Trümmerliteratur - literally “rubble-literature" - is a brand of literature that became important after the Second World War, led by Heinrich Böll, whom I term the apologist of German Trümmerliteratur. Typically included under this classification are the writers who began to produce in the years immediately following the war, and in whose work the rubble and ruins of the landscape figure prominently. Böll provided the programmatic framework for the movement in his “Bekenntnis zur Trümmerliteratur" but his relationship to another type of ruin writing presents a point of friction when he appears to be working in a romantic mode to describe his experience of Irish ruins. This problem was the point of departure for a new thinking of ruins. Discovering the strains of rubble literature in Grass and Celan presents the second part of this study, which dramatically recasts these writers, demanding that the presence and prevalence of ruin images and themes receive consideration. Grass's hermeneutical ruins, a reading of narrative gaps, presents the first level of ruin, separating the reader from the text's reliability and authorial immediacy. The next type of ruins that Grass presents is the violent ruinating involved in the the act of writing itself, whether chiseled into gravestones or flecking virginal paper. Similarly, Celan's images of ruins are produced in a form consciously resembling berubbled structures, with dashes and slashes often left jutting dangerously into the space of a wide margin, like the rusty reinforcing steel bars of modern construction. Considering these writers in these terms leads to the question of language and how they attempt to overcome the problem of a language manipulated into complicity in the crimes of totalitarianism. Finally, there is the transparency offered in the porous structure of the ruin. These houses prove incapable of providing the shelter or protection. The inhabitants are exposed, exhibited to the observer with all of the intimate contents of quotidian existence, the low objects of the everyday. Entrance into this interiority is a powerful part of what makes the ruins an interesting object for observation. In this literature of ruins and rubble the reader is offered this transparency, an offer of entrance into society's interiority.



College and Department

Humanities; Germanic and Slavic Languages



Date Submitted


Document Type





Destruction, Ruins, Ruination, Language, Trümmerliteratur, German, Literature, Böll Grass, Celan, poetry, aesthetics, postwar, Heidegger, Rimbaud