toned down her xenophobic, fear-mongering rhetoric. For this reason, it is all the more revealing to take a closer look at Munin in order to uncover the problematic ways in which she sees Islam as a realistic threat to German society.

The Doomsday Prophecy of Munin oder Chaos im Kopf

In Maron’s op-ed piece in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (January 14, 2016) entitled “Merkels kopflose Politik macht die Rechten stark,” she argues that Merkel’s refugee policies are strengthening the far-right factions in Germany. She thus distances herself from their extremism in this earlier article. Yet the conclusion she draws leaves little question as to her own ingrained xenophobia when she claims that this influx of African refugees is bound to lead to a catastrophe, indeed, to what she sees as Germany’s “kollektiven Selbstmord.”

This “Untergangsstimmung” or feeling of doom is pervasive in Munin oder Chaos im Kopf. It is thus not by chance, I argue, that a suicide forms the climax and denouement of the novel, one that I read as symbolic of Germany’s “collective suicide.” And while this suicide has nothing to do with the refugee crisis per se, it has in my reading everything to do with a more broadly conceived liberal agenda that will, in Maron’s view, spell Germany’s downfall. The novel is structured around a microcosm/macrocosm plotline. Its protagonist Mina Wolf is a freelance journalist who has been commissioned to write an article for a local Westphalia newspaper on the Thirty Years’ War. Her peaceful Berlin neighborhood of Schöneberg has been upended by a deranged wannabe opera singer who “terrorizes” the neighborhood by belting out off-key arias and songs from her balcony at all hours of the day. She disturbs the peace to the point that nearly the entire neighborhood bands together against her. Yet the more liberal inhabitants of the neighborhood come to her defense. They agree that forcefully removing her from her living quarters and placing her into a mental institution would be in violation of her human rights, thereby aligning themselves with her government appointed social worker in recognizing her protected disability status. The situation escalates into a police intervention in which the deranged woman attacks the police officers with a knife, only to fall down the stairs and plant the knife into her own heart. Maron’s point seems obvious: had she been placed into a mental institution where she belonged, she would still be alive. As the narrator Mina reflects: “Sie war ja nicht einfach weggezogen in eine belebte Straße, wie Frau Herforth vorgeschlagen hatte, oder in ein Heim mit anderen Verrückten, sie war tot” (Munin 214).

All of this is told against the backdrop of the protagonist’s research into the brutally destructive Thirty Years’ War, whose origins she compares throughout the novel with the current political climate in Germany. Indeed, she goes so far as to see contemporary Germany as analogous to the precarious prewar situation in and before 1618. This engenders fear as well as the eponymous chaos in Mina’s mind, whose only recourse to sanity is a onelegged crow, a regular visitor on her balcony whom she lures into her Berlin Altbau apartment with food. She gives the crow the name of Munin in honor of one of the two crows that proverbially sat on the Norse god Odin’s shoulder. Before long, she steps into an intense metaphysical dialogue with her crow about “Gott und die Welt,” as the German proverb has it. This fairytale element allows for the glorification of a Germanic nationalism to enter the novel through the back door. That the novel then ends with the attempted rape of a neighborhood German woman by two men described as being “südländischen Typ[s]” (207) makes the political message of the novel all too clear: Germany’s liberal policies—including also its refugee and asylum policies, as thematized peripherally throughout the novel—will spell Germany’s self-imposed ruin. The novel thus not only reinforces Thilo Sarrazin’s highly questionable position as encapsulated in his title Deutschland schafft sich ab but goes so far as lending credence to his even more extreme claim about a “feindliche Übernahme”—a hostile takeover—by Germany’s Muslim population.

One cannot help but be reminded of Michel Houellebecq’s worldwide bestseller Submission, in which such an Islamic takeover in France becomes a reality to highly ironic effect. Maron’s narrator even refers to Houellebecq’s novel in Munin (as well as in her latest novel Artur Lanz) to support her own claim regarding the “real” threat of Islam. But I would argue that Maron lacks a sense for Houellebecq’s satirical purpose. His novel is aimed more at exposing the decadence of Western society and its intellectual elite than it is a direct attack on Islam. And while such a critique is apparent in Maron’s novel as well in its attempt to expose the current liberal culture of “political correctness,” her novel takes on a much more sinister anti-Islamic tenor.

It is therefore surprising that save for a very few exceptions, the reception of Munin oder Chaos im Kopf has for the most part been positive. Not that its commentators have overlooked the politically conservative message of Maron’s novel, but they tend to separate the novel’s politics from what they almost unanimously laud in terms of the complexity of the plot and the elegance of Maron’s style. Hubert Winkels, in his overall positive review for the Süddeutsche Zeitung, even concedes that the novel comes at time dangerously close to reaffirming AfD attitudes—what he calls “die Zustimmung […] AfD-haften Wutbürgerressentiments durch die Erzählerin.” Yet he claims that this would be short-circuiting the “poetische Intelligenz der Erzählung.” He concludes that the novel is an accurate allegorical portrayal of the current political climate in the nation: “Es ist gute, kräftige, zum Allegorischen tendierende Literatur aus den Trümmern der gängigen Ideologien und Verblendungen.” Similarly, Iris Radisch, writing for Die Zeit Online,praises Maron’s “unbestreitbare stilistische Eleganz” and recognizes in Maron’s novel “die vertraute spöttische Intelligenz einer großartigen Schriftstellerin.” Yet she too admits that the novel tends towards the solipsistic and becomes a type of echo chamber that serves to heighten the narrator’s fears and prejudices about Germany’s future. According to Radisch it is, however, Maron’s self-irony that saves the novel from becoming “eine grob vereinfachende Polit-Parabel.” Julia Encke of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung shares this assessment, emphasizing especially the need to distinguish between the narrator Mina Wolf and the author Monika Maron, a distinction this article is arguing against. Cornelia Geißler’s review in the Frankfurter Rundschau, while also careful not to conflate narrator and author, espouses a more critical view of the novel, referencing especially one of the novel’s concluding xenophobic passages that, in her view, make its political message highly problematic. The most critical review of all can be found in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung by Rainer Moritz, entitled “Monika Maron erzählt von Berlin, als bräche hier gleich ein Krieg aus.” Yet Moritz’s thoroughly negative review is an exception. Rather, the much more positive discussion of the novel in the well-known German TV talk show Das literarische Quartett on March 2, 2018, can serve as exemplary: three of the four panelists showered the novel with praise, with only the author and well-known TV moderator Thea Dorn, who nevertheless emphasized her respect and admiration for Monika Maron, expressing serious reservations, especially in regards to what she sees as the final, anti-Enlightenment message of the novel.22

