Questions to the narrator
- 00:10Is it difficult for you to write freely about life in the GDR in the late 1980s?
- 00:33Is there a group of young writers now in the GDR who are perhaps more critical of the GDR and society here than were some of their predecessors - I am thinking of writers like Brecht - who were less critical.
- 01:55You say it's difficult to publish for a writer here. Could you explain exactly what you mean?
- 03:26What are the taboo subjects now for writers in the GDR?
- 04:16How important is the Church for writers critical of the GDR government?
- 05:28Isn't it rather odd for you as a writer to be reading novels in the church. The Church has its own dogma and ideology. Does this sort of worry you?
- 06:13Has the relative greater stability and prosperity in the GDR made the regime more tolerant in general, more tolerant of literature?
- 08:55What is the most important thing?
TranscriptPlease note that this transcript is based on audio tracks and doesn't have to match exactly the video
Is it difficult for you to write freely about life in the GDR in the late 1980s?
(German translation) Are there any difficulties for you to write freely about life today, that is life in the GDR in the late 80s?
I don't at all have difficulties to write. I have difficulties to publish.
Is there a group of young writers now in the GDR who are perhaps more critical of the GDR and society here than were some of their predecessors - I am thinking of writers like Brecht - who were less critical.
(German translation) Is there a group of younger writers who view the GDR with more critical eyes than writers of a past generation as, for example, Bertolt Brecht?
Oh yes, quite certainly. That I believe however, already exists in between, that is between Brecht and those who are 30 and 25 today, already exists a generation of writers who in the course of time have really quite critically reflected their relationship with the GDR; and (who have) come from the attitude of the 50s, which were really still very much determined by class struggle and post war period, to a more distant relationship; well, I think of Fühmann, or Heiner Müller, Christa Wolf, too.
You say it's difficult to publish for a writer here. Could you explain exactly what you mean? (German translation) You said that you had difficulties at to print your work, to have it printed here. Could you tell us a little more about that?
Well, it is like this. If you have a publishing house here which – well, this is what’s happened to me – I had my first book here with a GDR publishing house, this book was also rather generously ad aided by grants although it was my first, and it was accepted by this publishing house, too. But after that one has to get printing permission from the Ministry of Culture. And my first novel didn't get this printing permission. And thus even the decision of the publishing house to print my book is obsolete. Well and I then later on gave the book to Fischer Verlag in Frankfurt am Main, in West Germany and that meant that the problem for the next books too was solved (literally: decided) for some time. So they were then not printed for some time anyhow, 'cos then the texts weren't at issue any more, then the person is at issue. But now – 10 years after my first book was finished, it is supposed to decide, appear (translator's note: Freudian slip here – the two verbs are similar in German) and I hope then – it will change.
What are the taboo subjects now for writers in the GDR?
(German translation) How are, what are, nowadays, the taboo-themes for a writer in the GDR now?
Well you know it's always very difficult to say that for everyone. I can really say that for myself, but the writer doesn't accept the taboos, you know – at least I hope so also for the others. The taboos you know lie with those who should publish the books and that, I believe, are after all first and foremost questions of inner-state democracy.
How important is the Church for writers critical of the GDR government?
(German translation) How important is the Church for writers who take a critical attitude towards the GDR government and society?
Well it really is very important. The Church is, not only for writers, (but) also for theatre groups, free (ones) or something, really has become a cultural centre, and I, for example, can so far only ever read in churches, and because many people know that, that means young people too, who don't go to church because of religious bonds, but go to cultural events; and also go there to meet each other there and to talk about problems about which they cannot otherwise talk at school or other youth groups. And for writers, and especially too when they aren't printed, it's a very important possibility, to reach their readers here at all.
Isn't it rather odd for you as a writer to be reading novels in the church. The Church has its own dogma and ideology. Does this sort of worry you?
(German translation) Isn't it strange for a writer like you to read novels in the church? The Church has its dogmata and ideology, the Church has after all its own dogmata and ideology. Don't you mind that?
I am an atheist and have been brought up atheist. I don't have the other bonds to the Church, and I regard it as rather normal to be reading novels in the church.
Has the relative greater stability and prosperity in the GDR made the regime more tolerant in general, more tolerant of literature?
(German translation) Has the relatively high standard of living in the republic brought about that the state appears to be more tolerant towards literature now?
