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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: December 2013

7 - Occident and Orient in Narratives of Exile: The Case of Willy Haas's Indian Exile Writings


Among the German-speaking exiles who made India their “exile homeland” (1933–45) to escape persecution from the Nazi regime in Europe was Willy Haas (1891–1973), a Prague-born Germanophone of Jewish origin, and writer, critic, and publisher of the most widely read Weimar literary journal Die literarische Welt. Haas scripted some of the most successful films of the 1940s for the Bhavnani Studios in Bombay, published an anthology entitled Germans beyond Germany and a series of essays on Indian culture and mythology that were published in India and in Germany.

While locating Haas's writings within twentieth-century German discourses on India, this chapter attempts to show how the comparative frameworks of the narrative in his texts, the influences of German Indology and his specific location of exile in the Orient, merge to circumscribe the hegemonic position of the Occident vis-à-vis the Orient. The virtual nonreception of Haas's Indian texts, within his literary corpus and the genre of German exile literature more generally, needs to be brought to light, as this indicates the need for a closer discussion of non-occidental sites of exile in German exile studies. This becomes all the more relevant since exile texts produced by Willy Haas in India tend to transcend the dominant orientalist tropes. Thus, the discussion will engage with the typologies, demarcations, and perceptions of the Orient and the Occident within Haas's work, on the basis of a microstudy of his exile in India during the rule of the National Socialists in Germany.