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Updated Up To 23/01/2018
Volume 15, issue 1 (January 2017) : 152-165
Narrativity and Sound in German Radio Play Adaptations of Paul Auster’s The New York Trilogy

Till Kinzel
Rubric A: Audionarratology
Rubric B: Twentieth-Century Literature



In line with the strong emphasis on visuality in the wake of the “visual turn” in literary and cultural studies, graphic novel adaptations of literary texts have recently been the objects of scholarly study and narratological theory building. Much less attention, if any, has been accorded to radio play adaptations of novels like Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy. An analysis of radio play adaptations acquires a special significance in the case of this highly enigmatic work, which makes a seriously playful use of postmodern narrative strategies. It is perhaps above all this feature which made the adaptation of the novel’s first instalment, City of Glass, into a graphic novel by Paul Karasik and David Mazucchelli so successful. While the graphic novel visualizes characteristic features of its mother text, this paper explores the different modes of narrative sound in three German radio play adaptations of Auster’s novel. Alfred Behrens’ Stadt aus Glas, Katharina Bihler’s Schlagschatten, and Norbert Schaeffer’s Hinter verschlossenen Türen employ narrative devices like voices in both German and English, the evocation of city soundscapes, the narrative uses of music as well as issues of the simultaneity and/or difference of story and discourse time. The narrative auralization of Auster’s novels in the radio plays under discussion can be shown to foreground non-visual aspects of the pre-texts and to add further dimensions for interpretation that underline the usefulness of audionarratological analysis for adaptation studies. 

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