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  • Post-Wall Literary Reflections on the Concept of Utopia
  • Gabriele Eckart

"Die Utopie lebte in der DDR," the East German scholar Karin Hirdina remembered nostalgically in 1990. She explained, "Es war der Traum von einem solidarischen Gemeinwesen ohne Hierarchien, als Alternative zur Welt des Geldes. Ein Leben voller Freundlichkeit, mit sinnvoller Arbeit" (qtd. in Cosentino, "Wolfgang Hegewald" 156). Not only after the collapse of the GDR but even during the time of the GDR this notion of utopia plunged into a deep crisis. Today, many East Germans, embittered about what communist utopia led to during forty years of "real socialism," reject not only the communist notion of utopia directed towards the creation of a classless society, but utopian thought altogether. But, there are other views on utopia. This article will examine three basic attitudes among East German writers towards the concept of utopia after the fall of the Wall: While some had turned to an anti-utopian stance, others voiced a lasting affection for the Marxist-Leninist project of a classless society and proposed a new socialist experiment, while a third group rejected this project as merely a second experiment of dubious prospects and humans as guinea pigs, calling instead for concrete changes that might overcome capitalist society's limitations.

Members of the first group that rejects not only the communist notion of utopia but utopian thought altogether after the collapse of the GDR are prominent writers such as Günter de Bruyn, Erich Loest, and Uwe Kolbe. In his autobiography, Vierzig Jahre, de Bruyn states his conviction "daß Staaten, die für die Zukunft den Himmel versprechen, in der Gegenwart Hölle sind" (55). Loest, in his essay "Wider die Dunkelmänner unserer Zeit," plays with the contrast between the idealistic Don Quixote and the realistic Sancho Panza. He attacks Quixote, whom he sees as a symbol for those East Germans who still cling to their wishful thinking about a society without classes, while enthusiastically praising the earthy Panza: "Aber die Sancho Panzas waren längst mit ihren Trabant-Eseln zu neuen Ufern unterwegs" (1) - an allusion to the masses of East Germans who had set out to see the world as soon as the Wall had come down. In his essay "Die liegende Kuh," Kolbe, one generation younger than de Bruyn and Loest, summarizes the history of the GDR with the words: "ein großes Schweigen, ein Nichts als Antwort auf die Geschichte des utopischen Denkens, Hoffens, Sehnens der Menschheit" (3). Embittered about his loss of years of life in the GDR, the author tries to detect what went wrong, [End Page 591] what caused the transformation of utopia into, as he perceives it, dystopia. The utopian idea in its communist version, Kolbe states, was established in the economically weak country of Russia after World War I as a "Kriegskrüppel." Soon, this utopian project changed to a "nicht mehr utopische, nunmehr reale und auch sofort, auf die meisten Gedanken ihrer Erfinder bezogen, perverse und weniger Gesellschafts- als Herrschaftsform, als Organisationsform der Macht" (2). Economically, this form of power meant a new "Art und Weise der Umverteilung zugunsten einer selbsternannten Elite" (2). Sarcastically, Kolbe continues:

Nun hatte der deutsche Zivilisationsbruch mit dem Holocaust und dem 2. Weltkrieg den Einbruch genau dieser Real-Utopie [...] in einen Teil des früheren deutschen Territoriums ermöglicht, vorbereitet, im Sinne einer bestimmten Lesart der Geschichte absolut notwendig gemacht. Etwa so: Der nationalsozialistische Ausstieg aus der Geschichte der zivilisierten Menschheit hat doch prächtig geklappt, hat sogar noch etwas übrig gelassen von der Potenz und Effizienz dieser Nation. Da versuchen wir doch gleich einmal den Ausstieg mit anderer, triftiger Begründung. Das vorher war notwendige Krönung des Kapitalismus in seiner imperialistischen Form, siehe Dimitroff. Dagegen hilft krönender Sozialismus, die Sache mit der Köchin, die den Staat regieren wird, frei nach Lenin.

(2)

Kolbe goes on to show the absurd outcome of this experiment, referring to the torchlight processions that too much looked like those of the Nazis, to the slogans in the SED's newspaper Neues Deutschland, to the political demonstrations in which the people were obligated or coaxed into participating, and the dignitaries of the party young people were...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1911-026X
Print ISSN
0037-1939
Pages
pp. 591-603
Launched on MUSE
2011-11-18
Open Access
No
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