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This review is taken from PN Review 170, Volume 32 Number 6, July - August 2006.

REHABILITATING A REPUTATION REINER KUNZE and MIREILLE GANSEL, In Time of Need, translated by Edmund Jephcott, with an essay by Ritchie Robertson (Libris) £20

'In Time of Need' is principally a book about the German poet Peter Huchel. Huchel was an 'inner emigrant': he did not leave Germany during the war, and he tried to continue to write and publish. This meant uncomfortable proximity to the Nazi régime. Reiner Kunze, a dissident East German writer until his move to the West in 1977, winner of the Georg Büchner and Friedrich Hölderlin prizes, was a friend of Huchel. Here, in this vivid dialogue, he defends his friend's apoliticism and decision to stay in Germany to continue writing. Huchel, he says, was 'faithful and true'.

Subtitled 'A Conversation about Poetry, Resistance and Exile', the conversation referred to, which occurred in March 2004 (the volume was first published in Germany, this English translation is by Edmund Jephcott), was between Kunze and his French translator Mireille Gansel, also the translator of Nelly Sachs. Gansel was about to undertake the translation of Huchel, whom she had known, but found herself unnerved by his war-time record: 'It was a shock to me when I found out... that Huchel had published many poems in the Nazi period, even in the first issue of the periodical Das innere Reich, which had also contained the text of a speech by Goebbels.' She spoke with Kunze, in Obernzell-Erlau, his home in Bavaria.

Kunze was not the only one to champion Huchel: Brecht supported the poet and Hans Erich Nossack wrote, 'How highly political [Huchel's] anti-political attitude is, only ...


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