Beyond the Subject. Vienna Conference Papers

Eschewing the First Person: Post-Subjective Autobiography in Hubert Fichte and his Geschichte der Empfindlichkeit / History of Sensitivity


  • Robert Gillett Queen Mary University of London



post-subjective autobiography, post-modernism, poetry after Auschwitz, queer


Despite the uncanny similarities between the known facts of Hubert Fichte's life and the events depicted in his works, opinion is still divided as to whether Fichte's work constitutes an autobiography or not. This is partly because, rather than adopting the classic first person or using the same name on the cover as in the inside of the book, Fichte gives his protagonists fictitional names: Detlev, Jäcki. The designation of many of his works as 'novels' does not help either. The thesis of this article is that in his literary works, Fichte deliberately drew on the events of his own life, and deliberately invoked the various genres and procedures of life writing in order to construct what I call 'post-subjective autobiography'. In putting forward this thesis, I demonstrate how, from his third novel onwards, Fichte is not writing from the position of a secure subject, but employing a whole range of devices to interrogate the subject of autobiography. And the conclusion is that this post-subjective autobiography is a únique aesthetic and ethical achievement which we would do well to emulate.


This article was submitted to the European Journal of Life Writing in May 2014 and published on 16 March 2015.

Author Biography

Robert Gillett, Queen Mary University of London

Robert Gillett is Reader in German and comparative cultural studies at Queen Mary University of London. In addition to more than twenty items on Hubert Fichte, including a bibliography and the monograph ‘Aber eines lügt er Nicht: Echtheit’ (2013), he has edited books and special issues on Brecht, Johann Peter Hebel, Uwe Johnson, and Queer, and written a number of articles on contemporary German-language poetry. He is currently engaged, with Astrid Köhler, in editing the complete works of the East German poet Adolf Endler.





Beyond the Subject. Vienna Conference Papers