Christoph Hein Essay - Critical Essays

Hein, Christoph


Christoph Hein 1944-

German playwright, essayist, short story writer, children's writer, and novelist.

The following entry presents an overview of Hein's career through 2000.

Best known for the political undertones of his fiction, Hein is considered among the foremost German authors of the twentieth century. In his nonfiction works, Hein expresses advocacy for “reformed democratic socialism”—in which freedom of expression exists—and often denounces capitalism as a materialistic system of repression. Hein's fiction explores the psychological and social damages inflicted on an economically and politically suppressed society. Hein articulates his political themes through the use of allegory, and his works comment on socialist and capitalist societies through the study of individual characters. While Hein's delineations of alienation and conflict are well-suited to German cultural contexts, his themes transcend solely German settings. Hein occasionally offers his own political beliefs in his fiction, but he typically allows his readers to form their own opinions. Hein is regarded as an innovative and eloquent contributor to modern German literature.

Biographical Information

Hein was born on April 8, 1944, in Heinzendorf, Silesia, Germany (now located in Poland), the third child of Günther and Lonny Hein. At the end of World War II, his family was forced to flee to Bad Düben to escape the Soviet Army that had invaded East Germany. Hein's father, who was often active in hindering the efforts of the state to control and censor religion, became a pastor in their new town. Hein attended the town elementary school from 1950 to 1958. He was later transferred to the West Berlin Evangelisches Gymnasium zum grauen Kloster (Evangelical Gymnasium at the Gray Cloister), a humanistic preparatory school for the children of East German ecclesiastics and intellectuals not politically affiliated with the Socialist Unity Party. The Hein family moved to East Berlin in 1960 to allow Günther to direct his church's youth organization. Hein continued to live with his family and traveled daily to school in West Berlin until the erection of the Berlin Wall in August 1961. At this difficult time, Hein's family decided to remain in East Berlin, and he chose to stay with them. Due to his father's resolute political stance, Hein was denied admission into a myriad of elite preparatory schools, as well as trade schools, film schools, and drama schools. Eventually Hein gained admission to the Vocational School for the German Book Trade in 1961, where he attended until 1964. He then worked in a bookstore for two years before marrying Christiane Zauleck in 1966 and completing his high-school graduation exam. Interested in theater since the age of twelve, Hein acquired apprentice work as an assistant to director Benno Besson and earned extra income by writing articles for weekly papers such as Sonntag and Jung Welt, acting in small theater roles, waiting tables, and assembling machinery. Still suffering the repercussions of his father's political beliefs, Hein was denied admission to the Cinema College in 1966 by Germany's Ministry of Culture. He entered the Karl Marx University in Leipzig in 1967, but after causing political tumult, he was forced to transfer to Humboldt University in Berlin, where he graduated after completing his senior thesis on pluralistic logic. Hein continued to work with Besson at the Volksbühne theatre and adapted many plays, including various works by French playwright Molière.

Hein was promoted to house author at the Volksbühne in 1974 and began to produce his own original plays. Hein left the Volksbühne in 1978 to escape state harassment and to pursue his writing career full-time. In the 1980s, Hein began publishing long and short fiction in addition to his drama, essay, and nonfiction work. His most well-known fiction includes Der fremde Freund (1982; The Distant Lover), Horns Ende (1985; Horn's End), Der Tangospieler (1989; The Tango Player,), Das Napoleon-Spiel (1993; The Napoleon Game), and Willenbrock (2000). Hein has also won numerous literary awards, such as the Heinrich Mann Prize in 1982, the West German Critics's Prize in 1983, the City of Hamburg Prize in 1986, the Lessing Prize in 1989, the Andres Prize in 1989, and the Fried Prize in 1990. In addition to his literary achievements, Hein is said to have been instrumental in the movement for free speech and expression in the German Democratic Republic. A speech he gave in 1987 led to the abolition of state-sponsored censorship in East Germany. He was also a key figure in the investigation into German police brutality in 1989.