This article follows the lead of those reviewers critical of Munin oder Chaos im Kopf. I argue that any ironic distance between the author and her protagonist ultimately collapses into irresponsible fearmongering. This is manifested not only by its explicit doomsday prophecy of an imminent war in Germany through its influx of North African and Muslim refugees—”dass afrikanische Stammes- und Religionskriege in Deutschland einziehen könnten” (11)—but also, I claim, on a much more implicit level. The novel is grounded in a complex interplay that juxtaposes constructions of otherness with constructions of sameness, constructions that ultimately contradict each other on a fundamental level. One might argue that this is the “chaos” that the novel purposefully promotes. Yet it is precisely this chaotic play with alterity that contributes significantly to the novel’s alarmist tenor.

The description of the “crazy” balcony singer constitutes my first case in point. She is clearly “othered” as alienating not only by way of being repeatedly labeled as “verrückt,” but also in two other telling ways: through her “Orientalizing” dress and through her ambiguous gender identity: Später traf ich sie einmal auf der Straße, als sie, mit einem turbanähnlichen Kopfschmuck, knielangen Hosen und einem afrikanisch anmutenden Obergewand bekleidet ein Fahrrad bestieg. Sie hatte Beine wie ein Mann, muskulöse, derbe Waden, grobknochige Fesseln und für eine Frau auffallend große Füße, was meine Mutmaßungen über ihre Biographie noch einmal beflügelte. Was, wenn sie ein Mann war, der davon träumte, eine Sängerin zu sein? [… ] Wenn es sich tatsächlich so verhielte – ein Mann, der eine Sängerin sein wollte –, dann steckte sie in einem Verhängnis, aus dem es kein Entrinnen gab, an dem man nur verrückt werden konnte. (Munin 24)

The “turban-like headdress” as well as the “African-looking outer garment” she wears place her in close proximity to the Muslim and African refugees disparaged throughout the novel. That the narrator Mina Wolf imagines the female singer might actually be a man may not in itself seem objectionable; yet the clear ressentiment Mina harbors towards recent trends of a more openminded view of gender makes apparent that she sees such gender fluidity as a threat. This conservative attitude towards gender is expressed elsewhere when Mina refers repeatedly to the current, more pluralistic and inclusive notions of gender as “Genderscheiße (75, 77) and to gender-neutral language specifically as “Sprachverhunzung” (75). That this anti-feminist stance is part of the New Right’s platform is illustrated in one of the contributions to the publication Die selbstbewusste Nation that I mention above as a type of New Right manifesto. Much like Maron’s narrator in Munin, Felix Stern, in his article “Feminism and Apartheid,”23 rails against a “totalitarian languagecleansing” led by feminists.24

The ways in which gendered constructions of otherness intersect with the novel’s underlying Islamophobia is clearly apparent in the narrator’s “Angst” of Muslim women in headscarves: Klopfte diese Angst [dass die Gewalt, Rohheit, Dumpfheit auch uns wieder erobern könnte] nicht längst in meinem Kopf, wenn ich die abweisenden Gesichter der kopftuchtragenden Frauen sah, die sich selbst in unserer Gegend mit jedem Tag, wie mir schien, vermehrten. (Munin 88)

Mina sees the headscarf as an imminent threat, underlined by her impression that with each passing day, the number of women in headscarves appears to increase. Such an intolerance towards a more ethnically diverse society goes so far as the narrator Mina experiencing visceral fear when encountering women in headscarves. This indeed places Maron’s narrator dangerously close to the AfD and Pegida camp. Those critics who argue that Mina Wolf must not be confused with Maron herself overlook the public statements regarding Islam that she has made. In her Neue Zürcher Zeitung article, “Links bin ich schon lange nicht mehr,” for example, Maron expresses nearly identical views regarding the increasing presence of women in headscarves: Die meisten Muslime sind friedlich, heißt es. Das stimmt. Und trotzdem frage ich mich seit einiger Zeit bei jeder Frau, die mir kopftuchbewehrt entgegenkommt: Was willst du mir damit sagen? Dass du anders bist als ich? Dass du besser bist als ich? Dass meine Enkeltochter eines Tages auch so rumlaufen wird?

The passage is inherently contradictory. Initially, Maron agrees that most Muslims are peaceful, only to reverse that position when she identifies all Muslim women in headscarves as hostile. This is implicated not only by the fear that her granddaughter may be forced into wearing a headscarf herself, but even more so by her use of the militaristic “kopftuchbewehrt”—”armored” with a headscarf—emphasizing all the more the physical threat that Islam allegedly poses. The defiance she imagines that Muslim women express towards her when she claims that they “feel superior to her” merely conceals her own feelings of superiority vis-à-vis them and her fear that they could usurp her own privileged position. In the words of Lewichi and Shooman, who have criticized the same passage from Munin in their essay “Building a New Nation: Anti-Muslim Racism in Post-Unification Germany,” Maron uses here “a classic rhetorical reversal of oppressor/oppressed, insinuating the Muslim woman wore her hijab as a weapon and looked down on her as a non-Muslim.” This is what Étienne Balibar, drawing on P.A. Taguieff, refers to as the “turn-about effects of differentialist racism” (25) and its “defensive reactions” (26).

