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Literary Intellectuals and the Dissolution of the State

Professionalism and Conformity in the GDR

For two generations, writers in the German Democratic Republic enjoyed a massive audience in their own country, a readership dependent on their works for a measure of utopian solace amid the grimness of life under Communism. But after the fall of the Berlin Wall, these writers were abandoned by their readers and stripped of the professional structures that had supported them. Their literary culture destroyed, they were rebuked for compliant service to the discredited state; and some were reviled for collaborating with the East German secret police, the Stasi.

What drove leading thinkers, including those of the avant-garde who publicly embraced intellectual freedom, to serve as government informants? Why were they content to work within a repressive system rather than challenging it outright? This collection of interviews with more than two dozen writers and literary scholars, including several Stasi informants, provides a gripping, often dismaying picture of the motivations, compromises, and illusions of East German intellectual life.

In conversations with Robert von Hallberg, writers such as best-selling novelist Hermann Kant, playwright Christoph Hein, and avant-garde poet-publisher Sascha Anderson talk about their lives and work before the fall of the wall in 1989—about the constraints and privileges of Communist Party membership, experiences of government censorship and self-censorship, and relations with their readers. They reflect on why the possibilities of opposition to the state seemed so limited, and on how they might have found ways to resist more aggressively. Turning to the controversies that have emerged since reunification, including the Stasi scandals involving Anderson and Christa Wolf, they discuss their feelings of complicity and the need for further self-examination. Two interviews with Anderson—one conducted before he was exposed as a Stasi collaborator and one conducted afterward—offer unique insight into the double life led by many writers and scholars in the German Democratic Republic.

373 pages | 6 x 9 | © 1995

History: European History

Literature and Literary Criticism: Germanic Languages

Table of Contents

Pt. 1: Introduction
Pt. 2: The Scholarly Life
Norbert Krenzlin
Heinz-Uwe Haus
Eva Manske
Marianne Streisand
Frank and Therese Hornigk
Simone and Karlheinz Barck
Irene Selle
Dorothea Dornhof
Petra Boden
Christa Ebert
Brigitte Burmeister
Klaus Michael
Pt. 3: The Literary Life
Hermann Kant
Rainer Kirsch
Karl Mickel
Renate Feyl
Richard Pietrass
Helga Schubert
Christoph Hein
Kerstin Hensel
Hans Joachim Schadlich
Reiner Kunze
Katja Lange-Muller
Uwe Kolbe
Sascha Anderson, I
Rainer Schedlinski
Bert Papenfuss-Gorek
Gerhard Wolf
Pt. 4: After the Surprising Revelations
Sascha Anderson, II
Adolf Endler and Gabriele Dietze
Jan Faktor
Photo Credits

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