glossen 10: Bestandsaufnahme — Zur deutschen Literatur nach der Vereinigung
A Pioneering Work of Autobiographical Fiction or a Travesty of the Biographical Facts? Stephan Hermlin’s Abendlicht in the light of Karl Corino’s Die Legenden des Stephan Hermlin[1]
Dennis Tate

The context in which I want to place this reassessment of Stephan Hermlin’s creative importance is that of the ‘deutsch-deutscher Literaturstreit’, which has been such an enduring feature of cultural life since the collapse of the GDR. Although the term was coined in 1990 to describe the conflicting responses to the publication of Christa Wolf’s Was bleibt and to the accusation levelled against her that she was a mere “Staatsdichterin”,[2] ‘Literaturstreit’ also serves in a wider sense as a valid way of describing the ongoing series of disputes running through the 1990s, which has at times had the appearance of a concerted effort on the part of the West German media to discredit all the literary figureheads of the ex-GDR: not just Wolf (whose early minor role as a Stasi IM provided a new focus for attack when the details were exposed in 1993),[3] but the other writers of the older generation whose literary achievements have been recognised internationally, notably Heiner Müller, Stefan Heym and Stephan Hermlin. Müller was subject to similar scrutiny in 1993 regarding his alleged links with the Stasi and opted, like Wolf, to publish the relevant files in order to allay further suspicion,[4] while Heym found himself having to defend his more partisan pro-GDR statements of the 1950s after he became a candidate for Bundestag membership in 1994, especially when it was realised that he would have the right, if elected, as the oldest member of the new Bundestag, to give the opening address.[5] Hermlin’s turn came in 1996 with the publication of Karl Corino’s biography "Außen Marmor, innen Gips". Die Legenden des Stephan Hermlin following a carefully orchestrated press campaign.[6] This was Corino’s second high-profile piece of detective work, in the wake of his less controversial exposure of Hermann Kant as a “Multifunktionär” with a long association with the Stasi, in the volume Die Akte Kant, published in 1995.[7] Kant, however, was by then no longer regarded by most commentators as a writer of the first rank. Corino’s investigation into Hermlin was more far-reaching, as it was directed both at his personal integrity and at his still unchallenged literary reputation.

The question which will arise from this case-study of what we might call the ‘Hermlin affair’ of 1996-97 is whether, perhaps because of the triumphalism in the way Corino conducted this particular attack and the widespread unease this provoked, it might have helped to bring the post-unification "Literaturstreit" to an end. It might thus also have cleared the way for a more productive, informed approach to reviewing the literature of the ex GDR, especially where, as in the case of Abendlicht, the relationship between authorial experience and its conversion into first-person prose narrative is a complex one.

When Abendlicht was published simultaneously in both German states in the autumn of 1979 it became one of the rare all-German success stories of GDR literature. Few works can have been more extensively introduced in advance to their readers in the form of excerpts in newspapers and journals (in both states)[8] and then reviewed in almost unanimously positive terms as a subtly composed work of art. Abendlicht added very significantly to the genre of autobiographically based proseworks such as Christa Wolf’s Kindheitsmuster (1976) and Franz Fühmann’s 22 Tage oder Die Hälfte des Lebens (1973), for which Wolf had coined the phrase “subjektive Authentizität”,[9] signalling a growing determination to free creative writing from direct Party control. Abendlicht was seen as politically significant, as encapsulated by the episode where the narrator admits to having misread the key passage in the Communist Manifesto in which the free development of the individual is seen as the precondition for the free development of society as a whole, and not vice versa.[10] But Hermlin’s primary achievement was seen as being an aesthetic one, arising from his success in distilling the essence of his experience over some sixty years into the twenty-seven short sections which make up this slim volume, weaving in motifs from music and art to create a utopian sense of coherent wholeness. Although the biographical continuity from a privileged upbringing in the Weimar Republic via antifascist resistance in Hitler’s Germany and wartime France into the GDR is clearly evident, the compositional principle is that of juxtaposition of conscious and subconscious experience, placing moments of remembered experience alongside what is often nightmarish dream narrative, in a way which shows how elusive the longed-for goal of personal fulfilment within socialism had become by the middle 1970s, in any other sphere apart from the creative act itself.

