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Searching for the Grail – Sigrid Combüchen's tale Parsifal.

Svensson, Bo S LU (2009) The 99th meeting of the Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study (SASS)
Abstract
<p>

The Writer:<br>

Sigrid Combüchen was born in Solingen in the German Ruhr territory 1942. Shortly after the War her family moved to Sweden. She is a Swedish writer and literary critic and has so far published seven novels, a collection of essays and a biography (on the Norwegian novelist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 1920, Knut Hamsun). She received the 2004 Selma Lagerlöf Prize and 2007 she received an Honorary Doctor in Literature at Lund University, Sweden, for her literary merits.

</p>

<p>

Combüchen made her debut at the age of seventeen with the novel Ett rumsrent sällskap, 1960. Her best-known novel so far is Byron, 1988. It was translated into... (More)
<p>

The Writer:<br>

Sigrid Combüchen was born in Solingen in the German Ruhr territory 1942. Shortly after the War her family moved to Sweden. She is a Swedish writer and literary critic and has so far published seven novels, a collection of essays and a biography (on the Norwegian novelist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 1920, Knut Hamsun). She received the 2004 Selma Lagerlöf Prize and 2007 she received an Honorary Doctor in Literature at Lund University, Sweden, for her literary merits.

</p>

<p>

Combüchen made her debut at the age of seventeen with the novel Ett rumsrent sällskap, 1960. Her best-known novel so far is Byron, 1988. It was translated into English the same year and to German in 1991, and was also translated to five more languages. Related to the Swedish tradition, where space, "hembygd", often is central, she describes herself as homeless, without roots – more of a European than a provincial writer. Time lines in different constellations constitutes much of her writing: History, fantasy and Myth, outsidedness, she is multilingual and open for a rich variety of narrative form- and time experiments.

</p>

<p>

Bibliography:<br>

• Ett rumsrent sällskap, 1960 <br>

• I norra Europa, 1977 <br>

• Värme, 1980 <br>

• Byron, 1988 <br>

• Korta och långa kapitel, 1992 <br>

• Om en dag man vaknar. Essayer., 1995

<br>• Parsifal, 1998 <br>

• En simtur i sundet, 2003

<br>• Livsklättraren. En bok om Knut Hamsun, 2006 <br>

(from www.wikipedia , in a short article written by myself).

</p>

<p>

Brief Summary:<br>

The frame story in Parsifal is situated in a dystopian Europe, possibly a kind of European Union around 2050, devastated, war-weary after many minor wars and conflicts, and in a state of brutalisation and decay. Main protagonists are a retired general, Piscator (cf. the Fisher King in the palimpsests) and a middle aged homeless and unemployed female journalist, Perle Vaus (cf.Perlesvaus/Perceval/Parsifal). At the beginning of the story Perle is homeless, living with others under the Saxon Bridge in her city. Through the new home laws Perle as a female has lost the right to be the owner of a house after she has lost her husband.

</p>

<p>

Piscator is trying to write his memoirs and has hired Perle. As a reader of the daily newspaper Standart he knew about Perle's earlier work writing editorials as the assistant to the chief editor, Johnny Gawain –so called "Phoenix-plans" - she used her constructive intellect to recommend "short cuts" between destroyed expressways and other city renewals in the devastated landscape. But a new management has lead to populistic directorial guidelines. The newspaper has no use of her services any longer, and she has been replaced by a fortune teller reading in the cards and the star constellations. Gawain left the newspaper at the same time. He emigrated with his family to a small village deep into the djungle.

</p>

<p>

In the course of action Perle is undertaking an adventurous journey in Piscator's dreams - on a river boat into the djungle, a story with mythical implications - and parallel to that she is assisting Piscator to remember his life and military career with maieutic questions.

</p>

<p>

Abstract body:<br>

The game with time and memory is part of Sigrid Combüchen's narrative strategy. The Grail Legend is employed as subtext and palimpsest. The novel contains different historical layers, combined with segments of 'dirty' Realism, Fantasy and Science Fiction.

</p>

<p>

However, this Paper will focus upon the concluding dialogue between Perle and Piscator. The General needs assistance to tell about the most shameful incident in his career, the hunting and killing of a group of school girls. However, he is still focused on describing a successful military career. Perle's maieutic questions lead to an evading narrative strategy from the General, where fiction and different kinds of cultivated digressions become substitutes for the truth. It also leads to a Double bind representation of reality. The General's shaded reality comprehension is also based on his life long prejudiced gender assumptions.

</p>

<p>

The Paper's disposition:<br>

The first part develops some basic assumptions regarding the construction of the novel and how it can be read in a meaningful way, using concepts as open-endedness and homelessness, as consequences of the novel's intertextuality, or rather intermediality. This exploration is based primarily on Bakhtin’s concept of open ended speech genres with a few supplements by his contemporaries Ernst Bloch and Georg Lukács, constituents of the utopian artistic movement by the time of "Der Blaue Reiter" and the "Bauhaus" group in Germany around 1910 and thereafter.

