"Bathrick's study is potentially the most important book on GDR culture to appear in the English language...It is the kind of book which changes the way we look at things and will clearly be a 'must read' for anyone in the field." (Patricia A. Herminghouse, editor of Frauen im Mittelpunkt: An Anthology of Contemporary German Women Writers). In this definitive study, David Bathrick examines East German culture both before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989. Bathrick argues that dissident East German writers were unique among East European literary intellectuals in that they attempted "to open up alternative spaces for public speech from within [the] framework" of Marxism and state socialism. According to Bathrick, "the fact that some of them had been censored, hunted, questioned, and ridiculed does not belie the fact that they were also - and sometimes even simultaneously - privileged, nurtured, courted, and coddled...It was precisely their function on 'both sides' of the power divide, as official and nonofficial voices within the whole, which defined a particular kind of intellectual in the GDR."
Bathrick applies his insights into this "particular kind of intellectual" to a wide range of topics. He compares oppositional culture in East Germany to radical cultures elsewhere, examines the complex political and cultural relations of East and West Germany, traces the anguished history of the East German avant-garde, and describes the troubled effort to develop a revolutionary theatrical tradition in East Germany. The book also includes nuanced insights into the collapse of the East German political order in the late 1980s and more recent revelations about the collaboration of allegedly oppositional writers with the Stasi (state police). In his treatment of these and other issues, Bathrick enters hotly contested territory. Yet he brings clarity and scrupulous fairness to these issues that are still very much alive in Germany - and elsewhere - today. David Bathrick is professor and chair of the Department of German Studies at Cornell University. He is editor of New German Critique and author of The Dialect and the Early Brecht: Trommeln in der Nacht.