The Jungle as a Metaphor of the Human Mind: Urs Widmer's Novel 'In the Congo'

Dr Eva Meidl
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The jungle as a shifting metaphor in Urs Widmer's novel uncovers the ambiguity of human nature which can excel when civilized but can at the same time revert to savagery if the constrictions of modernity destroy empathy.

During the Nazi era the anthropological past of savagery became the presence. Reverting to an earlier, more primitive form of human nature, Willy, the proto-fascist protagonist in Urs Widmer's novel physically turns black and becomes a chieftain in the Congo. The jungle is destructive, the opposite to the European enlightenment. Yet for the second protagonist, the gentle-mannered Kuno whose sterile, ordered middle European nature yearns for hope and renewal, the jungle is constructive. He too turns physically black in the jungle. Yet in an utopian fantasy he re-learns how to be free and is restored by the vitality of the iridescent jungle.

Keywords: Urs Widmer, Swiss Literature, Metaphor
Stream: Literature, Literary Studies
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: Jungle as a Metaphor of the Human Mind, The

Dr Eva Meidl

Lecturer, School of English, Journalism and European Languages, The University of Tasmania
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Eva Meidl was born in Vienna and migrated to Australia in 1977. She has been lecturing German language and literature at the University of Tasmania since 1993. She is the author of Soziale Kritik im Werk Elias Canettis (1929-1952): Studien zum Begriff des “Verwandlungsverbotes” (1994), Veza Canettis Sozialkritik in der revolutionären Nachkriegszeit (1998), A Donation to the Colony: The epic voyage on the “Hannah” of German and British free settlers and their contribution to Van Diemen's Land (2004) and many articles.

Ref: H06P0521