If one is looking for points of convergence between literary production and archives and research libraries, Nachlass (one's estate, or actually the personal papers of a well-known person transferred to a public institution after their death)—or in the plural, Nachlässe—of authors is a promising starting point.1 The fact that the German term Nachlass cannot be exactly translated demonstrates the importance of including international archivists and librarians in discussion of this topic. Some countries have found ways to preserve Nachlass-materials like manuscripts and correspondences either in traditional archives, libraries, or specialized literary archives. But the subject at hand raises several questions: do Nachlässe have inherent arrangements, should a librarian or an archivist handle the Nachlass of an author of literary texts differently from the Nachlass of a politician? We can even wonder whether Nachlässe belong in archives or in research libraries at all?

Archive für Literatur. Der Nachlass und seine Ordnungen (Literary Archives: The Estate and Its Systems of Order) is the second volume of the Literatur und Archiv series, published by Petra-Maria Dallinger and Klaus Kastberger. The series' objective is to promote intellectual exchange between literature and archives, as well as between their science and practice. The Austrian editors of the volume under review include Petra-Maria Dallinger, Georg Hofer, and Bernhard Judex from the Adalbert-Stifter-Institut des Landes Oberösterreich, as well as Stefan Maurer from the Franz-Nabl-Institut at the University of Graz—all of whom have the professional background to entertain these questions about literary archives. The Stifter-Haus in Linz includes a literary museum as well as a literary research center. The editors have succeeded in integrating a set of very different and surprising perspectives on the topic of the Nachlass that well illustrates how thoughtfully an archivist must approach its arrangement and placement. The contributions in their anthology offer a wide range of approaches, each of which are convincing in terms of how they categorize the relationship between archives and libraries in relation to literary Nachlässe. The reviewed anthology includes “classical” German administrative archivists as well as philologists and experts from literary and media studies fields.

The first three essays give the floor to classical German archivists—graduates of the Archivschule Marburg, the main institution in Germany for theoretically based archival education. Dietmar Schenk, director of the Archiv der Universität der Künste in Berlin reflects in his essay on how archivists and librarians have tried to decide in which institution a Nachlass belongs and whether different types of Nachlässe have to be distinguished in relation to these institutions. Schenk successfully outlines the development of arguments about these discussions since the nineteenth century.

Holger Berwinkel from the Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amts in Berlin gives an example of how the science of Aktenkunde (the mode of origin and the form of official records) works in his essay. He analyzes the bureaucratic process that produced a report from Wilhelm II to Reichskanzler Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg. Within this analysis, Berwinkel gives examples of how the methodological tools for Aktenkunde can also be applied to literary Nachlässe.

Christian Keitel, who works, as does this reviewer, at the Landesarchiv-Baden-Württemberg, introduces a new definition of Nachlässe in an attempt to bridge the functions of archives and research libraries: the text and not the author is the unit that defines a Nachlass. Through this perspective, Keitel presents the notion of a so-called object-type-based-archive that is different from the provenance-based approach to archiving. While provenance-based archives emerge from administration, object-type-based-archives emerge from a special type of object, which Keitel also calls “Special-Subject-Archives” following the archival discussions in the United States (p. 59). This concept makes it possible for the two types of institutions to still follow best practices.

The following essays in particular highlight the conceptual differences between archives and libraries. Anett Lütteken from the Institut für Germanistik at the University of Bern reconstructs the formation and the historical conditions that made it possible for literary archives to become a distinct institutional category. Lütteken concludes her essay with the very useful advice: literary repositories must be cautious when negotiating with authors—a conclusion she draws from the historical derivation of literary archives.

Jürgen Thaler, archivist at the Franz-Michael-Felder-Archiv der Vorarlberger Landesbibliothek, provides a historical overview of different models of arrangement for Nachlässe and especially highlights the different models from the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic, before German reunification in 1990. Thaler assumes that existing models for arranging literary archives as part of either research libraries or archives are no longer compatible with the increasing amount of Nachlass-materials, especially because these materials are now primarily in digital format.

Knut Ebeling from the Kunsthochschule Berlin provides a surprising perspective comparing film documentation and textual description of the buildings of archives and libraries. He introduces the documentary film Toute la mémoire du monde from Alain Resnais, who shows the inside of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, as well as the text from Michel Butor called Die Stadt als Text. It is impressive how both the documentary film and the text offer similar representations of archives and libraries in the structure and presence of the buildings themselves.

Herbert Kopp-Oberstebrink, who works at the Zentrum für Literatur-und Kulturforschung in Berlin, compares two of Wilhelm Dilthey's publications on literary archives (Archive für Literatur and the lesser known Archive der Literatur in ihrer Bedeutung für das Studium der Geschichte der Philosophie, both published in 1889). Kopp-Oberstebrink points out that the first essay has a more practical impulse, while Dilthey's second version of the text explores the potential of specialized literary archives for the philological sciences. Kopp-Oberstebrink elaborates on Dilthey's conclusion in the second version of his text that the inherent arrangement of literary Nachlässe does itself create knowledge (p. 132).