As well illustrated in the passage from the novel above and also in Maron’s own fearful reaction to the headscarf, the Muslim woman is turned into a racialized Other. This becomes explicit in her Neue Züricher Zeitung article: “Was willst du mir damit sagen? Dass du anders bist als ich? Dass du besser bist als ich?” As Beverly Weber explains in “Contentious Headscarves”: The Muslim woman becomes the border between a violent East outside or before modernity, and an enlightened, modern West. Her veiled or covered body within the West marks the “limits of tolerance” as well as a fundamental challenge to a narrative that produces the racialized Other as lying outside modernity, secularism, and democracy, while producing violence as fundamentally lying outside Europe. (Weber 79)

While Muslim women in headscarves are positioned in the novel at such a border between a violent East and an enlightened West insofar as they must be tolerated, Maron leaves no doubt that Muslim men belong entirely to a violent culture that lies outside Europe. Indeed, Mina’s fear of being assaulted by these supposed war-mongering Muslim men is so real that it brings her to tears: [ … ] oder wenn ich auf dem Spielplatz an der Ecke fast nur noch schwarzhaarige Kinder sah und mir ausmalte, wie die Stadt aussehen würde, wenn sie alle erwachsen wären und selbst wieder Kinder hätten? War es nicht so, dass die hunderte Millionen Söhne uns längst den Krieg erklärt hatten, und wir glaubten immer noch, sie ließen sich beschwichtigen oder wir könnten sie besiegen? Und plötzlich – es muss an der jede Angst beflügelnden Nacht gelegen haben – fing ich an zu weinen, als sollte mir persönlich morgen der Kopf abgeschlagen werden. (Munin 88)

The gross exaggeration that “hundreds of millions of sons have long since declared war against ‘us’” not only regresses into an oversimplified “us” versus “them” mentality, but the statement is a complete non-sequitur. What do all the black-haired children and the higher birth rate among Muslims25 have to do with a declaration of war? This non-violent threat of Islam is then combined with the violent terrorist method of decapitation. Elsewhere, Mina refers to this as the “islamische Hölle” (45) after reading a newspaper article, “dass im Irak wieder einmal eine amerikanische Geisel von islamischen Terroristen enthauptet worden war” (45). And while this extreme kind of Jihadist terrorism certainly exists, to mainstream it by way of Mina’s fear that her own beheading is now imminent, and to bring it into conjunction with blackhaired Muslim children and millions of warmongering sons, hardly speaks for Maron’s “hoher Verknüpfungsintelligenz,” as the reviewer Wolfgang Schneider (writing for Deutschlandfunk) maintains.

To be fair, Schneider’s praise for Maron’s “Verknüfungsintelligenz” refers primarily to the way in which Maron intertwines her three plot strains: the essay the narrator has been commissioned to write on the Thirty Years’ War, the “Nachbarschaftskrieg” triggered by the deranged balcony singer, and the one-legged crow Munin that the narrator befriends. In terms of plot, the refugee crisis and Islam remain entirely peripheral, and yet this marginal aspect becomes, by the novel’s end, its central message. This is how Tilman Krause also sees it in his review for Die Welt with the title “Wenn Zuwanderung verwirrt und gereizt macht.” He lauds (as does Schneider) Maron’s ability to weave a complex narrative: “[…] nun entfaltet sich in kunstvollen Assoziationskreisen ganz allmählich ein Stimmungsbild zur Lage der Nation, wie man es so sprachlich beiläufig einerseits, so raffinert historisch gespiegelt andererseits noch nicht gelesen hat.” Yet how complex is this interwoven narrative composition really?

Narrative Contradictions: Conflating Otherness and Sameness

The different ways in which Maron conflates otherness and sameness within her novel reveal some basic inconsistencies. For one, the analogy between the political upheaval leading up to the Thirty Years’ War and the current climate in Germany seems forced and upon closer examination, outright contradictory. Maron’s main point of comparison is that the Thirty Years’ War, like the contemporary conflicts in the Middle East, only appear to be religiously motivated—so her narrator claims. It is rather the respective warlords’ nationalistic fanaticism, extreme aggressiveness and lust for power that lurks behind these ostensibly religious conflicts: Jetzt kamen die nationalen Kriege im alten Gewand der Religionskriege daher, und wieder waren es Aggressivität, Herrschaftsehrgeiz und Fanatismus, die im nebelhaften Hintergrund der Wirklichkeit des Krieges walteten. Und wieder lagen die Keime des Krieges in der willkürlichen Umgestaltung der Landkarte, diesmal nicht in Europa, sondern in Asien und Afrika, was letztlich keinen Unterschied ausmachte, [… ] (my emphasis, Munin 73)

This passage appears towards the beginning of the novel as if these were Mina Wolf’s own insights, and certainly her analogy to the present-day conflict in North Africa is. Yet Maron is actually referencing Cecilia V. Wedgewood’s classic monograph The Thirty Years’ War here, namely a passage that Mina cites from the German translation of Wedgewood’s work towards the end of the novel in which Wedgewood comments on the Peace of Westphalia that ended the war. In the earlier passage, Maron has taken over some of Wedgewood’s wording nearly verbatim: „Er [der Westfälische Frieden] grenzt angeblich die Zeit der Religionskriege gegen die der bloßen Nationalkriege ab,” schrieb sie [Wedgewood], „die ideologischen und den bloßen Angriffskriegen. Aber die Abgrenzung ist genauso erkünstelt, wie es solche willkürlichen Scheidungen gewöhnlich sind. Aggressivität, dynastischer Ehrgeiz und Fanatismus sind alle gleichermaßen im nebelhaften Hintergrund der Wirklichkeit des Krieges vorhanden, und der letzte der Religionskriege ging unmerklich in die pseudonationalen Kriege der zukunft über.” (emphasis mine; Munin 188)