Major Works

One of Hein's first original plays, Schlötel, oder Was solls (1974; Schlötel, or What's the Use), focuses on a West German student who moves to East Germany during the 1960s to promote the concept of a free work force amongst factory workers by encouraging a system of incentive pay. Instead of embracing the opportunity to operate without governmental control, the workers react with either apathy or defiance towards Schlötel's efforts. Schlötel eventually drowns himself, and after his suicide, the government agrees to implement the incentive pay program. Hein's first play to be performed in West Germany, titled Lassalle fragt Herrn Herbert nach Sonja (1980; LaSalle Asks Mr. Herbert About Sonja), centers around the life of the founder of the General German Workers' Union, Ferdinand LaSalle. LaSalle and German society are depicted as petty and superficial, and the main plot elements are insignificant when contrasted to the political turmoil that serves as the background for the play. The Distant Lover depicts the psychological self-repression of the heroine, Claudia, stemming from her life experiences in the confining system of socialist Germany. The plot centers around the death of her lover, Henry, and examines the self-imposed distance she places between herself and others. Themes of alienation, violent intrusion, and indifference also pervade the work. The play Die wahre Geschichte des Ah Q (1983; The True Story of Ah Q) is Hein's adaptation of Lu Xun's short story of the same title set during the 1911 Chinese Boxer Rebellion. Hein portrays the protagonist, Ah Q, as a modern, egotistical, middle-class intellectual who remains oblivious to the impending revolution after being locked in a room by a bureaucrat blindly following government orders. Horn's End focuses on two deaths: the murder of Gudrun Gohl, who substitutes herself for her mentally handicapped daughter who has been institutionalized and marked for death by the Nazi regime; and the suicide of historian Herr Horn, unjustly accused of being a Western spy and subsequently ejected from the Party. The novel is composed of a series of factual accounts of town history described by several different narrators. The work examines the ways that history can be influenced by individual perspective and the ways memories can be altered or suppressed by the state. The subjective stories told by the various narrators are periodically interrupted by the voice of Horn's ghost, which directs the youngest narrator to “remember” historical truth. Passage (1987) follows the journey of a group of Jewish refugees who are attempting to escape from the Gestapo in France to Spain in 1940. The drama highlights the transformation of a retired German officer of Jewish descent, Hirschburg, from German nationalist to humanitarian. Die Ritter der Tafelrunde (1989; The Knights of the Round Table), Hein's last play before the fall of the German Democratic Republic, is set in King Arthur's court at the end of Arthur's reign. The drama is an allegory depicting the inability of a waning German regime to adapt to political change while clinging to the unattainable ideal of democratic socialism. The play illustrates the strain placed upon the new regime in establishing a new system.

The Tango Player, set in 1967, deals with themes familiar to Hein's work, including apathy, alienation, and self-imposed imprisonment. Hans-Peter Dallow, the protagonist, has been released from prison. Dallow has completed a sentence for serving as a piano player in a production containing a song that mocked a high government official. Dallow asserts throughout the novel that he should not be held responsible because he did not read the song lyrics. Dallow's meaningless relationships, his longing for the simple routine of imprisonment, and his ironic indifference to important political events all permeate the book. Eventually he is reinstated to his old position as university professor of history. His acceptance of the position underscores his preference for living under an imposed, indifferent system rather than in a world where freedom of choice exists. Bridge Freezes before Roadway (1990) recounts the story of a West German citizen being interviewed after the death of a former East German colleague. During the course of the interview, it is revealed that the citizen had denounced his colleague in order to receive a promotion. The dead colleague received the promotion despite his associate's condemnation, and then moved West to secure himself a life within a capitalist society. The protagonist of The Napoleon Game, Wörle, is a West German lawyer who becomes bored with the continual games that he has orchestrated throughout his life. He creates a new game that integrates a series of complex variables including the murder of an indifferent citizen. The novel is composed of two letters written by Wörle to his defense attorney. Wörle's first letter—written from prison—gives an account of his motives for murder, his history as a game-player, and his defense of his actions. After he is acquitted, he writes a second letter introducing his next game, in which his lawyer is forced to participate. The goal of the game is to ruin a citizen with an impeccable reputation. Wörle's character is widely considered to represent a capitalistic view and Western values. Randow (1994) portrays the difficult circumstances of a woman who owns property in the Randow Valley border region of Poland who is violently forced by the state to sell her land. The story focuses on the elements of greed and opportunism that are typically found in capitalist societies. In Von allem Anfang an (1997; Right from the Start), Daniel, a thirteen-year-old schoolboy in an East German town, flees with his family to the Soviet Zone of Germany. The novel is set in 1956 and is narrated from a child's perspective. The novel is loosely configured and events are not related chronologically, giving the work a somewhat circular structure. Willenbrock follows the life of a citizen in East Berlin in the late 1990s who owns a small used-car business. After two Russian thieves burgle his home and steal several of his cars, Willenbrock becomes frustrated with the apathy of the police force who are indifferent to the invasion. Willenbrock wounds a teenage intruder a few weeks later and goes without punishment for taking the law into his own hands—an outcome that fills Willenbrock with a sense of peace and contentment.

