Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Symposium Date



Thomas Brussig ends his novel Sonnenallee with the following sentiment: "Glueckliche Menschen haben ein schlechtes Gedaechtnis und reiche Erinnerungen" [loose translation: "Happy people have a bad memory and rich (or abundant) memories"]. Through the protagonist, Micha Kuppisch, Brussig explores the effects of both identity and nostalgia on the perceived worth of any one person's or group's history. This discussion revolves around the following questions: What effect do positive and negative experiences have on memory reconstruction? How much does retrospect influence a story? What are an author's motivations for writing a story? And how could this all relate to Germany's recent reunification (1990) and dire search for collective identity based on a largely tragic past century of events? Through an examination of these dilemmas, I argue that Brussig shows us the necessity for "a bad memory and rich memories"; that is, the importance of an honest reconciling of negative events of the past with those which are positive. Through it comes a healing process at both the levels of individual and community that allows all parties to embrace that which is meaningful from the past in order to move with freedom towards a better ("happier") future.