Whether one finds such a mild form of plagiarism objectionable or not—after all, Maron fully recognizes the strong influence Cecilia V. Wedgewood has on her narrator—it nevertheless speaks to Maron’s strong dependency on this single source and as a result, her rather limited mastery of the historical period from 1618 to 1648, to say nothing of the “Vorkriegszeit,” which is Maron’s explicit focus. Not that her narrator Mina Wolf doesn’t acknowledge this shortcoming. She fully admits that she is no historian and a complete neophyte when it comes to the Thirty Years’ War, wondering why she was chosen to write the article in the first place. Yet, this lack of historical precision seriously weakens the major premise of the novel. Her comparisons between the Thirty Years’ War and the current political conflict in the Middle East are no more than intimated, often giving way to sweeping generalizations. And while Maron’s intention was quite clearly, at least on one level, to produce a type of allegorically underpinned historical novel that accurately portrays Germany’s contemporary political landscape through the lens of the Thirty Years’ War, the reader—at least this reader—never gains a better understanding of the Thirty Years’ War, the wars in the Middle East, or the current refugee crisis. In short, the comparison between the two time periods ultimately fails to convince or illuminate.

This is especially the case when Mina Wolf compares the mercenary Peter Hagendorf, whose diary serves as an important inspiration for her article, with the “Millionen Söhne Afrikas” (150) today. Mina reads an article by a professor who claims that the imminence of war is caused by the preponderance of poor, sexually frustrated, hopeless young men: Vor einiger zeit hatte ich den Artikel eines Wissenschaftlers gelesen, der die Gefahr gegenwärtiger Kriege vor allem in den überzähligen Söhnen armer, dafür bevölkerungsreicher Länder sah. Diese jungen Männer, obendrein sexuell frustriert, weil ohne berufliche Zukunft nicht heiratsfähig, würden wie Dynamit in einer Gesellschaft wirken, in der sie sich erobern müssten, was ihnen verwehrt sei. Entweder würden sie kriminell oder erfänden sich eine Theorie zu einer ,gerechten’ Gesellschaft, mit der sie das Töten aller, die sie zu Feinden erklärten, rechtfertigen könnten. In Europa, schrieb der Professor, habe vom 16. bis zum frühen 20. Jahrhundert eine ähnliche Situation geherrscht. (Munin 87)

The claim that the four-century time period in which supposedly frustrated young men from poorer countries have caused conflict and even war—namely all the way from the sixteenth to the early nineteenth century—seems particularly overdetermined. This is then followed by just as broad a generalization by her protagonist Mina when she leaps to a comparison between the mercenary Peter Hagendorf and Muslim men: “Peter, Mohamed, Hussein – alles arme Hagendorfer, dachte ich, und dass ich von Peter Hagendorf in meinem Aufsatz unbedingt erzählen sollte.” (Munin 87) This instance where the Muslim as racialized Other is placed on an equal footing with the German mercenary Hagendorf might be seen as working against my claim that Maron practices a questionable ethnopluralism.26 But insofar as the Christian Peter Hagendorf serves as a stand-in for Muslim men, this again privileges the European (Christian) Leitkultur that determined the comparison in the first place.

Yet what distinguishes Peter Hagendorf is his complete lack of a religious or ideological affiliation, changing sides arbitrarily from Protestant to Catholic and interested only in getting paid. This seems to be completely at odds with today’s Islamic militants, who are rather distinguished by their fierce ideological conviction and steadfast loyalty. Oliver Pfohlmann, in his review of the novel for Der Tagesspiegel, raises the same concern: Wie verhält sich aber so einer [Peter Hagendorf], der keine Überzeugung hat und bloß den Krieg kennt, zu den Söldnern des IS, die für eine Überzeugung einzutreten glauben? Die Zusammenhänge werden bloß angedeutet – aber vielleicht sind die Unterschiede zwischen den Zeitaltern doch größer, als es Monika Maron bzw. Mina Wolf vorkommt.

This kind of loose analogizing is evident as well when Mina Wolf compares the marauding actions of Peter Hagendorf in the Thirty Years’ War with the war crimes in current Syria: Für die Bewohner der massakrierten Städte und Dörfer war es wahrscheinlich gleichgültig, ob Schweden oder Ligisten, die Söldner der Katholiken oder der Protestanten durchs Land zogen, ihr Vieh stahlen, ihre Frauen vergewaltigten, die Altäre plünderten, so wie es heute den Syrern vermutlich gleichgültig war, wessen Bömben sie unter ihren Häusern begruben oder welche Milizen marodierend über ihre Dörfer herfielen. (Munin 84)

The problem here is not so much that the narrator doesn’t make a legitimate point regarding the brutality to which civilian populations are subjected during war, nor her valid claim that it matters little to the civilian population who their attackers are. But this is of course the case in every war. Comparing the Thirty Years’ War with its two distinct sides to the Syrian war with its numerous religious factions and splintered fronts is once again much too sweeping.