Critical Reception

With the publication of The Distant Lover in 1982, Hein gained international recognition as one of the most influential German writers of his generation. Critics have almost universally acclaimed Hein's use of subtext in The Distant Lover to effectively convey the scope of repression and alienation imposed by a socialist system. Reviewers have also praised Hein's ability to effectively penetrate the psychology of the female narrator in this work. The True Story of Ah Q was not received as warmly by critics. Many commentators—while praising the drama for effectively conveying the state of revolution across cultural boundaries—negatively assessed the social and political development in the play as static and flat. Hein was also criticized for presenting The Knights of the Round Table as an allegory instead of as a more direct portrayal of socialist decay. His detractors have argued that the subtle nuance was unnecessary as there were no restrictions on literary expression in Germany in 1989. The Tango Player gained considerable critical attention for its clever use of subtext to depict the images of apathy and self-imprisonment that have become common in Hein's fiction. Certain reviewers have compared this novel to Franz Kafka's The Trial. However, some critics have complained that the novel's resolution is empty and incomplete.

Despite the success of The Tango Player, Hein's highly controversial The Napoleon Game received decidedly mixed reviews. Some have argued that the novel lacks significant themes and direction. Others have disagreed with that assessment, praising the novel for peering into the void of ideology left by capitalism. Many critics have disapproved of Hein's picture of Western values and were angered by the monstrous representation of capitalism in the character Wörle. After the publication of The Napoleon Game, critics have noted a less subtle depiction of the political messages in Hein's works. Randow, for example, has been almost universally condemned by reviewers as a boring, aggravating, and overly didactic work. Additionally, Right from the Start was considered to be a disappointment by critics who had expected Hein's post-unification literature to be more openly critical of the fallen regime. Some critics have viewed the work to be autobiographical, as certain aspects of Daniel's life share similarities with Hein's childhood. The book has been praised for its convincing description of the world from a child's perspective and for the objective quality of its narrative. Willenbrock has been recognized for its ability to express German sentiment, despite the fact that some critics have faulted the plot for its integration of irrelevant tangents. Hein's essays and speeches have been noted as the work of an artist dedicated to improving society as a whole. Critics have argued that the self-contradictory quality in certain speeches and the disillusionment over a failed socialist system has prompted Hein to redirect his negativity towards Western society and capitalism. Though certain groups have assessed Hein's work as outdated and relevant only to the German culture, the majority of reviewers have deemed Hein's writings to be appealing to a universal audience.

Principal Works

Schlötel, oder Was solls [Schlötel, or What's the Use] (play) 1974

Von hungrigen Hennecke [Hungry Henneke] (play) 1974

Cromwell (play) 1977

Einladung zum Lever Bourgeois: Prosa (short stories) 1980

Lassalle fragt Herrn Herbert nach Sonja: Die Szene ein Salon [LaSalle Asks Mr. Herbert About Sonja: The Scene a Salon] (play) 1980

Cromwell und andere Stücke [Cromwell and Other Plays] (play) 1981

Der Neue Menoza oder Geschichte des kumbanischen Prinzen Tandi: Komodie nach Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz [adaptor; from a play by Jakob Michael...

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Franz P. Haberl (review date autumn 1985)

SOURCE: Haberl, Franz P. Review of Die wahre Geschichte des Ah Q, by Christoph Hein. World Literature Today 59, no. 4 (autumn 1985): 588.

[In the following review of Die wahre Geschichte des Ah Q, Haberl offers a negative assessment of the play, calling the work “static” in regard to Germany's social and political development.]