</p>

<p>

In the second part these concepts are used in the reading of a key passage in Combüchen’s novel, the dialogue concerning a well hidden cave incident, the second last chapter of the novel. The final meeting is described, mainly through dialogue, between ‘the Fisher king’, general Piscator, and ‘the Grail Quester’, Perle. The general needs ‘the right questions’ to be able to record this most disgracing incident in his military career, the killing of a group of innocent schoolgirls, interrogated by soldiers under his command, then ‘playfully’ hunted through the forest and left to die in a cave, mined and exploded by the soldiers. Piscator claims over and over again that he was asleep himself during that time. Still he can tell in detail about the proceedings. Perle is trying to find out the true nature of the episode, with maieutic questions, comes close but fails in the end.

</p>

<p>

In the third part the concepts presented in the first part are used as means for a transhistorical and ethnographic reading of the novel. It is assumed that the intermediality of this story of fiction, based on a palimpsest with a mythical layer, also opens up for intermedial dialogues with nonfictional texts of literary, historical, ethnographic and contemporary significance to the main topic, i.e. the war crimes in military actions due to institutionalised male violence against women.

</p>

<p>

The fourth part briefly considers the opening up of thematic possibilities of the theme, Grail Quest, and its treatment by Combüchen, in accordance with the open-endedness of the last chapter of the novel. It conjuctures with the basic Question, die Grundfrage, in Ernst Bloch’s philosophy of ‘the Principle of Hope’, Das Prinzip Hoffnung (Frankfurt/M. 1959, written in the USA 1938-47).

