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Mapping Spaces

Reimagining East German Society in 1960s Fiction

by Francesca Goll (Author)
Monographs XII, 262 Pages
Series: German Life and Civilization, Volume 67

Summary

In the process of establishing the social and political reality of the German Democratic Republic, writers played a crucial role. The specific feature of GDR literary texts of the 1960s lies in their attempt at imagining and representing the emergence of a community that had previously not existed. A new sense of common belonging was being promoted. This study focuses on the ways in which Werner Bräunig and Erik Neutsch negotiated this tension in their novels by analysing the spatial and topographical dimensions of the texts. If literary texts map power structures by rewriting cartographies, then the analysis of the latter will shed light on the socio-political models that are being advocated. Neutsch’s Spur der Steine (1964) and Bräunig’s fragment Rummelplatz (2007) were both written in the 1960s but enjoyed a very different reception: while the former became a bestseller, the latter was censored and published posthumously in 2007. Yet they both speak to GDR society of the 1960s, highlighting the evocative power of literature within the East German context – and beyond.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1 The Aesthetics of Socio-Political Restructuring through the Prism of Mikhail M. Bakhtin and Benedict Anderson
  • Part I Werner Bräunig’s Rummelplatz (2007)
  • Chapter 2 Topography and Mapping
  • Chapter 3 Perspectives on Perspectives: The Poetics of Thirdspace and the Self-Reflectivity of the Text
  • Chapter 4 Chronotopes and Heteroglossia: ‘The novel as epistemological outlaw’
  • Part II Erik Neutsch’s Spur der Steine (1964)
  • Chapter 5 ‘Wo bleibt die Literaturwissenschaft?’ Critical Responses to Spur der Steine
  • Chapter 6 The Trace, Poetics and Thirdspace: From ‘blaue Blume’ to ‘Blauhemd’
  • Chapter 7 Art(s) and the Chronotope(s)
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Series index

Francesca Goll

Mapping Spaces

Reimagining East German Society
in 1960s Fiction

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PETER LANG

Oxford Bern Berlin Bruxelles New York Wien

About the author

Francesca Goll is currently an Alexander von Humboldt Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Institut für deutsche Philologie at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. She holds a PhD from the University of Nottingham and an MSc from the London School of Economics. She has published on post-1945 literature and theories of space and has translated the poems of Mascha Kaléko into Italian.

About the book

In the process of establishing the social and political reality of the German Democratic Republic, writers played a crucial role. The specific feature of GDR literary texts of the 1960s lies in their attempt at imagining and representing the emergence of a community that had previously not existed. A new sense of common belonging was being promoted. This study focuses on the ways in which Werner Bräunig and Erik Neutsch negotiated this tension in their novels by analysing the spatial and topographical dimensions of the texts. If literary texts map power structures by rewriting cartographies, then the analysis of the latter will shed light on the socio-political models that are being advocated. Neutsch’s Spur der Steine (1964) and Bräunig’s fragment Rummelplatz (2007) were both written in the 1960s but enjoyed a very different reception: while the former became a bestseller, the latter was censored and published posthumously in 2007. Yet they both speak to GDR society of the 1960s, highlighting the evocative power of literature within the East German context – and beyond.

This eBook can be cited

This edition of the eBook can be cited. To enable this we have marked the start and end of a page. In cases where a word straddles a page break, the marker is placed inside the word at exactly the same position as in the physical book. This means that occasionally a word might be bifurcated by this marker.

Acknowledgements

My greatest thanks go to Franziska Meyer, whose intellectual rigour, intelligence and inspirational support guided me throughout this research. Our discussions and conversations remain with me far beyond the completion of my dissertation. I owe further thanks to Roger Woods, whose insightful comments have proved invaluable in the course of my research. I would also like to thank the University of Nottingham’s School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies for granting me a doctoral scholarship to conduct my research. I am grateful to the Renate Gunn Travel Fund, whose generous support allowed me to travel to Halle to interview the late Erik Neutsch in June 2013. Hans-Peter and Karin Schneider’s generous support helped me through the last stages of my research. Danke! Vielen Dank auch an Susanne Mucchi, für die interessanten Gespräche und den Einblick in Gabriele Mucchis Welt. Thanks to the Association of German Studies in Great Britain and Ireland (AGS) for granting me a publication subsidy and for the friendly and helpful support throughout the process. I am also endebted to my external examiner Astrid Köhler for supporting my application for the AGS publication subsidy. My gratitude goes also to the anonymous reviewer of the manuscript, who provided precious comments in the final run-up to publication. Thanks to the editors at Peter Lang for their help, patience and friendliness. A collective and heartfelt THANK YOU to all friends near and far for inspiring and challenging me, for all the debates and moments of insight.

Grazie, come sempre, a Claudia, Caterina e Fiorella. Come farei senza di voi!

A Frederik, compagno di letture e di vita: grazie di tutto.

