22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Viola Roggenkamp

Viola Roggenkamp was born in 1948 in Hamburg and is a German Jew. She studied psychology, philosophy and music, has travelled extensively through Asia and lived for several years in India as well as in Israel in 1989-91. In 1976 she became a freelance author for »Die Zeit« for more than 25 years. In 1977, she was part of the team that started the feminist magazine »Emma«, where she worked as a freelance reporter until 1990. For five years till 2004 she was a columnist for the Berlin newspaper »tageszeitung«.In 1996, Viola Roggenkamp published her first book along with the interview recording »Von mir soll sie das haben?« (tr. She’s supposed to have that from me?). She spoke with seven mothers about their lesbian daughters, each of whom she met only once for one day. By the time she published this book, Roggenkamp had developed a specific form of literary journalism by transforming the statements of her interlocutors into a kind of authentic »role prose«. She uses variations of this technique in »Tu mir eine Liebe. Meine Mamme« (2002; tr. You’re killing me. My Mamme), consisting of 26 interviews in which the later generations of German Jews talk about their mothers, which initially appeared in the »Allgemeine Jüdischen Wochenzeitung«, and in »Frau ohne Kind. Gespräche und Geschichten. Eine Tafelrunde« (2004; tr. Woman without child. Discussions and stories. A round table.), in which the author – herself childless – describes an occasion on which she hosted a multicourse meal (including recipes) at her home for twelve of her female friends. During ten different table talks, the guests, who include a bank clerk, local politician, opera-singer and judge explain the reasons why they are childless. If nothing else, this provides a sociogram of the Federal Republic of Germany. In 2005, Viola Roggenkamp’s biographical essay »Erika Mann. Eine jüdische Tochter. Über Erlesenes und Verleugnetes in der Frauengenealogie der Familie Mann-Pringsheim« (tr. Erika Mann. A Jewish daughter. About the selected and the denied in the genealogy of the females in the Mann-Pringsheim family) sparked controversy among the Thomas Mann community. The literary expert Ruth Klüger wrote the following about this in the magazine »Literarische Welt«: »With her considerations on the relationship between Germans and Jews in the cultural elite, the author has stirred up a hornet’s nest, not without some courage.« The issue of her own heritage and influences was also fundamental to Roggenkamp’s successful works of fiction. The novel »Familienleben« (2004; En. »The Spectacle Salesman’s Family«, 2007) became a bestseller. It is the story of 13-year-old Fania’s day-to-day life with her German- Jewish family in Hamburg in 1967 and all of its various peculiarities. The author has remained true to her subject matter concerning the relationship between the Holocaust survivors and their children, as evidenced in novels such as »Die Frau im Turm« (2009; tr. The woman in the tower) and »Tochter und Vater« (2011; tr. Daughter and father). In an interview about this novel, she said, »Whether we want it or not, we all have to deal with the past lives of our parents. But what does the daughter, the son want to ask about? One is afraid of rejection and one is also afraid of perhaps hearing everything.«Viola Roggenkamp lives in Hamburg.