Given the quality of Hermlin’s prose and the high personal standing he enjoyed as the co-ordinator of the protest against Wolf Biermann’s expatriation just a couple of years previously, it is hardly surprising that Abendlicht was very favourably received after its simultaneous publication in both German states. In the GDR there was a concerted effort by all the cultural media to acknowledge the aesthetic uniqueness of the text, which only partially concealed their concern that the political disillusionment which can be deduced from Hermlin’s passages on post-war communism might leave him exposed to internal ideological attack, as so often in the past. Even Neues Deutschland, in the person of Hans Richter, gave its full endorsement to Abendlicht,[11] while Weimarer Beiträge stood out amongst the leading cultural journals in publishing an overwhelmingly supportive debate led by academic critics like Hans Kaufmann, Therese Hörnigk and Jürgen Kuczynski.[12] Although there was still no sign of Proust being published in the GDR, it was now evidently unproblematic to refer to Abendlicht as a “‘Suche nach der verlorenen Zeit” in the same modernist tradition.[13] By 1981 a first detailed analysis of Hermlin’s text had appeared, also in Weimarer Beiträge, written by Hans-Georg Werner, which is still of fundamental value today as a model of sympathetic structural analysis.[14]

In the Federal Republic the response was very similar. Die Zeit, having already treated its readers to pre-publication excerpts and highlighted the unusual nature of the text by comparing it to André Malraux’s Anti-Mémoires,[15] invited the distinguished GDR exile and old friend of Hermlin’s, Hans Mayer, to write the review, which provided a sensitive account of its utopian qualities.[16] Der Spiegel asked Reinhard Lettau, an author with special research interests in the Third Reich, to provide its review of Abendlicht and found him full of praise for the authenticity of the fragmentary style, the “Ästhetik des versteckten Zeigens” which Lettau saw as a welcome contrast to the “schamlose Selbstentblößung” of so much contemporary West German writing of a subjective kind.[17] One of the few dissenting voices was that of the critic of the Stuttgarter Zeitung, a certain Karl Corino, who moderated his praise for the “stilistische Glanz dieser Prosa” with a list of the sensitive issues relating to the Stalinist purges, the Spanish Civil War and the GDR’s repressive cultural policy, which Hermlin had at best only hinted at.[18] But Western academic critics, as in the GDR, wasted little time before praising Hermlin’s creative achievement in integrating a post Freudian understanding of the psyche into a prose narrative for the first time in GDR literature, as Bernhard Greiner demonstrated in a long article published in 1982.[19]

Common to the reviews and early articles on Abendlicht – it needs to be stressed in view of the level at which the debate has been conducted in recent years – is a sensitivity to the subtle differences between writing an autobiographical memoir and a composed piece of first-person prose in the spirit of Christa Wolf’s "subjective authenticity." The debate of 1980 in Weimarer Beiträge was informed from the outset by this understanding of the special status of Abendlicht. “Weder der Begriff "Memoiren" noch die Form Autobiographie treffen für Abendlicht zu”, said Therese Hörnigk in the opening contribution. She continued: “Dabei interessiert in keinem Augenblick vordergründig der dokumentarische Charakter. [...] Es fesselt die Kunst der Imagination, die Kultur der Vorstellungskraft [...]”.[20] The detailed article by Hans-Georg Werner a year later in the same journal also added a preliminary warning: “Der Gesichtspunkt, von dem her die Lebenslandschaft in Abendlicht erscheint, ist ein gestalteter, wenn auch dem realen Standort des Autors ähnlich. Bei einer Dichtung von stark autobiographischem Charakter liegt die Verwechslung beider nahe; das macht ihre Unterscheidung dringlich [...]”.[21] Similarly in the West German reception we find Hans Mayer referring to the special nature of “lyrische Prosa”,[22] Reinhard Lettau discussing “Authentizität” as a literary quality,[23] and Bernhard Greiner differentiating between “‘das beschriebene Ich”, “das schreibende Ich” and “das erschriebene Ich” in his close analysis of how the first-person voice transcends the limits of autobiography in its endeavour to convey a sense of aesthetic totality.[24]