Two clochards vegetate in the dilapidated attic of a temple in a vaguely Chinese ambience. They complain about their pitiful condition and talk about anarchy and revolution. Once a week a nun brings them milk soup. On one of these occasions Ah Q (one of the protagonists [of Die wahre Geschichte des Ah Q]) asks her to...

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Wes Blomster (review date summer 1987)

SOURCE: Blomster, Wes. Review of Schlötel, oder Was solls: Stücke und Essays, by Christoph Hein. World Literature Today 61, no. 3 (summer 1987): 441.

[In the following review of Schlötel, oder Was solls: Stücke und Essays, Blomster focuses on Hein's desire to improve society as the central theme of the collection.]

“The human being,” Christoph Hein declares, “is the animal with the thickest skin.” The two plays and four essays collected in Schlötel, oder Was solls speak urgently of the forty-three-year-old East German author's strong desire to penetrate this armor of insensitivity and move both individual and society toward that...

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Alex Raksin (review date 2 April 1989)

SOURCE: Raksin, Alex. Review of The Distant Lover, by Christoph Hein. Los Angeles Times Book Review (2 April 1989): 6.

[In the following review, Raksin discusses the emotional self-beguilement of the narrator in The Distant Lover.]

“I'm pretty well-liked,” reflects the narrator, a 40-year-old woman working as a doctor in East Germany. “I have plans. … I look younger than I am. … I'm healthy. I've made it. I'm fine.” We're inclined to disagree, for the narrator's urgent, forced tone suggests that this is less an assertion than a mantra, said repeatedly in the hope that the sum of the first five sentences will add up to the sixth, “I'm fine.”...

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Ann Vliet (review date 25 June 1989)

SOURCE: Vliet, Ann. “Love at Arm's Length.” Washington Post Book World 19, no. 26 (25 June 1989): 4.

[In the following review of The Distant Lover, Vliet examines the narrator's withdrawal from human relationships and the origination of her emotional barriers.]

As early as 1985, Christoph Hein was being called a major new voice in East German letters, a highly literate and socially conscious poet, playwright, novelist and critic. But The Distant Lover, first published in German in 1982, is Hein's first work to be translated into English. That it took so long is a bit surprising, given the readability of its prose and the universality of its insight....

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Wes Blomster (review date spring 1990)

SOURCE: Blomster, Wes. Review of Der Tangospieler, by Christoph Hein. World Literature Today 64, no. 2 (spring 1990): 308.

[In the following mixed review of Der Tangospieler, Blomster compares the narrative to Franz Kafka's The Trial and evaluates certain political undertones.]

Both background and theme make Christoph Hein's brief narrative Der Tangospieler a realistic descendant of Kafka's Trial. Hein sets his story in the summer of 1968, when the attention of both East and West was focused upon attempted reform in Prague while Hein's young historian Dallow sought to reenter the society that had sent him to prison two years earlier....

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Dennis Mueller (review date autumn 1990)

SOURCE: Mueller, Dennis. Review of Die Ritter der Tafelrunde: Komodie, by Christoph Hein. World Literature Today 64, no. 2 (autumn 1990): 630–31.

[In the following review of Die Ritter der Tafelrunde, Mueller examines the play as a representation of the East German regime of Communist Party Secretary Erich Honecker.]

Christoph Hein is an East German author who has rapidly risen to prominence in the past few years. His novella Drachenblut (1983) was translated into all the major European languages; his 1989 novel Der Tangospieler (see WLT 64:2, p. 308) received high praise in a Zeit review by Volker Hage (“Sage niemand, daβ...

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Wes Blomster (review date spring 1991)

SOURCE: Blomster, Wes. Review of Als Kind habe ich Stalin gesehen: Essais und Reden, by Christoph Hein. World Literature Today 65, no. 2 (spring 1991): 297.

[In the following review, Blomster offers a positive assessment of Als Kind habe ich Stalin gesehen.]

During the past year almost every East German writer who could claim the dissident label has felt an obligation, it seems, to publish a volume of nonfiction pieces documenting his or her activities in the period surrounding the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Although Christoph Hein was unquestionably the leading figure of the younger generation among these authors, the unfocused collection Als Kind habe...

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Jim Shepard (review date 12 January 1992)

SOURCE: Shepard, Jim. “Last Tango in Leipzig.” Los Angeles Times Book Review (12 January 1992): 3, 8.

