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Orzoff, Andrea

The PEN and the State: Germany's PEN Clubs and Europe's Cold War

International PEN began in 1922 as an ostensibly apolitical international organization for the world's writers. It was immediately and bitterly politicized by its members, who used it as a forum for airing national grievances on an international stage. PEN’s politicization carried over into the Cold War. Given Germany’s wartime brutality and its postwar occupation and division, the politics of German postwar PEN were predictably complicated and intense. There were three German PEN chapters: East, West, and – for much of the 1950s – PEN East-West, trying to bridge the growing gap. My paper will lay out the basic dynamics and activities of the German PEN chapters between 1947 and 1975, sketching out their institutional history, their relationship to their respective governments, and their members' increasingly significant roles as public intellectuals in both Germanies. German PEN intellectuals reached across the Cold War divide; PEN members were instrumental, for example, in helping publish in the West the work of East German writers barred from publishing at home. But their work also deepened that divide, especially the participation of West German PEN members in International PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee and activity, and the collaboration of East German PEN members with the Stasi.

PEN offers a fascinating historical lens, given that it stood at many critical junctures: between the worlds of ideas and of politics, between East and West, between the two Germanies and a deliberately internationalized European context. The Western chapter's longtime president was Nobel Prize winner Heinrich Böll; other internationally known writers, such as Bertolt Brecht, Arnold Zweig, Christa Wolf and Stefan Heym, peopled the roster of the East German chapter. Yet German PEN has attracted surprisingly little scholarly attention. This paper will be my first presentation of a proposed book on the German PENs.

Friday Oct, 9.00-11.00 Session 4
Panel: Silenced Voices: Tamizdat, Samizdat and PEN