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Taking Sides

Stefan Heym’s Historical Fiction


Meg Tait

Stefan Heym was one of the most prominent critical writers of the German Democratic Republic, yet of the seven novels which he wrote and published there, five had historical settings. Meg Tait has worked closely with Heym’s archive. Focusing on the representation of historical figures, events and processes in selected works and in GDR political discourses and historical studies, she explores the range of motives and aims which lay behind the author’s lasting attraction to historical fiction. Heym consistently denied that he was a ‘dissident’ writer, but prided himself on his independent mind. The study offers a nuanced interpretation of his engagement with and understanding of political and cultural developments in the GDR.
Contents: Representation of history in Heym’s fiction and in GDR political discourses and historical studies – Heym as a ‘GDR author’ – This study focuses on three novels, The Lenz Papers (1964), Ahasver (1981) and Schwarzenberg (1984), and traces developing interests and emphases both in his fiction and in his political beliefs and attitudes as indicated in his journalism and speeches.