Crossing Germany’s Iron Curtain

Uncensored Literature from the gdr and the Other Europe

In: East Central Europe
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In recent years, historians have slowly lost interest in depicting the Cold War as a unique ideological contest between the “real existing” socialist East and the capitalist West. In this spirit, this text examines the social practice of literary transfers, i.e., the exchange of literary works across borders. These transfers sought to physically restore an unraveled Europe that had come about as a result of the ideological and often personal division of Europe’s (and Germany’s) populations. Focusing on the practice of literary transfers across the Iron Curtain permits us to understand borders as symbolic spaces of the Cold War, although they had supposedly been hermetically sealed. Current research on opposition movements in Cold War Europe is still dominated by the widespread notion that oppositional phenomena in the gdr represent a research area distinct from other oppositional movements in the Eastern bloc. Possibly due to Germany’s singular dividedness, this perception has often led to individual studies of oppositional phenomena, especially in the literary field, in the former gdr, thereby obscuring parallels in Central and Eastern Europe. As a critical response, this text distances itself from the division of the Soviet bloc’s cultural history into irreconcilable geographical subareas. In doing so, it exemplifies literary transfers both across the German-German border as well as across the East-West Iron Curtain.

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