Academic journal article German Quarterly

Literatur in der Diktatur. Schreiben im Nationalsozialismus und DDR-Sozialismus

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Literatur in der Diktatur. Schreiben im Nationalsozialismus und DDR-Sozialismus

Article excerpt

Ruither, Gunther, ed. Literatur in der Diktatur. Schreiben im Nationalsozialismus and DDR-Sozialismus. Paderborn: Schoningh, 1997. 508 pp. DM 29.80 paperback.

Why would one want to edit a collection of essays on literature in the Third Reich and in the GDR? Is it really possible or productive to compare the literatures in these states and thereby also make, at least implicitly, assumptions about similarities between the two regimes? An editorial statement by Ginther Ruther at the end of the foreword does little to clarify these issues: "Dem Band geht es nicht um einen Vergleich der Literatur in beiden deutschen Diktaturen dieses Jahrhunderts. Schon gar nicht geht er von einer Gleichsetzung aus. Der Leser wird jedoch bemerken, daB sich die Mechanismen der nationalsozialistischen Diktatur ahnlich wie die der SED-Diktatur auf das schriftstellerische Schaffen ausgewirkt haben" (11). This is, of course, a highly contradictory remark. There is no interest in a direct comparison, but nevertheless we are to assume that there are similarities?

For that is exactly what the editor, affiliated with the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, claims elsewhere. Shortly before the section quoted above, he claims that the publication of Ernst JUnger's Marmorklippen (1939) during the Third Reich can be considered as equally sensational ("ebenso als Sensation empfunden werden" [91) as the publication of Christa Wolf's Nachdenken fiber Christa T (1968) in the GDR. Ruther's comparison is a clear reference to the first and arguably most prominent essay in the collection, Eberhard Lammert's contribution entitled "Vom Elend des Schreibens unter Diktaturen." But Lammert avoids exactly the kind of parallels that Rather draws. Lammert does not directly compare the two texts, insisting instead on the particular historical circumstances under which they originated and on the highly ambiguous, but in essence also very different, situations in which the authors found themselves.

Lammert, in other words, makes clear that one should be very careful about assuming ideological connections between authors and their texts as well as about comparing historical contexts. And indeed, many contributors to this collection do a fine job in working out the historical contexts of individual authors and works. In a contribution entitled "Zwischen Kritik and Affirmation," Helmut Kiesel points to some fundamental ambiguities underlying Ernst Junger's political alliances. Walter Schmitz gives a very sympathetic and nuanced, but also highly critical, view of Johannes R. Becher's position in the GDR. The same goes for Sonja Hilzinger's stimulating essay on Anna Seghers. Frauke Meyer-Gosau, on the other hand, does a much less careful job in a discussion of Christa Wolf's texts. …

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