Meinem Vater gilt der letzte Dank: zu schnell gelebt, zu früh gegangen und doch ganz da.←ix | x→ ←x | xi→

Abbreviations

AdK Akademie der Künste

ASV Archiv des Schriftstellerverbandes

ND Neues Deutschland

ndl neue deutsche literatur

MDV Mitteldeutscher Verlag←xi | xii→ ←xii | 1→

Introduction

This book explores the ways in which Werner Bräunig’s posthumously published text Rummelplatz (2007)1 and Erik Neutsch’s novel Spur der Steine (1964)2 conceptualise the early years in the GDR between 1949 and 1953, and 1959 and 1961. Bräunig’s text, albeit written in the early 1960s, was only published as a novel forty years later. The focus is on the different ways of building a restrospective historical narrative on the founding years of the GDR, by looking at the spatial structures sketched by two novels. The GDR’s founding years are closely analysed through the prism of literary texts. Historically, this entails a double focus: both on the time of writing and on the portrayed period. While historicising the findings of the analysis in the light of the early 1960s (between 1961 and 1965) would go beyond the scope of this study, this aspect remains firmly engrained in the analytical gaze of the author – it would most certainly deserve a separate study. The present one focuses on the ways in which periods of social and political restructuring, as between 1949 and 1953, and 1959 and 1961, are conceptualised in literature in terms of spatial models and practices. Destruction, reconstruction, rupture, just to name some of those practices, largely imply socio-political processes whose concrete realisation is tied to an imaginary of spatial restructuring. Analysing those two novels through the lens of their spatial practices sheds light on elements which have so far been largely neglected by scholarship. The challenge of juxtaposing two novels with diverging publishing records and two authors who have had radically different levels of success, is one of the core elements of this study. It also sets out to explore literary texts written during the GDR years without falling into a binary scheme of opposition versus party alignment,←1 | 2→ ‘Anpassung’ and ‘Widerspruch’3 or, as Gregor Ohlerich put it, ‘relative Autonomie’ and ‘Parteilichkeit’.4 In other words, the central elements of this study are the aesthetics of Rummelplatz and Spur der Steine, rather than their authors’ political stances.

Werner Bräunig’s biography and the publishing record of his fragmentary novel Rummelplatz illustrate the complexity of social, political and literary relations in the early 1960s and demonstrate the shortcomings of the often quoted correspondence between political activism and ‘politische Funktionalisierung’ of writers.5 The publishing history of the Rummelplatz fragments from 1965 onwards has been researched and very carefully presented in Angela Drescher’s afterword to the 2007 edition.6 In her study, she retraces Bräunig’s biographical as well as professional trajectory, devoting particular attention to the reception and treatment of the chapter published in neue deutsche literatur (ndl) in October 1965. The influence of the 11th Plenum of the SED’s Central Committee on cultural politics held in December 1965 also plays a prominent role in Drescher’s afterword, which highlights both the genesis of Bräunig’s text, as well as the unfortunate timing of the ndl publication.

Bräunig was born in 1934 and had a turbulent and little reported life until 1954, when he was released from prison.7 From that moment←2 | 3→ onwards he was involved in various social and cultural activities, worked as ‘Gewerkschaftsbibliothekar’, got married, had two daughters and began his writing career. He initially wrote short portraits, reportages and sketches for local and national newspapers such as Junge Welt and in 1958 he studied at the ‘Institut für Literatur Johannes R. Becher’ in Leipzig. Six months later he was asked to formulate the central slogan for the upcoming 1. Bitterfelder Konferenz. His slogan became famous – ‘Greif zur Feder, Kumpel!’ effectively communicated the need for close co-operation between labour and art and encouraged the workers to partake in cultural activities. In a 1961 survey carried out by the Writers’ Union, he expressed his intention to write an ‘Entwicklungsroman junger Menschen, die heute etwa dreißig sind, von 1949 bis 1959. Geplant 600 Seiten’.8 A year later, the Mitteldeutscher Verlag (MDV) and Bräunig signed a contract to secure the rights for the upcoming novel, which was meant to echo the success of Christa Wolf’s bestseller Der geteilte Himmel (1963).9 On the occasion of the ‘Geburtstag der Republik’, in October 1965, the journal ndl pre-published a chapter of Bräunig’s text; the criticism it encountered in the course of the autumn and winter 1965 was so vehement that publication of the text without completely rewriting it seemed impossible. Bräunig’s decision to set the novel in the uranium mine Wismut was a daring choice, particularly as Konrad Wolf’s film Sonnensucher (1958), which also focused on the working conditions in the Wismut, was not released until 1972. In the context of the Cold War, the Wismut was a crucial military facility providing in the one year of 1950, almost 60 per cent of Soviet uranium supplies. Angela Drescher points out:←3 | 4→

Biographical notes

Francesca Goll (Author)

Francesca Goll is currently an Alexander von Humboldt Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Institut für deutsche Philologie at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. She holds a PhD from the University of Nottingham and an MSc from the London School of Economics. She has published on post-1945 literature and theories of space and has translated the poems of Mascha Kaléko into Italian.

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