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In Berlin, a Peter Hacks Renaissance

November 11, 2009

PeterHacksby Nathan Thornburgh
from the Book Bench of The New Yorker

The Wall came down twenty years ago, but when it comes to the East German writer Peter Hacks, the dust is still clearing. The playwright, poet, and occasional author of Communist allegories for children was all but forgotten when he died in 2003. But this past weekend in Berlin, he took another step toward an unlikely rebirth.

At the WABE theatre space in East Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg, a panel of academics and Hacks devotees spent Friday evening debating his legacy as part of the second annual Peter Hacks Conference. A seventy-kilogram Berlin Wall replica piece had been wheeled onstage for effect. A good deal of the time was spent parsing the argument put forward last spring in an enthusiastic op-ed that came, surprisingly enough, from the center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, whose Frank Schirrmacher argued that if you just separate Hacks’s writings from his politics, you’ll find literary achievements worth celebrating. “Ninety words in the right order,” he wrote, “are worth more than 10,000 in the wrong.” more

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