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This review is taken from PN Review 174, Volume 33 Number 4, March - April 2007.

HARD TIMES REINER KUNZE, MIREILLE GANSEL, 'In Time of Need'. A Conversation about Poetry, Resistance and Exile. Translated by Edmund Jephcott. With an Essay by Ritchie Robertson. (Libris)

Unlike many of his friends, Peter Huchel remained in Germany for the duration of the Third Reich and until he was called up earned a living by writing radio plays, few of which have been published. In addition individual poems appeared in periodicals such as Die literarische Welt and Das innere Reich. After 1945 it was widely claimed that he had responded to National Socialism with silence. Here for example is Willy Haas in 1959: 'I love your poems, but I should also like to honour you today for your upright, unbending character. You opposed Goebbels in all his might with a weapon against which even he was powerless: the weapon of silence. You stayed in Germany - but you remained silent...' It has to be said that for anyone not caught up in the rhetoric of public address this is less than persuasive. How does silence register as opposition, indeed a weapon, and not as acquiescence? However, since we know Huchel did publish a number of poems in the Hitler years the integrity of silence is no longer an issue and gives way to charges of complicity - which is where this conversation comes in, in March 2004.

Reiner Kunze and Mireille Gansel were close to Huchel during his last years in East Germany. She has read an article - 'the most thorough survey of Huchel's publications in the nineteen thirties' (Robertson) - which at first left her in such ...

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