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Behind the Legends

The Cult of Personality and Self-Presentation in the Literary Works of Stefan Heym


John Heath

Stefan Heym’s very beginnings as a writer were a direct response to the threat of Fascism and the mass veneration of Hitler, and in his American exile he was to encounter the marketing and image machinery of capitalism and democratic politics. After arriving in the GDR in the wake of McCarthyism he was then confronted with the Stalin cult and the stark contradiction between the personality cult and the purported aims of the Communist vision. This book examines Heym’s response to a problem that did not die out with the collapse of the Soviet bloc and which he treated as a universal phenomenon, and probes the extent to which he employed various publicity techniques to shape his own reception as a writer. In this analysis of an often controversial figure, the author draws on much uncovered archive material, and places close readings in a broad context; this is one of few studies that deal with Heym’s career as a whole, from his beginnings in the Weimar Republic and Czechoslovakia and his overnight success in America through to his eminence as an intellectual public figure in the GDR and the reunified Germany.
Contents: The Cult of Personality, Genie and Charisma – Fascists, Capitalists and Communists: Charisma and Self-Presentation in Heym’s Early Novels – The ‘Inventors of Stalinism’: Heym’s Historical Fiction after the Twentieth Party Congress – Unveiled Criticism: Direct Portrayals of Stalin and Stalinism – ‘Schiebende’: Women, Bureaucrats and Catalysts – Literary Monuments: The ‘Cult’ of the Writer? – Instinctive Socialism: Championing Equality.