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This review is taken from PN Review 84, Volume 18 Number 4, March - April 1992.

AT THE ABYSS Günter Eich, Pigeons and Moles translated by Michael Hamburger (Skoob) £7.99

The poet and radio dramatist Gunter Eich, who died in 1972, published his first poems (under a pseudonym) at the age of twenty, his first collection three years later, in 1930. When the Nazis came to power, Eich decided he would join the party. His application was made on 1 May 1933 (the same day as Fritz Thyssen's and Herbert von Karajan's, as a matter of interest) and he was assigned membership number 2634901. But there were delays in formalizing new memberships that spring, since so many wanted to join following the Nazi election victory, and in the event Gunter Eich never became a paid-up member; having announced his membership in May, he was telling the Reichsverband Deutscher Schriftsteller on 4 August that he was not a National Socialist. One theory is that he was so disgusted by the book-burning of that May that he withdrew his application.

He did publish under the Nazis, though. Not in the strident papers, it's true, but in Das Innere Reich, a milder publication which also printed Bobrowski, Huchel, Krolow and Nossack in the mid-30s. One novella first published there was printed solus in an army edition that reached its forty-second impression in 1942. Those who have read this novella, Katharina, report that the worst that can be said against it, in all fairness, is that it is quite staggeringly removed from the events of its time. Eich stopped writing poetry under the Nazis, and only returned to the art after ...


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