Cultural Criticism and Reflections on German Colonialism in Christian Kracht's Novel Imperium

Uysal Ünalan S.

MODERNA SPRAK, vol.115, no.1, pp.56-78, 2021 (Journal Indexed in AHCI) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 115 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Title of Journal : MODERNA SPRAK
  • Page Numbers: pp.56-78


In spite of its ironic posture, Christian Kracht's novel Imperium ( 2012) contains a serious criticism of civilization, which is illustrated along the protagonist August Engelhardt. Through the fictionalization of this historical character, the novel critically reflects German colonialism, but also the "German madness" (Setz 2015: 155). This way, Imperium highlights the dialectical dimensions of culture as well as of colonialism and thus calls for a postcolonial reading. The aim of this study is to work out that Kracht's novel Imperium by means of the fictionalization of the historical figure August Engelhardt offers a postcolonial perspective on the colonial as well as totalitarian ambitions of the Wilhelminian Era. This perspective is intensified through a critical view in sense of the cultural criticism that was developed by Horkheimer and Adorno in the Dialectic of Enlightenment (2006). Doing so, the novel presents the inhuman dimensions of unilateral concepts in a remarkable way. After mapping out the theoretical foundation of the study in the context of Postcolonial German Studies and outlining of the interrelations of cultural criticism and postcolonial approaches, I will investigate the critical dimension of the novel with regard to the progress optimism as well to the German colonial expansion politics at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. Thereby, I will concentrate on the ambivalent protagonist August Engelhardt and his strange philosophical ideas, which celebrate the coconut as a sacred fruit. Based on the regression of the protagonist, the subversions of the colonial discourse will be explored with respect to the arguments of Horkheimer and Adorno.