With hindsight Abendlicht can be seen as one of the last utopian statements of GDR literature in the way it maintains a fragile balance between the symbolism of the late evening light conveyed in the title, evidently marking the end of an era of political hope, and an almost religious faith in the coming of a new dawn out of the darkness, evoked at the beginning of the text by motifs taken from the biblical text of Bach’s Easter Cantata.[25] In the bleaker 1980s the narrative techniques of subjective authenticity were less frequently employed by GDR authors (with some notable exceptions such as Helga Königsdorf in her Respektloser Umgang of 1986) while explicitly autobiographical statements began to be used as the vehicle for final reckonings with the GDR delivered from the Federal Republic, in the manner of Erich Loest’s Durch die Erde ein Riß (1981).

One danger inherent in this movement away from complex first-person structures like Abendlicht is the temptation it has provided to create a distinction between autobiography, viewed as the means of expressing the long-suppressed truth about life under communism, and fiction, correspondingly downgraded on suspicion that it had been used as a means of evading fundamental issues and maintaining ambiguous political stances. When Günter de Bruyn began work in 1986 on his autobiography, a decision which he understood as a clear break with his career up to that point as a widely admired writer of novels and stories, he described the change of focus in categorical moral terms – “Der berufsmäßige Lügner übt, die Wahrheit zu sagen”[26] – even though he later shows in his discussion of the problems of memory that this rigid distinction is impossible to maintain.[27] Boosted by the success of his autobiography when the first part, Zwischenbilanz, appeared in 1992, de Bruyn went on to produce his own study of the genre, Das erzählte Ich (1995), seeking to reinforce the moral point by inverting the title of Goethe’s Dichtung und Wahrheit in his subtitle, “Über Wahrheit und Dichtung in der Autobiographie”.[28] He had reasons to be polemical in the face of some other autobiographical writing of the post Wende period where self-justification seemed to be the primary motive for writing, such as Hermann Kant’s Abspann,[29] but his underplaying of the element of "Dichtung" in the approach to truthful self-presentation in all serious autobiographical writing provided an opening for a less scrupulous commentator such as Corino to make documentary truthfulness the primary criterion for his subsequent approach to Abendlicht, which is the main source for Die Legenden des Stephan Hermlin.

The sequence of events in the "Hermlin affair" of 1996-97 can be quickly summarised: Corino went for maximum publicity both in the timing of his attack (on the eve of the Frankfurt Book Fair, through an article in Die Zeit which was guaranteed to generate many others in the days to follow) and in the denunciatory tone which alleged that Hermlin was guilty of “die Inszenierung einer großangelegten Lebenslüge”.[30] Corino’s investigations, backed up by information provided by Hermlin’s estranged sister, focused on a questionnaire which Hermlin had completed for the US military authorities in 1946, containing many biographical inaccuracies, which he saw as the starting-point of a strategy of deception which Hermlin had pursued for the next fifty years. The list of accusations was indeed shocking: glorifying his family background and his education, exaggerating his work for antifascist underground organisations in post-1933 Berlin and his later roles during the Spanish Civil War and the French resistance, inventing a period of imprisonment in a German concentration camp and his father’s later death in the same one, and generally benefiting unscrupulously from this carefully constructed “Lebenslüge” throughout his years in the GDR. More problematic was Corino’s consistent assumption that all these discrepancies between Hermlin’s actual biography and his creative portrayals of aspects of it resulted from petty motives of self-glorification, because of the echoes of character-assassination in the Cold War tradition which it undeniably contained.

