Title

Franz Hohler’s Die Steinflut: The Lessons of Man-Made Ecological Catastrophe

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2020

Department

German

Language

English

Publication Title

Gegenwarts Literatur: Ein Germanistisches Jahrbuch / A German Studies Yearbook

Abstract

September 1881 began the same way August ended in the village of Elm in the canton of Glarus in Switzerland: with rain. In fact, by the eleventh of September, it had rained for thirteen of the previous sixteen days (Bläuer, 117). In Franz Hohler's 1998 historical novella Die Steinflut, set in Elm in September 1881 a woman bemoans this incessant rain, "Jetzt regnet es schon den siebten Tag'" (SF, 19). The reply hints at both the tragedy to come at the end of the novella and the use of the biblical story of the Great Flood throughout the text, "'Jadumeingott,' krächzte eine Männerstimme, 'am Ende kommt die Sintflut'" (SF, 19). A flood of biblical proportions does not befall Elm, however. Instead, a series of landslides over the course of September 11, 1881 rains down up the village, killing one hundred fourteen residents out of a population of a little over one thousand (Buss / Heim, 18). This flood of stones, to use Hohler's neologism, was one of deadliest natural disasters in the history of modern Switzerland. By presenting a fictional recreation of the events leading up to the tragic landslides, Franz Hohler has authored an ecocritical text with a lesson about man's role in natural disasters that resonates far beyond a small Swiss Alpine village in the nineteenth century.

Comments

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