Life writing produced after the collapse of the GDR holds public interest because its writers broach issues of compromise, guilt, and responsibility. Autobiographical narratives in particular can provide unique insights into the struggles experienced by those living under an authoritarian regime. Günter de Bruyn, born in 1926, grew up at the end of the Weimar Republic, experiencing the GDR's collapse and German unification as a writer. Critics have discussed his role as ‘the figurehead’ of post‐Unification literature, with his autobiographies seen as an honest attempt to convey the reality of life in an authoritarian society. The two volumes of his autobiography, Zwischenbilanz and Vierzig Jahre, chart his development from playing the system for personal benefit, to compromise and literary success, and finally resistance to the GDR regime. This analysis demonstrates how the key questions of the truth and value of autobiography can be addressed by showing how the writer's inner turmoil is representative of life in a complex, ambiguous, and multilayered society. Inner conflict emerges as part of the ‘habitus’ of conflicting dispositions between but also within individuals and groups. De Bruyn's account is representative of many East German intellectuals, rendering the existence of conflicting beliefs within the self an integral part of living when put to the test under authoritarian regimes.
German Life and Letters – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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