Ah well, if it's the higher living standard, I don't know. I believe that the state on the whole has changed its objectives; while 20 years ago the ideological dogmata were much stronger, now such economic and quite pragmatic problems are in the forefront; well you can see that in the part played by the other currency – that means the West German currency, or generally Western currency – in this country. Or that people are even given satisfaction through the use of use of such economic concessions. I believe that the high ideological demand, as dubious as it was of course, and as little as we liked it, but that it has been abandoned anyway. And really it is becoming increasingly hollow what is written in the paper, nobody believes it any more either; I think that even those who write it don't believe it. And that the state is becoming more generous in the in the questions of literature has, I believe, on the one hand to do with this pragmatic way of thinking, on the other with the fact that the GDR, you know, also had to open up in many ways because of the diplomatic recognition. There are journalists in the country, the GDR is reported on differently. The part of Western television in the GDR you know is very special in itself, that means, you know, that people see everything they want to see anyhow. I think much comes together here; I wouldn't want to attribute it so unequivocally to (the fact) that the standard of living is higher because in comparison to West Germany - and that is what people here take as a comparison and according to which they measure their own country - it's really still not that brilliant.
What is the most important thing?
Well in a way I don't want to answer that because I don't know what would be the single thing. I know that one of several important things but which probably really weighs on the hearts of all people h ere that's the impossibility of leaving the country. And I don't at all mean that what is now being made half-way possible that one can visit one's relatives from time to time, but that one can simply, like other people and from other countries too (visit) the, well, places one dreams of (literally: dream places) which every person has in his life, (that one) can visit and can then return; that one can live somewhere else for half a year and come back to Germany means come back to the GDR, I better say. That I think is something the state, in the long run, will not be able to avoid. That would be the most important (thing) if I think about what most people now would probably say was the most important. I think there are also others but that will lead too far.
Monika Maron (1941)
Monika Maron was born on June 3, 1941 in Berlin. Her maternal grandfather was a Polish Jew who had converted to Baptism, who moved from Lodz to Berlin with his wife, a Polish Catholic who had also converted to Baptism, in 1907 in order to build a secure living as a master tailor for the family in the city.
Maron's mother Hella, who lost her father in August 1942 in the Belchatow ghetto or in the Kulmhof camp, grew up in the Berlin working-class district of Neukölln. During the war she was engaged to a soldier at the front, then married to Karl Maron (1903–1975), who made a career in the Soviet zone / GDR after 1945, a. a. as Interior Minister of the GDR 1955–1963. 1951 Change of residence from West to East Berlin.
As a student, Monika Maron was actively involved in the FDJ (Free German Youth - the only state-recognized and sponsored youth organization in the GDR), and later in the SED. After graduating from high school (1959), she worked for a year as a milling cutter in an industrial company, then for two years as an assistant director for television. From 1962 to 1966 she studied theater studies and art history in East Berlin. Then she was a scientific aspirant at the drama school in Berlin. From 1971–76 she worked as a reporter, first for the women's magazine “Für Dich” (“For You”) and later for the “Wochenpost” (“Weekly Mail”). Monika Maron has been a freelance writer since 1976. In 1981 her first novel “Flugasche” (“Fly Ash”) appeared, in which she openly complains about the environmental sins in the GDR. Because of its critical content, this “first environmental book of the GDR” was not published in the GDR, but in West Germany by S. Fischer. In 1982 “Das Mißverständnis” ("The Misunderstanding") followed, from which "Ada and Evald" was premiered in 1983 as a play in Wuppertal. In the novel "Die Überläuferin" published in 1986, she deals with a dropout.
After increasing political alienation, she left the GDR with her husband and their son on a three-year visa in 1988. She lived in Hamburg until 1992 and then moved back to Berlin.
After German reunification, she often takes a public position on German-German relations. She publishes some of these articles and essays in the volume "Nach Maßgabe meiner Begreifungskraft" ("According to my understanding power").
In 1995 Monika Maron was able to refute the allegation of the Stasi past. According to their own statements, their cooperation is limited to two reports of their impressions during a stay in West Berlin. The reports turned out to be critical of the GDR; There are no further indications for a cooperation with the Stasi.
Sie erhält Gastdozenturen in Zürich und Frankfurt am Main. 2009 ist sie Mainzer Stadtschreiberin. Im selben Jahr erhält sie den Deutschen Nationalpreis.
In 2010 the volume „Zwei Brüder. Gedanken zur Einheit 1989 bis 2009“ (“Zwei Brüder. Thoughts on Unity, 1989 to 2009”), which brings together Maron’s essays and speeches on German reunification and its consequences.
Since 2010 she has repeatedly expressed herself critical of Islam in national newspapers. In 2018 Monika Maron published the novel "Munin or Chaos in the Head", in which a fictional author discovers parallels between the Thirty Years' War and Germany today under the influence of the refugee crisis.
Recently she has repeatedly complained about a lack of public discourse and defamation of dissenting opinions in the media, schools and universities.