Performative Writing as a Subversive Act: Hybrid Identities in Olga Grajsnowa’s Texts

    • Cover Photo
    • Presentation speakers
      • Denise Henschel, University of Warwick, UK


    Olga Grjasnowa’s Der Russe ist einer, der Birken liebt (All Russians love Birch trees) and Die juristische Unschärfe einer Ehe (The legal haziness of a marriage) have primarily been read as so-called migration literature and have as such been fixed as a marginalised, ‘other’ genre in the literary discourse. In this paper, I introduce an alternative reading, which argues against this: I understand both texts as subversive forms of writing that perform the rejection of metaphysical identity concepts and the rejection of fixed identities in their own writing. In both texts identity is used not only as a linguistic tool, but primarily as a political tool of resistance. The constant movement of the protagonists between identitarian and physical borders is reflected in both texts by their constant switching between narration and critical reflection. In this oscillation, the texts themselves become thresholds and initialize a space of hybridity and the affirmation of difference. In doing so, they reject hierarchical concepts of heterosexuality, gender and ethnicity and introduce the reader to hybrid identity concepts which cannot easily be fixed within the dominant matrix. Not only do they oppose the binary of ‘heterosexuality’ versus ‘homosexuality’, but also a Western-European discourse of homosexuality in which hierarchical power structures oppress Non-Western-European concepts of homosexuality. Furthermore, the reader experiences different forms of power within a ‘Western-European’ culture through different forms of translation – translation not only of language, but rather of identities. In reversing the glance of the dominant matrix, both texts address the reader as a bourgeois, West-European subject and reveal their desire to constrain the ‘other’.