'Re-reading East Germany’: The Literature and Film of the GDR

Abstracts


Birgt Dahlke (Humboldt University, Berlin)

Underground Literature? The Unofficial Culture of the GDR and its development after the Wende

With the discovery in 1991 that some of the key players in the unofficial literary scene were involved with the ‘Staatssicherheit’ (secret police) the myth of the celebrated samizdat culture of Prenzlauer Berg was spectacularly destroyed. Two decades after the fall of the wall the literary texts published as part of that scene, which have now often disappeared into museum holdings and private collections, are overdue for reappraisal. Judged from today’s perspective what is the aesthetic and political potential of the experimental works by writers like Leonhard Lorek, Bert Papenfuß, Jan Faktor, Andreas Koziol, Gabriele Stötzer-Kachold, Elke Erb, Ulrich Zieger, Stefan Döring, Uwe Kolbe and others which strove to deconstruct language and break genre boundaries?

An exhibition held in 2009 at the Water Tower in Prenzlauer Berg (curated by a student group led be me) documented the extent and variety of the original magazines, artists’ books, posters, photographs artworks, film and music of the unofficial East Berlin scene of the last years of the GDR. It also offered an opportunity to examine the pathways and fates of the c. 80 authors and artists involved in it after unification. Why did so many of the small independent publishing houses and magazines founded at that time fold in the new Germany? Which authors and texts have become part of the accepted canon of the new Germany and which others have failed in that bid and why?