Maneuvering in Nervous Times: The Hyperlinks in Reinhard Jirgl's Abtrünnig



Reinhard Jirgl is an important and challenging but still relatively understudied contemporary German writer. This article looks at his novel Abtrünnig: Roman aus der nervösen Zeit from 2005, focusing on the function of the hyperlinks boxes, which dominate the textual layout. It shows that Abtrünnig is a strong example of how hyperlinks can work in a printed literary environment as a vehicle for a discussion of reading practices, linearity, and narrative structures. The novel engages with the theoretical debates about digital hyperlinks from the 1990s onwards, and it elegantly uses the link structure to challenge the format of the traditional, printed book. However, this article also shows how the novel is very much a part of a generation of literary interest in digital information structures, which not only uses the hyperlinks as a way of subverting the physical medium of the book, but also uses the links as an enhancement of the plot and the story it wants to tell. The hyperlinks are thus not merely a formal feature, but an integrated part of the novel's depiction of contemporary conditions of life in the “nervous times” it portrays.