Abstract: Form och tematik i Peter Weiss' Motståndets estetik

(Form and Thematics in Peter Weiss's Motståndets estetik)

Lars Wendelius, Skrifter utgivna av Avdelningen för litteratursociologi
vid Litteraturvetenskapliga institutionen i Uppsala, nr 25. 1991

229 pp. Uppsala ISBN 91-9178-20-9. ISSN 0349-1145.

In this study of Peter Weiss's novel Motståndets estetik (Die Ästhetik des Widerstands) the dual intention of the author is brought forward. Peter Weiss wanted both to write a novel in the manner of 20th century masters such as Joyce, Proust, Mann and Musil and to create a "radical" and "proletarian" alternative to the works of these "bourgeois" writers. The study shows that Weiss, besides criticizing capitalism and fascism, also attacked authoritarian socialism which in his eyes is to blame for the degeneration of the international revolutionary movement. Above all Weiss opposes the single-minded posivitism and rationalism effects of both capitalism, fascism and socialism.

During the "process" of the novel the emphasis is shifted from the public to the intimate sphere. By looking at the constant interplay between the implied author and the implied reader it is possible to trace the growing importance of the psychologieal aspect of man in Weiss's novel. An important task in this context is to identify and analyze the novel's "Unbestimmtheitsstellen" – Wolfgang Iser's term for those incomplete descriptions in a literary work that the reader has to complete by himself.

The first chapter is devoted to to problem of genre. Five alternatives are considered – documentary novel, Bildungsroman, first person novel, collective novel, essay novel – and all of them seem to be relevant as far as a genre analysis of Weiss's novel is concerned. This shows how ambiguos the book is, how easily it transgresses the boundaries of genre – a reflection of the implied author's view of the ambiguity of reality. The next chapter discusses the time-levels in the novel. Five such levels can be distinguished: the present, the recent past, the distant past, the future, and the eternal. There are no clear boundaries between the time levels which sometimes exist simultaneously. This can be seen as another demonstration of the implied author's view of the ambiguity of reality.

The third and final chapter deals with the ideological pattern of the novel. Some of the political and cultural attitudes expressed in Die Ästhetik des Widerstands are analyzed against the background of the ideological debate in Sweden and Germany during the 60s and the 70s and special attention is paid to the extremely important female perspective applied by the author. The study is concluded by a brief discussion of the relevance of the terms optimism and pessimism for Weiss's novel.