The chain-reaction of polemical responses from Hermlin’s friends and admirers was entirely predictable from earlier episodes in the "Literaturstreit,"[31] and, as in the case of Christa Wolf’s Was bleibt, it was the abuse of a literary text by treating it as if it were a personal statement which promised to be the most effective means of counterattack as the conflict developed. But now, more so than in 1990, there were also influential voices in the West German media prepared to express their moral unease both at Corino’s methodology and at the tone of his accusations. Corino had displayed great insensitivity, for example in his discussion of the issue of Jewishness in Hermlin’s life and he had shown little understanding of the nature of everyday survival for members of the antifascist resistance both at home and abroad. The historical reasons why a Jewish intellectual living in the Stalinist GDR might have needed to be less than frank about his previous life had also failed even to engage his curiosity. These investigative deficiencies were soon being highlighted just as much in the FAZ as in Neues Deutschland or Freitag and being linked with comments about the way in which the standards of cultural debate in Germany were deteriorating. According to Friedrich Dieckmann in the FAZ this vindictive piece of detective work had contributed to the growing “Verkleinbürgerlichung unseres literarischen Lebens”;[32] Lothar Baier in Freitag, in an article headed “In Deutschland sind die Trampel los” claimed that “diese neudeutsche Unverschämtheit ist schwer zu überbieten”,[33] and so on. Despite Corino’s own regular interventions in the debate,[34] some of his friends felt it necessary by December 1996, just after the appearance of his biography in book form, to publish a “Solidaritätserklärung für Karl Corino," claiming that he had now become the victim of a Stasi-style “Rufmordkampagne”.[35] Significantly, when Corino staged his next coup in January 1997, after gaining access to Hermlin’s files as a victim of the Stasi and realising that the Stasi had been aware of Hermlin’s misleading curriculum vitae since the 1950s, he was exposed to ridicule in the respectable West German press because of the similarities between the Stasi’s methods and his own.[36]

Hermlin’s two interventions in the debate, through an interview in Der Spiegel and a short article in Freibeuter, the journal edited of his West German publisher Klaus Wagenbach, were in part honest attempts to put the record straight, conceding that some of Corino’s accusations were factually correct, but his ill-concealed contempt for the motives of his antagonist was probably counter-productive.[37] Hermlin’s death in April 1997 nevertheless revealed a depth of continuing respect from major figures in public life, extending far beyond his ex-GDR cultural circle and including the then federal president Roman Herzog, Günter Gaus, Günter Grass and leading members of the international PEN Club.[38]

Perhaps the fact that Hermlin alone of these major GDR writers died in the aftermath of such a frontal personal attack persuaded even his adversaries that enough was enough. The two-year gap without significant new accusations against the ex-GDR’s literary establishment – the longest period of calm in the ‘Literaturstreit’ over the 1990s – may suggest more than the fact that there are few other skeletons remaining in unexplored cupboards. Perhaps a consensus has quietly been achieved that the methods and tone of Corino’s attack should now be consigned to the past.

The issue which remains to be resolved is that of evaluating the new information which Corino’s researches unearthed about Hermlin’s life as an aid to a more differentiated understanding of Abendlicht. A valuable start was made in an article published in the journal Merkur in 1998 by Gustav Seibt, one of the more cautious participants in the original debate, with the title “Kann eine Biographie ein Werk zerstören?”[39] Not the least of its merits was the way it introduced a comparative dimension into the debate, linking the Hermlin issue with the cases of three contemporaries with a Nazi background which they successfully concealed for an equally long period, the literary scholars Paul de Man, Hans Robert Jauß and Hans Schwerte. Seibt helped to set the parameters for future debate on Hermlin by underlining the limitations of Corino’s approach of “Biographismus”, arguing that no composed text can be regarded as fully autobiographical, as it inevitably transforms personal experience in the process of writing, according to its “Eigengesetzlichkeit”.[40] He went on to characterise the nature of the argument between Corino and the ardent defenders of Hermlin as a pseudo theological debate between two sectarian groups, which had rapidly become irrelevant to agnostic bystanders who were primarily interested in the appreciation of literature. There was no doubt in Seibt’s mind that the answer to the question in his title was a firm ‘no’.[41]

But Seibt also argued that the critics of Corino who dismissed the suggestion that Abendlicht was an autobiography had not faced up to the challenge of specifying which other genre it actually fitted into. Seibt’s considered opinion on a text marked by stylisation – of the affluence of the family background, the admirable personalities of the protagonist’s father and brother and the tragic nature of their premature deaths, the moral rightness of the communist cause to which Hermlin converted as a schoolboy, and so on – was that it seemed to be a modern equivalent of the medieval lives of the saints, a “Legende” written with a similar aim of providing a moral uplift rather than a “Legende” in the dismissive sense of a pack of lies in which Corino uses it.

