Susan Meeks, MPhil 2005
The following analysis of four novels by Margrit Schriber derives from my curiosity as to who are the female writers whose works have been recently published in German in Switzerland . Further investigation revealed, unsurprisingly, that in the wake of female emancipation – not granted in Switzerland until 1971 – a number of women writers in German-speaking Switzerland came to the fore with works published in the 1970's. These included writers such as Adelheid Duvanel, Gertrud Leutenegger, Maja Beutler and Margrit Schriber, whose first novel, Aussicht gerahmt , was published in 1976. Since then, Schriber's literary output has consisted of a further seven novels, three collections of short stories and five works for stage and radio. Although Schriber continues to be a part of the contemporary Swiss literary scene, her works have received a relatively small amount of academic critical attention. A notable exception is Linda Hess-Liechti's study “Das Gefängnis geht nebenan weiter…” Studien zur mentalen Gefängnis- und Befreiungsthematik in Prosatexten von Margrit Baur, Maja Beutler und Margrit Schriber . Although Hess-Liechti investigates the theme of mental imprisonment in Vogel flieg! and Tresorschatten, I have also chosen these two texts for analysis, but alongside the earlier Kartenhaus and the later Rauchrichter, with regard to problems of integration and loneliness. The date of publication of these works, 1979, 1980, 1987 and 1993, influenced my choice of texts as they map a sizeable portion of Schriber's Literary activity. More importantly however, is the thematic link of absence and longing which makes it difficult for the female narrators in each of the works to connect with others. The problematic relationships are predominantly with men, be they father, son, male superior in the workplace, or ex-lover. Although no clear plot is discernable in the texts themselves Schriber employs a fluid style set in elusive time frames, so creating an ambiguity of meaning that avoids condemning the actions of the characters that populate her narratives as either right or wrong. The female narrator in each of the four texts is fundamentally lonely, though for differing reasons, and this study attempts to highlight this link between the four different women. Each is aware of problematic issues in her life, to which no lasting solution is found. At best, like Plüß ( Vogel flieg! ) they make “winzige Schritte” (Vf 132) and, at the other extreme, like Agatha Ott ( Rauchrichter ), they can only look back and reflect on years that were “eine, lange, eintönige Kette vergeudeter Tage” (RR 148). My analysis is firmly based in the texts themselves, amply supported by quotation from them. The broad range of tertiary literature that I have referred to is undoubtedly a reflection of the equally broad range of themes that Schriber touches upon her writing. This may well signal the presence of derivativeness in her writing, but surely also its irreducibility. Consequently, the multi-facetted nature of Schriber's writing renders a summary of her texts difficult. Even the theme of “Woman as Outsider” is handled very differently in Kartenhaus and Rauchrichter , although both works deal with problematic familial relationships and the family home. Similarly, although the setting of a bank links Vogel Flieg! with Tresorschatten , the one narrator needs to escape whereas the other is compelled to leave the apparent safety of the vaults in which she has spent “ein halbes Leben” (TS 26).
The most interesting part of my research was undoubtedly meeting and interviewing Margrit Schriber herself. She provided me with background to the text of Rauchrichter , which can be found in Appendix 2, in addition to talking about her life, her approach to writing and her relationship to her fictional narrators. Her detailed responses to my questions are in Appendix 1. Margrit Schriber is a writer who draws frequently on her own life and experience. The many autobiographical echoes in her work enable her to portray general human dilemmas with a particularly personal intensity.