</p> (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to conference
publication status
unpublished
subject
conference name
The 99th meeting of the Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study (SASS)
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
d8a886a4-bff2-45ac-86e7-60ed4fef935b (old id 1292262)
date added to LUP
2009-02-11 14:37:05
date last changed
2016-07-06 12:38:13
@misc{d8a886a4-bff2-45ac-86e7-60ed4fef935b,
  abstract     = {&lt;p&gt;<br/><br>
The Writer:&lt;br&gt;<br/><br>
Sigrid Combüchen was born in Solingen in the German Ruhr territory 1942. Shortly after the War her family moved to Sweden. She is a Swedish writer and literary critic and has so far published seven novels, a collection of essays and a biography (on the Norwegian novelist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 1920, Knut Hamsun). She received the 2004 Selma Lagerlöf Prize and 2007 she received an Honorary Doctor in Literature at Lund University, Sweden, for her literary merits.<br/><br>
&lt;/p&gt;<br/><br>
&lt;p&gt;<br/><br>
Combüchen made her debut at the age of seventeen with the novel Ett rumsrent sällskap, 1960. Her best-known novel so far is Byron, 1988. It was translated into English the same year and to German in 1991, and was also translated to five more languages. Related to the Swedish tradition, where space, "hembygd", often is central, she describes herself as homeless, without roots – more of a European than a provincial writer. Time lines in different constellations constitutes much of her writing: History, fantasy and Myth, outsidedness, she is multilingual and open for a rich variety of narrative form- and time experiments.<br/><br>
&lt;/p&gt;<br/><br>
&lt;p&gt;<br/><br>
Bibliography:&lt;br&gt;<br/><br>
•	Ett rumsrent sällskap, 1960 &lt;br&gt;<br/><br>
•	I norra Europa, 1977 &lt;br&gt;<br/><br>
•	Värme, 1980 &lt;br&gt;<br/><br>
•	Byron, 1988 &lt;br&gt;<br/><br>
•	Korta och långa kapitel, 1992 &lt;br&gt;<br/><br>
•	Om en dag man vaknar. Essayer., 1995 <br/><br>
&lt;br&gt;•	Parsifal, 1998 &lt;br&gt;<br/><br>
•	En simtur i sundet, 2003 <br/><br>
&lt;br&gt;•	Livsklättraren. En bok om Knut Hamsun, 2006 &lt;br&gt;<br/><br>
(from www.wikipedia , in a short article written by myself).<br/><br>
&lt;/p&gt;<br/><br>
&lt;p&gt;<br/><br>
Brief Summary:&lt;br&gt;<br/><br>
The frame story in Parsifal is situated in a dystopian Europe, possibly a kind of European Union around 2050, devastated, war-weary after many minor wars and conflicts, and in a state of brutalisation and decay. Main protagonists are a retired general, Piscator (cf. the Fisher King in the palimpsests) and a middle aged homeless and unemployed female journalist, Perle Vaus (cf.Perlesvaus/Perceval/Parsifal). At the beginning of the story Perle is homeless, living with others under the Saxon Bridge in her city. Through the new home laws Perle as a female has lost the right to be the owner of a house after she has lost her husband.<br/><br>
&lt;/p&gt;<br/><br>
&lt;p&gt;<br/><br>
Piscator is trying to write his memoirs and has hired Perle. As a reader of the daily newspaper Standart he knew about Perle's earlier work writing editorials as the assistant to the chief editor, Johnny Gawain –so called "Phoenix-plans" - she used her constructive intellect to recommend "short cuts" between destroyed expressways and other city renewals in the devastated landscape. But a new management has lead to populistic directorial guidelines. The newspaper has no use of her services any longer, and she has been replaced by a fortune teller reading in the cards and the star constellations. Gawain left the newspaper at the same time. He emigrated with his family to a small village deep into the djungle.<br/><br>
&lt;/p&gt;<br/><br>
&lt;p&gt;<br/><br>
In the course of action Perle is undertaking an adventurous journey in Piscator's dreams - on a river boat into the djungle, a story with mythical implications - and parallel to that she is assisting Piscator to remember his life and military career with maieutic questions.<br/><br>
&lt;/p&gt;<br/><br>
&lt;p&gt;<br/><br>
Abstract body:&lt;br&gt;<br/><br>
The game with time and memory is part of Sigrid Combüchen's narrative strategy. The Grail Legend is employed as subtext and palimpsest. The novel contains different historical layers, combined with segments of 'dirty' Realism, Fantasy and Science Fiction.<br/><br>
&lt;/p&gt;<br/><br>
&lt;p&gt;<br/><br>
However, this Paper will focus upon the concluding dialogue between Perle and Piscator. The General needs assistance to tell about the most shameful incident in his career, the hunting and killing of a group of school girls. However, he is still focused on describing a successful military career. Perle's maieutic questions lead to an evading narrative strategy from the General, where fiction and different kinds of cultivated digressions become substitutes for the truth. It also leads to a Double bind representation of reality. The General's shaded reality comprehension is also based on his life long prejudiced gender assumptions.<br/><br>
&lt;/p&gt;<br/><br>
&lt;p&gt;<br/><br>
The Paper's disposition:&lt;br&gt;<br/><br>
The first part develops some basic assumptions regarding the construction of the novel and how it can be read in a meaningful way, using concepts as open-endedness and homelessness, as consequences of the novel's intertextuality, or rather intermediality. This exploration is based primarily on Bakhtin’s concept of open ended speech genres with a few supplements by his contemporaries Ernst Bloch and Georg Lukács, constituents of the utopian artistic movement by the time of "Der Blaue Reiter" and the "Bauhaus" group in Germany around 1910 and thereafter.<br/><br>
&lt;/p&gt;<br/><br>
&lt;p&gt;<br/><br>
In the second part these concepts are used in the reading of a key passage in Combüchen’s novel, the dialogue concerning a well hidden cave incident, the second last chapter of the novel. The final meeting is described, mainly through dialogue, between ‘the Fisher king’, general Piscator, and ‘the Grail Quester’, Perle. The general needs ‘the right questions’ to be able to record this most disgracing incident in his military career, the killing of a group of innocent schoolgirls, interrogated by soldiers under his command, then ‘playfully’ hunted through the forest and left to die in a cave, mined and exploded by the soldiers. Piscator claims over and over again that he was asleep himself during that time. Still he can tell in detail about the proceedings. Perle is trying to find out the true nature of the episode, with maieutic questions, comes close but fails in the end.<br/><br>
&lt;/p&gt;<br/><br>
&lt;p&gt;<br/><br>
In the third part the concepts presented in the first part are used as means for a transhistorical and ethnographic reading of the novel. It is assumed that the intermediality of this story of fiction, based on a palimpsest with a mythical layer, also opens up for intermedial dialogues with nonfictional texts of literary, historical, ethnographic and contemporary significance to the main topic, i.e. the war crimes in military actions due to institutionalised male violence against women.<br/><br>
&lt;/p&gt;<br/><br>
&lt;p&gt;<br/><br>
The fourth part briefly considers the opening up of thematic possibilities of the theme, Grail Quest, and its treatment by Combüchen, in accordance with the open-endedness of the last chapter of the novel. It conjuctures with the basic Question, die Grundfrage, in Ernst Bloch’s philosophy of ‘the Principle of Hope’, Das Prinzip Hoffnung (Frankfurt/M. 1959, written in the USA 1938-47).<br/><br>
&lt;/p&gt;},
  author       = {Svensson, Bo S},
  language     = {eng},
  title        = {Searching for the Grail – Sigrid Combüchen's tale Parsifal.},
  year         = {2009},
}