It is the insanity of war in general and of humankind’s inability to live in peace that characterize the conversations between Mina Wolf and her befriended crow Munin.27 Claiming that she—”die Krähe”—is God herself, Munin embodies a type of pantheistic world wisdom that sets humans and animals on the same plane on the one hand while on the other hand distinguishing sharply between them.28 The clear difference is that humans, unlike animals, have been unable to learn from their mistakes, Munin claims. One such mistake is having gone much too far in atoning for the crimes committed against “Schwache und Verrückte” (111) under Hitler’s euthanasia program. Here the anti-humanistic bent of the narrative becomes explicit, which is clearly why these words are placed into the mouth of a non-human creature: Und das [… ] habt ihr ja später auch gemacht, das Schwache und Verrückte ausgemerzt, liebe, blöde Menschen einfach umgebracht. Und hättet ihr nicht auch noch sechs Millionen Juden ermordet und außerdem den Krieg verloren, wäre es der restlichen Welt vielleicht gar nicht aufgefallen. Damals dachten viele so. Aber ihr wart erschrocken über eure Missetaten und habt euch lebenslange Sühne geschworen. Seitdem werft ihr euch schützend über alles, was ihr für schwach und hilflos haltet. Ihr rettet halbtotgeborene Kinder, die dann ein Leben lang gefüttert und gewindelt werden müssen, ohne je ein Wort des Dankes über ihre spastischen Lippen bringen zu können, ihr lasst Todgeweihte nicht mehr sterben, sondern lieber jahrelang faulend in den Betten siechen. Das habt ihr aus euren Schandtaten gelernt. (Munin 111)

Munin claims that following the horrific human rights abuses committed during the Third Reich, the pendulum for what counts as morally responsible behavior has swung much too far in the other direction. Morality has as a result been perverted into its precise opposite: humankind’s presumed morality has become a type of new immorality.29 When Mina asks Munin how humans should now behave, Munin answers with the following questionable words of wisdom: “Sterben lassen, was nicht leben kann. So jedenfalls machen wir es.” To Mina’s rejoinder, “Ihr seid Tiere,” Munin responds, “Ihr auch” (114). This forced equivalence between humans and animals espouses a type of biological continuism that flies in the face of Enlightenment values centered on a human moral code that is clearly distinguishable from the amorality of animals. At its core, Munin oder Chaos im Kopf may be read as promoting a type of Nietzschean “transvaluation of values” as put forth in his Geneology of Morals, in which human rights exist for the weak to constrain the strong.

Such an attitude that “blames” the Holocaust for a perversion of values as manifested in its liberal PC culture is common among those that identify with the New Right.30 And it is especially Germany’s lost sense of national honor for which the Holocaust is often seen as responsible. Botho Strauß’s programmatic essay “Anschwellender Bockgesang” identifies such a loss of German pride as one of his main grievances. Accusing the elite liberal establishment of promoting in Germans a self-hatred due to the guilt they have been made to feel about the human rights abuses during the Third Reich, he goes so far as to claim that this has led to a fascistic mandate to exercise tolerance towards (potentially criminal) foreigners: Zuweilen sollte man prüfen, was an der eigenen Toleranz echt und selbstständig ist und was sich davon dem verklemmten deutschen Selbsthaß verdankt, die die Fremden willkommen heißt, damit hier, in seinem verhaßten Vaterland, sich die Verhältnisse endlich zu jener berühmten („faschistoiden”) Kenntlichkeit entpuppen, wie es einst (und heimlich wohl bleibend) in der Verbrecher-Dialektik des linken Terrors hieß. (“Anschwellender Bockgesang”)

The passage demonstrates well what Samuel Salzborn identifies as one of the main goals of the New Right: “the intellectualization of right-wing extremism through the formation of an intellectual metapolitics” (38). Strauß’s complex, highfalutin essayistic style may in this sense be compared to what numerous critics have referred to as the narratological complexity of Maron’s Munin with its three interwoven narrative strands. Her purpose is, I suggest, an attempt to “intellectualize” right-wing extremism by lifting her narrative onto an allegorically conceived metapolitical plane.

The Clash of Political Cultures: The Right versus The Left

Much of the nonsensical chaos that Mina Wolf observes around her has been propagated in her mind by the contemporary culture of “political correctness,” not that Mina specifically uses this term. Munin—and by extension Mina herself—continuously speak out against the mandate to avoid offense against marginalized persons. This applies especially to the “crazy” balcony singer. As Munin instructs Mina, one can no longer use the perfectly appropriate term “verrückt” because of its offensiveness: Weil ihr immer das Falsche lernt, sagte Munin. Darum werdet ihr auch mit der Frau nicht fertig, die euch in ihrem Gesang allmählich so verrückt macht, wie sie selbst schon ist. Aber verrückt dürft ihr zu der ja gar nicht mehr sagen. Dabei ist verrückt ein ganz treffliches Wort: Etwas, in dem Fall der Verstand, ist nicht da, wo er hingehört. Und so ein gutes, richtiges Wort schafft ihr ab, aber das nur nebenbei. (111)

The neighborhood “war” that the inhabitants of Mina’s once peaceful Schöneberg street wage against each other may be read as an allegory of the PC culture now stifling the nation. Mina, who is able to escape the noise pollution by working on her Thirty Years’ War article by night and sleeping by day, remains for the most part on the sidelines of the conflict, though it becomes clear that her sentiments lie with the majority who want to have the “crazy” singer removed from her apartment. Their all-out efforts are however thwarted by a handful of the more liberal residents. The confrontation between a taxi driver and an “Audi Fahrer”—the former representing Germany’s working class and the latter the more affluent liberal German “Bildungsbürgertum”— stand in for the political polarization characterizing Germany at large. The taxi driver, functioning in the novel as “the voice of the people,” utters his frustration in his native Berlin dialect, railing against Germany’s liberal policies at one of their neighborhood gatherings convened to discuss what to do about the obnoxious singer: Wer kümmert sich denn um jemand wie mich, der jede Nacht uff seine Droschke steigt und die Leute durch die Gegend kutschiert, der seine Steuern zahlt und seine Miete. In diesem Land muss man inzwischen verrückt sein, zu doof oder zu faul zum Arbeiten, nicht Deutsch können, drogenabhängig oder kriminell sein, damit sich jemand mit dir beschäftigt. Die Frau kann eine janze Straße terrorisieren, und die is [sic] aber die Einzje, um die man sich kümmert. Weil sie verrückt is [sic]. Applaus. Die meisten klatschten. (95)