Seibt’s reading is thus a satisfying demolition and inversion of Corino’s, but it is wrong in one crucial respect, perhaps unwittingly showing the lingering effect of Corino’s hostile analysis. Seibt’s characterisation of Abendlicht as a self-created “Legende” overlooks the fact that while Hermlin consistently idealises all the fundamental aspects of the world around him, he scrupulously avoids the temptations of what Seibt describes as “klassenkämpferischen Heroismus” in his self-portrayal. The first-person protagonist may be sure of his judgement on aesthetic matters, but the life he describes is marked by unanswered questions, by fears and nightmares, by the isolation he experiences within his communist commitment and by the recognition that he has often compromised his artistic standards in the fruitless pursuit of a political utopia. There is no sense of identity in the fragmented experience he conveys so vividly in the central text of the collection, a long unfinished sentence consisting of fifteen splinters of memory, in which he is unable to connect the ‘then’ of these different periods in his life to the ‘now’ of the narrative present.[42] And if there is a desire to heighten individual experience in Abendlicht and to present it as an aesthetic whole, this is intended as a counterpoint to the absence of overall coherence and identity in the life of the protagonist himself.[43]

A more productive cultural analogy in terms of the genre we are dealing with here might therefore be to the structures of myth, in which the framing of stories generally transcends the limits of normal human experience, but the personality of their protagonists reflects the whole spectrum of human moral possibilities, from the virtuous to the totally reprehensible. Seen in this light, Hermlin’s critical self-presentation is much more in line with the many portrayals of tormented intellectuals in the reinterpretations of Greek myth which are a central feature of the GDR literature of the 1970s and 1980s, such as Franz Fühmann’s story “Marsyas” (1978)[44] and Christa Wolf’s Cassandra (1983).

To conclude: no matter how off-putting the tone of Corino’s attack on Hermlin may have been, his discovery of major discrepancies between the world as presented in Abendlicht and the reality of Hermlin’s biographical experience is invaluable in helping us to understand the psychological as well as the ideological processes at work in the post-war German context which have influenced this particular transformation of life into art. In the exceptional case of an author like Hermlin intent – for whatever combination of reasons – on falsifying details of his biography in interviews and other personal statements, this new background knowledge will be of long-term significance. Furthermore, as already suggested, we may have Karl Corino’s excesses to thank for the calming of the post-unification "Literaturstreit." Yet a different approach would have been more productive in opening up the serious discussion on the nature of East German autobiographical writing which has been notably lacking in post-unification culture. As Friedrich Dieckmann pointed out in one of the early responses to Corino in the FAZ: “Wenn hier ein der Mitempfindung fähiger Rechercheur und kein haßverzerrter Detektiv am Werk gewesen wäre, so hätte er den Schluß ziehen müssen, daß das Ungesagte das dichterisch Unsagbare, also vielleicht etwas besonders Schmerzhaftes, sei”.[45]

[I wish to record my gratitude both to the British Council, whose grant to me (as part of a team of researchers working under the Anglo-German Research Collaboration scheme) allowed me to work on this paper at the Deutsches Literaturarchiv in Marbach in August 1999, and to the British Academy, who helped to fund my participation in the conference ‘Bestandsaufnahme – Zur deutschen Literatur nach der Vereinigung’ at Dickinson College in October 1999, where I presented this paper.]


[1] This paper was written without prior awareness of Wolfgang Ertl’s sensitive analysis in glossen 3 of Corino’s monograph and its immediate reception – “Dichtung und Wahrheit: Zum Fall Stephan Hermlin” – with which I find myself in close agreement. With the advantage of greater distance from the events of 1996-97 the excesses of the "Hermlin affair" can now be viewed with considerable relief as perhaps the last act in an increasingly sterile "Literaturstreit." This makes it easier to step back from the detail of the polemics and make a start with the informed reassessment of Abendlicht as a complex creative achievement.

[2] See the volumes of documentation published in the immediate aftermath of the attacks of Wolf – Thomas Anz (ed.), Es geht nicht um Christa Wolf. Der Literaturstreit im vereinten Deutschland (Munich: Spangenberg, 1991) and Karl Deiritz and Hannes Krauss (eds.), Der deutsch-deutsche Literaturstreit oder “Freunde, es spricht sich schlecht mit gebundener Zunge”. Analysen und Materialien (Hamburg: Luchterhand, 1991).

