The Role of the Writer and the Press in the Unification of Germany 1989-1990

The Role of the Writer and the Press in the Unification of Germany 1989-1990

The Role of the Writer and the Press in the Unification of Germany 1989-1990

The Role of the Writer and the Press in the Unification of Germany 1989-1990

Synopsis

This work explores the misconception that literary writers from East and West Germany opposed the unification of the two states from 1989 to 1990. It examines the contributions of nine writers, including names synonymous with opposition such as Stefan Heym and Walter Jens and argues that their opposition is in fact a myth. While focusing on the strategies of legitimatizing writers and their authority to speak on unification, this study also reflects on the relationship between the reception of literary and journalistic texts. Finally, the work explores the reasons for this mythologization and thus provides a contribution to debates on the future role of writers in the unified German state.

Excerpt

Durch unsere Revolution, durch die revolutionären Veränderungen in den anderen Ländern ist, zum erstenmal, eine Situation entstanden, die eine europäische Gemeinschaft wirklich real erscheinen läßt. Welch eine Vision. Zum erstenmal kann ich auf das Wort 'deutsch' stolz sein. (Königsdorf 1990h, 115)

Helga Königsdorf (b. 1938), East German writer and mathematician, writes these words in mid-December 1989, at a time when the inevitability of unification has become clear to her. She, like Stefan Heym, accompanies events from an early stage and formulates reform programmes, initially for an independent, but soon for a unified state. Whilst Heym shows a degree of disappointment when it becomes clear to him that reform would not precede unification, Königsdorf clearly feels that a united Germany, which has learned from the revolutionary events in Eastern Europe in 1989, could make a contribution to a genuine European community. For Königsdorf the events of 1989 have imbued the word 'deutsch' with a new and positive significance. Like Heym, she attempts to elaborate a detailed reform project for a united state. She too soon encounters difficulties in countering a dominant discourse which argues that reform for the GDR could only ever entail a catching-up process with the Federal Republic. Heym soon faces universal condemnation as a key oppositional writer, and finds his writing defamed or ignored. Königsdorf's reception suggests that she more successfully adapts to a dominant discourse in western newspapers, whilst restricting her critique and reform project to the pages of Neues Deutschland, an option that Heym would presumably not have entertained. In other words, from January 1990 Königsdorf conforms to a western discourse that argues that the GDR writers had 'failed', whereas her articles in Neues Deutschland show a writer determined to help shape a new German state through her critique. While one . . .

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