The taxi driver harbors a common sentiment among the German populace that Germany’s liberal government unfairly privileges the “wrong” people (which of course includes predominantly non-German immigrants, “[die] nicht Deutsch können,” as the taxi driver points out). This ressentiment vis-à-vis the German government is especially strong in the AfD party and in Pegida, namely their discontent that the hard-working, law-abiding, taxpaying citizens of German descent are allegedly being left behind the privileged, potentially criminal immigrants. And while Maron leaves open whether or not Mina is among those who applaud the taxi driver, the novel reinforces the legitimacy of this upsurge in rightwing populism.

The “crazy” singer thus embodies what Maron sees as the unraveling lunacy that characterizes the current socio-political climate in Germany and beyond—what she has referred to in an interview about her novel as “den Irrsinn in dieser Welt.”31 The singer thus becomes a type of mad Valkyrie32 and as such, a catalyst for war. Henryk Broder echoes this sentiment when he claims that Germany has succumbed ab absurdum to the liberal pressures of political correctness. In a much-publicized panel discussion, Broder claimed: “Deutschland ist ein Irrenhaus. Könnte man die Bundesrepublik überdachen, wäre es eine geschlossene Anstalt.”33 This could well serve as a tagline for Maron’s novel. The repeated reference to “das verlorene Land,” one of the lyrical lines from the hit song by that title quoted in the novel (sung by the former GDR singer Mina Wolf after whom the protagonist of Maron’s novel was named) emphasizes the nostalgia the narrator feels for the Germany of old. That her narrator shares Monika Maron’s own viewpoint should by now stand beyond question.

One of the problematic aspects of the novel is the legitimacy Maron gives her claims with repeated reference to newspaper articles that her protagonist reads. The most dubious of these is an article that makes an entirely erroneous assertation regarding the negligible number of asylum seekers who have been deported back into their home countries thanks to leftist protests on the side of the imperiled deportees: Ich hatte am Morgen gerade in der Zeitung gelesen, dass man unter massiven Protest der linken Bewegung achtzehn von den Millionen jungen Männern, die man zuvor ins Land gelassen hatte, nun wieder in ihre Heimat befördert hatte, achtzehn von einer Million. (Munin 209)

For her Frankfurter Rundschau review of the novel, Cornelia Geißler did a fact check. She reports that in 2016 the German government documented that over 25,000 people were deported back to their home countries: “2016 wurden laut Auskunft der Bundesregierung 25, 375 Menschen aus Deutschland abgeschoben.” By using fictitious newspaper reporting to give her erroneous statistics the aura of factual credence, Maron falls victim to prevarication. That her protagonist never identifies the newspapers in which she reads these articles allows Maron to give her narrative legitimacy without however being held accountable for the false statistics it disseminates. Munin oder Chaos im Kopf is, after all, a work of fiction. And this is perhaps the most unsettling aspect of the novel, namely the way in which it presents itself as a type of parable characterizing the current political climate in Germany. Yet it is the irresponsible way in which Maron mixes alleged fact with fiction that serves to stoke the already existing fear of Islam that characterizes not only the New Right in Germany, but increasingly, Germany at large.

Islamophobia as the New Antisemitism

Let us return to former president Christian Wulff’s speech commemorating German reunification that served as my point of departure. By embracing the three religions of Christianity, Judaism, and also Islam as belonging to Germany, he is clearly promoting for Germany an inclusive, multicultural society: “Das Christentum gehört zweifelsfrei zu Deutschland, das Judentum gehört zweifelsfrei zu Deutschland, und inzwischen gehört Islam auch zu Deutschland.” Yet his rhetorical equation of Christianity and Judaism as both belonging “without question” to German culture glosses over the radical exclusion of the Jew and of Jewish culture as “paradigmatic of what could not be assimilated” (Renton and Gidley 9). Fatima El-Fayeb expounds on this notion as follows: While Jews arguably became “European” post-WWII, the increasingly popular reference to Europe’s Judeo-Christian identity primarily evoked in response to the disruption represented by the contemporary Muslim presence, works discursively to erase the exclusion and persecution of the racialized Jewish minority by the Christian majority that characterizes much of Europe’s “Judeo-Christian” history. (296)

In short, the threat to (Christian) German Leitkultur by the Jew has since been replaced by the Muslim. As Edward Said argues in his monumental work Orientalism, “a transference of a popular anti-Semitic animus from a Jewish to an Arab target was made smoothly, since the figure was essentially the same.” (Said 286).

Étienne Balibar makes a similar claim when he identifies antisemitism as a model of differentialist racism: “anti-Semitism is supremely ‘differentialist’ and in many respects the whole of current differentialist racism may be considered [ … ] as a generalized anti-Semitism” (Balibar 28). It is therefore highly ironic that not only the German political establishment but particularly those in the New Right refer to the German “Judeo-Christian tradition” as if the embrace of Judaism within German culture goes without saying. As David Coury has shown, “the repeated appeal to Judeo-Christian values in both Pegida’s and the AfD’s platform […] serves specifically to reject Islam [ … ] and exclude it from Western society” (569).

Monika Maron’s rejection of Islam may be seen as rooted in a similar nominal identification with Judeo-Christian values that, upon closer inspection, actually revolve around the kind of differentialist or cultural racism that Balibar works out as paradigmatic of antisemitism.34 And while this may be pushing Maron’s Islamophobia too far, what I have attempted to demonstrate is that the vilification of a racialized Other ultimately overlaps in her novel Munin oder Chaos im Kopf with Germany’s rightwing extremists. The New Right therefore has more in common with the Old Right than it would like to admit.