[3] See Hermann Vinke (ed.), Akteneinsicht Christa Wolf. Zerrspiegel und Dialog. Eine Dokumentation (Hamburg: Luchterhand, 1993).

[4] Müller’s Stasi files are included in the expanded second edition of his autobiography, Krieg ohne Schlacht. Leben in zwei Diktaturen (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1994) 427-97.

[5] See “Im Kopf sauber”, Der Spiegel 13/1994, pp. 228-30. A more sympathetic assessment of Heym followed his address to the new Bundestag and the CDU’s ill-judged attempt to snub him – “Immer allen gefallen”, Der Spiegel 46 (1994): 29-32.

[6] Karl Corino, “Außen Marmor, innen Gips”. Die Legenden des Stephan Hermlin (Düsseldorf: Econ, 1996).

[7] Karl Corino, Die Akte Kant (Reinbek: Rowohlt, 1995).

[8] Maritta Rost and Rosemarie Geist (eds.), Stephan Hermlin. Bibliographie (Leipzig: Reclam, 1985) 79-80, provides a helpful overview of the excerpts published in Eastern and Western Europe both in advance of and immediately following the publication of Abendlicht.

[9] See Wolf’s interview of 1973 with Hans Kaufmann, “Die Dimension des Autors," republished in the volume of her essays, Fortgesetzter Versuch. Aufsätze, Gespräche, Essays (Leipzig: Reclam, 1979) 83.

[10] Stephan Hermlin, Abendlicht (Berlin: Wagenbach, 1979) 20-22.

[11] See Hans Richter, “Bekenntnis und Rückschau in poetischer Geschlossenheit," Neues Deutschland, 21 November 1979.

[12] “‘Abendlicht’ von Stephan Hermlin," Weimarer Beiträge 9 (1980): 124-137.

[13] See Sebastian Kleinschmidt and Dieter Kliche, “Ästhetik der Erinnerung. Über Stephan Hermlin – anläßlich ‘Abendlicht’," Stephan Hermlin. Texte, Materialien, Bilder, ed. Hubert Witt (Leipzig: Reclam, 1985) 242-251 (the extended and revised version of an essay which first appeared in Sinn und Form 4 (1980).

[14] Hans-Georg Werner, “Zu Stephan Hermlins ‘Abendlicht’," Weimarer Beiträge 3 (1981):132-148.

[15] “‘Abendlicht’ von Stephan Hermlin. Antimemoiren aus der DDR," Die Zeit 9. März 1979.

[16] Hans Mayer, “Lyrik der Hoffnung," Die Zeit 21. September 1979.

[17] Reinhard Lettau, “Radikalität des Schreibens”, Der Spiegel 3 Dezember 1979: 240-245.

[18] Karl Corino, “Stalin – ganz unbestechlich. Glanz und Elend eines Kommunisten: Stephan Hermlin," Stuttgarter Zeitung 1. Dezember 1979.

[19] Bernhard Greiner, “Autobiographie im Horizont der Psychoanalyse. Stephan Hermlins ‘Abendlicht’," Poetica 14 (1982): 213-249.

[20] Therese Hörnigk (see note 12), 124.

[21] Hans-Georg Werner (see note 14), 133.

[22] Hans Mayer (see note 16).

[23] Reinhard Lettau (see note 17), 240.

[24] Bernhard Greiner (see note 19), especially the last section of the essay, 240-248.

[25] “Bleibe bei uns, denn es will Abend werden, und der Tag hat sich geneiget” (from the gospel of Luke 24, 29, where Christ appears to his disciples at Emmaus following his crucifixion). The same sense of being able to transcend the darkness of the night emerges strongly from the final text in Abendlicht, 118-121.

[26] Günter de Bruyn, Zwischenbilanz. Eine Jugend in Berlin (Frankfurt/M.: S. Fischer, 1992), 7.

[27] For example in the section where he juxtaposes his viewing of the film version of Erich Kästner’s Emil und die Detektive, in which determined collective resistance overcomes evil, with the events of 30 January 1933, when Hitler came to power. See Zwischenbilanz, 67-74.

