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Retrospect and Review

Aspects of the Literature of the GDR 1976-1990

In Retrospect and Review an international team of scholars explore East German literature, and the circumstances of its production, in the last phase of the German Democratic Republic's existence. The provocative claim of the novelist, playwright and essayist Christoph Hein, ‘Ich nehme außerdem für mich in Anspruch [...] elfmal das Ende der DDR beschrieben zu haben,' serves as the starting-point for the twenty-three contributors to the volume, who consider the many and varied ways in which Hein and his fellow writers signalled and diagnosed the demise of the GDR. The fraught relationship between the state and its intellectuals inevitably forms a consistent theme in the studies of writers as diverse as Anna Seghers and Kito Lorenc, Christa Wolf and Jurek Becker, or Irmtraud Morgner and Heiner Müller. However, the process of ‘retrospect and review' also reveals the innovative and independent-minded character of the culture of the GDR's later years. Several contributors trace the emergence of a strong and distinctive women's writing which increasingly and subversively imposed itself on the hitherho patriarchal literary landscape of the GDR. And in the literature of the 1970s and 1980s experimental narrative strategies take on a political role as a counter-discourse to a stubbornly inflexible political order.