  • 1 10/20101003_Rede.html

  • 2 Stephan Detjen, “‘Der Islam gehört zu Deutschland’: Die Geschichte eines Satzes.” Deutschlandfunk 13.01.2014

  • 3 ”Wulff’s Rede zur Einheit: Unser Islam?”Die Zeit, 7 October 2010.

  • 4

  • 5

  • 6 While the Pegida movement (Patriotische Europärer gegen die Isamlisierung des Abendlandes), founded in 2014 by Lutz Bachmann, and the political party AfD (Alternative für Deutschand), founded in April 2013 primarily as an anti-Euro protest party, have different origins, the two constituencies have since grown much closer together, especially in their shared platform regarding the threat of Islam. See David Coury’s article “The AfD, Pegida, and Ethnopluralism in Eastern Germany.”

  • 7 This catapulted the party into the Bundestag as the (then) third largest party. Support for the AfD has since waned (in the last election of 2021 it lost 11 seats, down to 83 from the 94 seats it won in 2017), but this has been mainly attributed to the weakening of the party due to in-fighting between its different factions. The recent resignation of AfD co-founder Jörg Meuthen on November 11, 2021, considered by most to be a moderate voice within the party, has moved this extremist party even further to the right.

  • 8 Although the SPD had been trying to oust their outspoken Islamophobic party member ever since the publication of his first book in 2010, it took three legal proceedings against Sarrazin before they were finally successful in removing him from the party in July 2020. It is surprising that Sarrazin didn’t leave the party willingly given his extremist political views.

  • 9 Monika Maron and Necla Kelek, the Turkish-born German social scientist, run a political salon in Berlin where, among others, Thilo Sarrazin has been a guest. Kelek, who despite being Muslim herself speaks out against Islam, has thereby given the New Right a voice from “within,” so to speak. Her bestselling – and controversial – book Die fremde Braut (2005) is conceived as a polemic against Germany’s laxness in dealing with the abuses experienced by imported brides who have been forced into marriage in Germany. Kelek has been accused by her critics of exaggerating the problem.

  • 10 See especially Naika Foroutan’s 76-page study, “Sarrazin’s Theses auf dem Prüfstand. Ein empirischer Gegenentwurf zu Thilo Sarrazins Thesen zu Muslimen in Deutschland,” which she conducted in 2010 at the Humboldt Universität See also Sander Gilman, “Thilo Sarrazin and the Politics of Race in the 21st Century,” in New German Critique, as well as Fatima El-Tayeb’s discussion of Sarrazin’s book in The Routledge Handbook of German Politics and Culture (293–4). There have furthermore been numerous negative reviews of the book, such as Landis MacKellar’s “Once Upon a Time in Germany … A Review Essay”

  • 11 The slim volume Alice Schwarzer edited in the wake of the infamous 2015 New Year’s Eve night in Cologne: Der Schock: Die Silversternacht von Köln (in which Necla Kelek also published an article) is a prime example of stoking anti-Muslim fears. While it is alleged that on this one night, hundreds of women were sexually assaulted by predominately North African Muslim men, to draw the conclusion that this proves that Muslim men are inherently violent does not take into account the singularity of this drunken episode and the exaggerated attempt to make it representative of the sexual deviancy of Muslim men. According to Wikipedia, over 1200 indictments were made, resulting in only six convictions because of sexual misconduct. While one might see this as due to the laxity with which the perpetrators were pursued in the German legal system, it seems unlikely that it would have sided with the foreign perpetrators.

  • 12 For an excellent analysis of the volume as a whole, which includes 30 contributions in all, see Jay Julian Rosellini, Literary Skinheads? Writing From the Right in Unified Germany, 42–63. That the “deutsche Debatte” in the title is to be understood as a continuation of the 1986–7 Historikerstreit, seems apparent, especially when one considers that Ernst Nolte is one of the contributors to the volume. He is the one who triggered the Historikerstreit with his controversial article “Die Vergangenheit, die nicht vergehen will” in 1986. The doomsday prophecy of Botho Stauß’s “Anschwellender Bocksgesang” and even more so his recent essay “Der letzte Deutsche” may be seen to have the same programmatic character as did Nolte’s essay back in 1986, which was vigorously challenged foremost by Jürgen Habermas.

  • 13 See Göpffarth, “Germany’s New Ultranationalist Intelligentsia,” for the inclusion of Heino Schwilk and Ulrich Schacht among the far-right fringe.

  • 14 See Strauß’ article in!5711319/

  • 15 Flugasche appeared in then West Germany in 1981, published by Fischer (her longtime publisher until 2020; see footnote below). It was banned in the GDR.

  • 16 Balibar, who has given currency to the term “differentialist racism,” borrowed it from the French philosopher Pierre-André Taguieff.

  • 17 The American political scientist Samuel Huntington was an early proponent of such a theory regarding the Clash of Civilizations, as his controversial book is titled, a clash that he predicted would ultimately result in the next big war not between nations but between the cultures of Islam and the West. The Syrian-born German political scientist Bassam Tibi has questioned the Eurocentric premise of Huntington’s book in his Krieg der Zivilisationen (1995). The term Leitkultur stems from Tibi as it questions the Eurocentric premises of Huntington’s work.

  • 18 S. Fischer Verlag’s decision in October of 2020 to cut ties with Maron after 40 years, Fischer having been her lifelong publisher since 1981, was prompted by her decision to publish a collection of essays in Götz Kubitischek’s New Right publishing house Antaios. She thus shares Thilo Sarrazin’s fate of having been excluded for her extreme political positioning. Maron’s publisher is now Hoffmann and Campe; tö date, she has published with them one work: Bonnie Propeller: Eine Erzählung, Hamburg (2020).