[28] Günter de Bruyn, Das erzählte Ich. Über Wahrheit und Dichtung in der Autobiographie (Frankfurt/M.: S. Fischer, 1995).

[29] De Bruyn had already written a hard-hitting review of Abspann – “Scharfmaul und Prahlhans. Der ‘Abspann’ des Hermann Kant”, Die Zeit 19 September 1991.

[30] Karl Corino, “Dichtung in eigener Sache”, Die Zeit 4. Oktober 1996: 9-11, here 9. (This article is an abridged version of the text of his book.)

[31] See for example, the interventions of his GDR biographer, Silvia Schlenstedt, “Eine Ausblendung gelebter Geschichte”, Neues Deutschland, 8. Oktober 1996, his publisher, Hans Marquardt, “Das Corino-Dossier im deutsch-deutschen Kulturkampf”, Neues Deutschland, 14. Oktober 1996 and his close contemporary from the same Chemnitz background, Stefan Heym, “Behandlung eines Standbilds”, Die Zeit 11. Oktober 1996.

[32] Friedrich Dieckmann, “Freiwild Hermlin. Detektiv Corino oder Die Grenzen der Widerspiegelung," FAZ, 12. Oktober 1996. (Dieckmann followed this up with a second article, “Der Mann mit dem Panzer aus Worten," FAZ 29. Oktober 1996.)

[33] Lothar Baier, “In Deutschland sind die Trampel los," Freitag 25. Oktober 1996.

[34] Karl Corino, “Ein Gesamtkunstwerk der Lüge," FAZ, 29. Oktober 1996 (presented as an answer to Dieckmann’s article of 12 October), and “Selbstheroisierung, pathetische Lügen," Freitag, 15. November 1996 (a response to Baier).

[35] As reported in the Stuttgarter Zeitung 14. Dezember 1996.

[36] Following Corino’s programme on the Hessischer Rundfunk about his investigations into the Stasi’s surveillance of Hermlin , three strikingly similar sceptical responses appeared in major West German broadsheets on the same day, 10 January 1997: Wolfgang Schütte, “Triumph!?," Frankfurter Rundschau, [end], “Was die Stasi sah”, Süddeutsche Zeitung and [stei], “Genosse Detektiv”, FAZ. Corino’s text, entitled “‘Die Tatsachen entsprechen nicht der Wahrheit.’ Was das Ministerium für Staatssicherheit über die wirkliche Vita des Stephan Hermlin recherchierte," appeared in Die Welt 18. Januar 1997.

[37] “Des Dichters ‘wahre Lügen’. Der Schriftsteller Stephan Hermlin über sein wechselvolles Leben im antifaschistischen Widerstand” [interview with Mathias Schreiber], Der Spiegel 41 (1996): 257-60; Stephan Hermlin, “Schlußwort," Freibeuter 70 (1996): 3-10.

[38] See the special section (including Hermlin’s last text, “Der Baum”, and a selection of tributes to him) in Freibeuter 72 (1997): 122-147.

[39] Gustav Seibt, “Kann eine Biographie ein Werk zerstören? Bemerkungen zu de Man, Jauß, Schwerte und Hermlin," Merkur 52 (1998): 215-26. (Seibt’s earlier contribution to the debate, “Hermlins Wahrheit," had appeared in FAZ, 8. Oktober 1996.)

[40] Seibt, “Kann eine Biographie ein Werk zerstören?" 219, 217.

[41] Seibt, “Kann eine Biographie ein Werk zerstören?" 225.

[42] Abendlicht 56-57.

[43] For a discussion of the wider theme of identity crisis in Hermlin’s work see my essay “‘A history full of holes’? France and the French resistance in the work of Stephan Hermlin," Helmut Peitsch, Charles Burdett and Claire Gorarra (eds.), European Memories of the Second World War (New York & Oxford: Berghahn, 1999): 55-66.

[44] Reprinted in the volume Franz Fühmann, Marsyas. Mythos und Traum, ed. Jürgen Krätzer (Leipzig: Reclam, 1993) 8-21.

[45] Dieckmann , “Freiwild Hermlin” (see note 32).

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