On the horns of a dilemma: clarity and ambivalence in oppositional writing in the wake of the uprising of 17 June 1953 in the German Democratic Republic
Harkin, Patrick P.
A civil Uprising on 17 June 1953 in the German Democratic Republic created a dilemma for a number of writers there. On one hand, they were deeply committed to the principles of socialism, upon which their state was based and which they saw as being put in grave danger by events such as those they experienced on 17 June. On the other hand, they were fiercely critical of the practice of socialism as pursued by the governing party, whose Stalinist methods of governance they believed to be in large part responsible for the civil unrest. My thesis explores the nature of this dilemma in the case of four writers, Bertolt Brecht, Heiner Müller, Stefan Heym and Erich Loest, and their efforts to resolve it within a repressive state, whose regime vigorously suppressed all signs of criticism or dissent. These writers created major works of fiction, a cycle of poems, a drama and two novels, in which the Uprising of 17 June is the central theme. In addition, each has provided a substantial body of non-fictional texts, largely journalistic and autobiographical, in which the Uprising is extensively contextualised. In bringing together and interrelating the fictional and non-fictional work of each author into my analysis, I have been able to demonstrate that all four held and publicly expressed views that set them in opposition to the regime in the GDR.