Uwe Wirth from the Neuere deutsche Literatur-und Kulturwissenschaft at the University of Gießen finds connections between archives and libraries in the performative sense: in his essay, Wirth discusses how the process of literary production can be presented in the context of a museum. He argues that all textual materials emerging in the context of the Nachlässe are part of a performance in which a text comes into existence and that must include, for example, content from editors. Wirth provides concrete examples of what kind of objects he would display, based on this performative understanding of texts.

Lorenz Mikoletzky, former Generaldirektor des Österreichischen Staatsarchivs, introduces another uncommon perspective on the Nachlass question, discussing how Austrian poet Franz Grillparzer tried to occupy the double role of poet and archivist. For his analysis, Mikoletzky focuses on Grillparzer's statements in his everyday work; his quotes from, and interpretations of Grillparzer are highly entertaining.

The last four essays give examples of the ways in which literary Nachlässe contribute to philological practice. Christine Grond-Rigler, who works at the Archiv der Zeitgenossen in Krems an der Donau, discusses practical problems of the so-called Vorlass (a person, for example an author, who has already donated papers to a public institution before death). The arrangement of the Vorlass is already created by the authors themselves, as well as subsequent interventions manifest in various forms, as Grond-Rigler points out. The Vorlässe of the Austrian authors Peter Turrini and Julian Schutting are good examples of this approach. Both authors were aware of putting themselves “on display.” Grond-Rigler offers at the end of her essay a possible suggestion of how a Vorlass provides a set of information that helps to deconstruct the traces of the author's interventions.

Florian Huber, assistant at the chair for Kulturgeschichte des Wissens at the University of Lüneburg, analyzes the Vorlass of the Austrian author Heimrad Bäcker that the Literaturarchiv der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek has acquired. Huber describes how Bäcker staged his so-called Nachschrift (postscript) in a way that the texts imitate historical documents. Bäcker uses his Nachschriften to help readers reflect on their knowledge of papers that document the Holocaust. Only Bäcker's arrangement of the materials contextualizes these text fragments from the Nachschriften which, individually, only indicate suggestively the persecution and murder of the Jews by the Nazi regime.

Markus Krajewski, professor for media history and theory at the University of Basel, focuses on yet another material aspect of the Nachlass: the desk of an author, in both analog and digital formats. In analog form, Krajewski argues that the material presence of desks structure the texts they contain. As an example of a “digital desk,” Krajewski uses the online Forum Wir höflichen Paparazzi and how Wolfgang Herrndorf used this platform for his famous Tschick. This part of Krajewski's essay is especially relevant for archivists. This reviewer wonders why Krajewski uses literary expressions like “scenes” and “interplay” (Zwischenspiel) (pp. 194, 199, and 203) as section-based themes in his essay, but the way Krajewski explores the digital “desk” is useful for literary archivists who seek to document these spaces (pp. 209–12).

The author of the last essay, Ulrich Raulff, serves as the director of the Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach, the chief literary archival institution in Germany. Raulff's subject is the journal Zeitschrift für Ideengeschichte founded by the archives and libraries in Marbach, Weimar, and Wolfenbüttel. The journal focuses on ideas and concepts in communicative networks (letters, excerpts, card indexes) instead of authors. Raulff argues that connecting literary and philosophical concepts will provide future researchers with materials to study intellectual history in the broader history of text production, which will be especially important for digital Nachlässe.

The different approaches the contributors use to analyze the Nachlässe and their specific arrangements is a strength of this anthology. Every contributor articulates distinct views on how literary Nachlässe are produced and categorized, and where they fit in the scheme of archives and libraries. However, not every essay will be useful for archivists: some essays directly address scholars who work with literary archives, while contributions by archivists address a public that is particularly interested in the science of archiving. Even if some of the essays provide readers with theoretical ruminations about the character of Nachlässe, archivists will still find lots of thought-provoking ideas for their practice—for example, which Nachlass are worthy of preserving, how one evaluates them from an archival point of view, and so on. My only criticism concerns the preface: it contains neither a reflection nor a global synthesis of the essays. This would have been useful to highlight the strengths of the volume's interdisciplinary approach. In addition, the summaries in the foreword do not always capture the essence of the essays, despite being quite lengthy. Nevertheless, the authors have treated the topic of literary Nachlässe in an excellent way and with creativity, while the editors were successful in integrating original perspectives on the subject. Archive für Literatur provides readers with useful ideas about the importance of Nachlässe and considerations for archivists working with these materials.


For a detailed definition and additional literature, see https://www.leo-bw.de/themenmodul/sudwestdeutsche-archivalienkunde/besondere-uberlieferungsbereiche/nachlasse, captured here https://perma.cc/5MS5-UQG8. A “Nachlass” in the archival sense is the entirety of the documents left by a person’s professional and private life. Der Nachlass is the singular of the term. Die Nachlässe is the plural form of the term.