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This report is taken from PN Review 78, Volume 17 Number 4, March - April 1991.

Letter from Germany Iain Galbraith
 
Certainly, the bad old days are over. It is far from clear, however, what the bad new ones will entail. When, on the second day of the 1990 Frankfurt Book Fair (3 October), the two Germanies were made one, there was some rustling of contracts, but no bells, no noise of a wedding celebration. Indeed, the tone set in many of the essays which traditionally preface the book supplements of the big national newspapers during the week of the Book Fair tended this year to be more funereal than triumphant. But then, funerals are also celebrations: of departures, of final separations. Thus Volker Hage's essay in Die Zeit, ('Something was there: something will remain' [5 October 1990], an allusion to the debate surrounding Christa Wolf's book Was bleibt), was subtitled 'A farewell to the GDR and its literature - without nostalgia, though not without hopes'. Hage's tone is conciliatory, drawing a smoothing hand over the frowns and grimaces of the current debate and concluding that we are not now shifting into the era of a new, German 'national literature', but, quite simply, that literature will continue to be written in the German language - by Germans, Swiss, Austrians and authors elsewhere.

In Hage's opinion there only ever was one German literature - wherever it may have been written. There was a German literature written in the GDR, for example, but there was never a 'GDR-literature'. Of course, he is right to say that attempts by East German ...


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