  • 19 Maron has participated herself in rightwing demonstrations. As Lewicki and Shooman note, “at the height of Pegida demonstrations […] in 2014, she travelled to Dresden and expressed understanding for the demonstrators’ worries and defending them against accusations of racism.”

  • 20 See Gabriele Kämper, Die männliche Nation: Politische Rhetorik der neuen intellektuellen Rechten (Köln 2005) for an in-depth analysis of the supposed “demasculinization” that the New Right sees as characterizing contemporary German society.

  • 21 This pan-European movement that originated in France goes by the name of the “Identitäre Bewegung” in Germany. The movement basically shares the same Islamophobia and ethnopluralistic platform as does the AfD and Pegida but is even more extreme by way of its provocative public actions (e.g. the 2016 scaling of the Brandenburg Gate and hanging a banner protesting German immigration laws and the Islamization of German society). As a result, the organization is under police surveillance.

  • 22 The Youtube link to this program is no longer available, but see the discussion of Maron’s Munin during the program at

  • 23 Cf. Jay J. Rosellini’s Literary Skinsheads? Writing from the Right in Reunified Germany and his discussion of Stern’s article; all translations are his own.

  • 24 That the author shares the narrator’s reactionary position on gender is evidenced by an article Maron published in the online monthly journal Cicero, in which she ridicules Angela Merkel’s widely popularized demand for gender parity, entitled “Ist Parität erreicht, wenn Frauen Holz hacken und Männer stricken?” Maron’s myopic claim about the silliness of women chopping wood and of men knitting overlooks the validity of her very own example insofar as women chopping wood could just as well stand in for allowing more women to enter predominantly male professions, just as men knitting could stand in for a greater acceptance of men in predominantly female vocations. Maron’s outright rejection and ridicule of Merkel’s position demonstrates how conservative, if not to say reactionary, Maron’s approach to gender has become. Her follow-up claim takes gender equality to the level of the absurd: “Wird am externen Uterus geforscht, damit Männer endlich gebären können und Mutterväter werden, womit sogar die Steigerung der Parität erreicht wird, beides in einem, nur das Stillen wäre noch ein Problem.”

  • 25 This higher Muslim birthrate is one of the main tenets of Thilo Sarrazin’s argument regarding an Islamic takeover in Germany.

  • 26 The term “ethnopluralism” refers to the New Right’s rejection of multiculturalism, i.e., the inherent difference of ethno-cultural groups that prohibit their integration into the dominant (white European) culture.

  • 27 Although Mina cannot determine the gender of her crow, she designates it as female mainly because “die Krähe” is a feminine noun in German. She also decides on the female gender because the name Munin has the feminine ending “in.” However, this stands in a skewed relationship to her critique, if not to say ridicule, of the feminine suffix “in” in an effort to arrive at gender equality. See Cornelia Geißler’s commentary in her review of the novel, “Monika Maron: Das In und andere Ärgernisse.”

  • 28 Maron’s life-long fascination with crows is evidenced in a short text published in 2016, Krähengekrächz, in which she indicates that her text was conceived as a preliminary study for her next novel. What fascinates Maron about crows in not just their proven intelligence but also the long legendary and literary tradition this bird has enjoyed. Indeed, a questionable feature of Munin oder Chaos im Kopf is the protagonist’s repeated reference to this text in order to support her various claims about crows.

  • 29 One might even be inclined to agree with this assessment, provocative and extreme as it may be. Yet it should be noted that Munin’s claim is problematic on a number of levels. For one, to judge a person’s right to life by his or her ability to verbally express thanks clearly misunderstands the nature of physical disability. Furthermore, the description of how terminally ill patients are artificially kept alive to “rot in their beds” is also overstated as Germany has had laws allowing for assisted suicide since 2015, and passive euthanasia (rejecting life support) for even longer.

  • 30 This is in the same vein as Martin Walser’s controversial speech on receipt of the prestigious Friedenspreis des deutschen Buchhandels in Frankfurt’s Pauluskirche October 11, 1998, in which he harshly criticized the ways in which the Holocaust has become omnipresent in the media and instrumentalized into a “Moralkeule” and a “Dauerpräsentation unserer Schande.” He received a standing ovation for his talk, with only (the since late) Ignatz Bubis, president of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, and his wife reputedly remaining seated and then leaving the church in protest. This controversy has become known as the Bubis/Walser debate and is seen as a continuation of the Historikerstreit with its clearly defined right and left positions. Stuart Taberner thus sees Martin Walser as an early voice for the New Right. See his “A Manifesto for Germany’s New Right?” Yet Walser’s position is tame compared to someone like Ulrich Schacht, co-editor of Die selbstbewusste Nation. As Jay J. Rosellini argues in his monograph Literary Skinheads? Writing from the Right in Reunified Germany, Schlacht’s view is dangerously extremist insofar as he “launches an attack on what he calls ‘post-German, national-suicidal historiography’ under the tutelage of ‘West German PC commissars.’ […] The image of national suicide in the form of a verbal perpetuation of Holocaust memories leading to a permanent German self-reproach, if not self-hatred, is taken to its extreme in the assertion that this suicide is ‘identical with the total will of Nazi Germany to destroy the Jewish people’” (48). Compare this also with Maron’s allegorical “suicide” of Germany in her novel Munin.

  • 31 The link to this interview conducted at the Frankfurter Buchmesse in October of 2019 following the publication of Munin is unfortunately no longer available.

  • 32 I thank Hans Rindisbacher for pointing out this analogy.

  • 33

  • 34 That Maron has Jewish heritage herself from her maternal grandfather’s side, as elaborated in her novel Pawels Briefe, should not in-and-of-itself speak against my proposition. My claim is more that Maron’s late work operates within a differentially racist creed.

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