Cultures of Discontent: Jurek Becker's 'Irreführung der Behörden'

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  2. Dr Beate Muller
Author(s)Muller B
Publication type Article
JournalGerman Life and Letters
ISSN (print)0016-8777
ISSN (electronic)1468-0483
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Jurek Becker's second novel, Irreführung der Behörden (1973), was received much less enthusiastically than his debut novel, Jakob der Lügner (1969). The story of young Gregor Bienek's metamorphosis from an ambitious writer of political satire struggling against East German censorship into a successful opportunist struck scholars and critics as a disappointing piece of popular fiction. This article argues for a revision of this verdict. The novel is interesting for several reasons. With Irreführung der Behörden, Becker changed publishers in both German states: from Aufbau to Hinstorff, and from Luchterhand to Suhrkamp. The award of the Bremer Literaturpreis for this novel marks Becker's increasing establishment as a writer, and the controversies surrounding this award illustrate the functioning of the literary sphere on both sides of the Elbe. The novel's plot, the book's reception, and Becker's use of West German media for publicly engaging in debates about cultural policy and German-German relations, have to be seen in the context of key discourses in GDR cultural politics, which revolved around opposition and the public sphere. Thus, the book belongs to the critical GDR literature of the 1970s written between Honecker's rise to power in 1971 and Wolf Biermann's expatriation in November 1976. Moreover, the book is the first one in which Becker focused on exploring life in the GDR through the figure of a writer-protagonist, a constellation and thematic choice which had a long-lasting legacy for Becker's work.
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