[In the following review of The Tango Player, Shepard compares the work to Franz Kafka's The Trial, examining the antisocial behavior of both protagonists.]

In Franz Kafka's The Trial, a washerwoman in the court where Joseph K. is being prosecuted says to him: “It's so horrible here. … Do you think you'll manage to improve things?” He answers: “As a matter of fact, I should never have dreamed of interfering of my own free will, and shouldn't have lost an hour's sleep over the need for reforming the machinery of justice.” He goes on to...

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Jeffrey A. Frank (review date 14 January 1992)

SOURCE: Frank, Jeffrey A. “Under Big Brother's Eye.” Washington Post Book World (14 January 1992): E2.

[In the following review of The Tango Player, Frank discusses the work as a commentary on the transitional state of politics and emotions surrounding the decline of the German Democratic Republic.]

Hans-Peter Dallow, the protagonist of this witty, subversive novel [The Tango Player], is introduced just as he's released from the East German prison where's he's spent 21 months. His “crime” was a pathetic offense—having played the piano in a politically incorrect cabaret show. Now he's very much on guard, and uneasy: “The fear has crept into the...

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William J. Niven (review date June 1992)

SOURCE: Niven, William J. “The Vanquished Self: Christoph Hein's Drachenblut and Der Tangospieler.Journal of European Studies XXII (June 1992): 127–41.

[In the following review, Niven examines the loss of independence and identity in the protagonists of Drachenblut and Der Tangospieler.]

In her novel Flugasche (1981), Monika Maron describes how a journalist bent on exposing the inhumanity of GDR environmental politics is crushed by the resistance of authority.1 Stefan Heym in his novel Collin (1979) describes how a leading GDR writer was only able to achieve official recognition at the cost of his individual...

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Keith Bullivant (review date summer 1992)

SOURCE: Bullivant, Keith. Review of Die fünfte Grundrechenart: Aufsätze und Reden, by Christoph Hein. Germanic Review 67, no. 3 (summer 1992): 135–36.

[In the following review of Die fünfte Grundrechenart, Bullivant explores Hein's views regarding the impact of the German Democratic Republic on German literature.]

This volume, arguably more than any other individual work, brings home to us just how fast things German have moved in a little over two years. In 1990 Hein was very much center stage in German intellectual and literary life: he was one of the most outspoken writers in the events of the autumn of 1989, his novel Der Tangospieler and...

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David W. Robinson (essay date winter 1993)

SOURCE: Robinson, David W. “Abortion as Repression in Christoph Hein's The Distant Lover.New German Critique (winter 1993): 65–78.

[In the following essay, Robinson examines the oppression and sense of violation experienced by the character Claudia in The Distant Lover.]

East German playwright and novelist Christoph Hein rose to sudden prominence in the early 1980s with the publication of his somber novella, The Distant Lover (Der fremde Freund, 1982; published in the West as Drachenblut). Although the book's rather bleak depiction of life in the GDR was predictably attacked or praised by politically minded critics in the GDR and the...

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Christian Grawe (review date summer 1994)

SOURCE: Grawe, Christian. Review of Das Napoleon-Spiel, by Christoph Hein. World Literature Today 68, no. 3 (summer 1994): 555–56.

[In the following review, Grawe offers a negative assessment of Das Napoleon-Spiel, faulting the work for having insignificant themes and lacking direction.]

Christoph Hein was already recognized as a promising playwright in both East and West Germany when he turned to prose in the early eighties. He has always been highly regarded too as a courageous and honest voice of reasonable protest in the GDR and was, not surprisingly, one of the speakers at the famous Alexanderplatz demonstration on 4 November 1989.


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William Niven (essay date July 1995)

SOURCE: Niven, William. “‘Das Geld ist Nicht der Gral’: Christoph Hein and the Wende.” Modern Language Review 90, no. 3 (July 1995): 688–706.

[In the following essay, Niven discusses Hein's attitudes toward reunified Germany and capitalism in Eastern Europe.]

This article sets out to examine the issue of Christoph Hein's contribution to the process of de-Stalinization in the GDR during and after October 1989.1 There have been articles on this topic, notably by Frauke Meyer-Gosau2 and Eckhard Thiele.3 But neither of these is objective. While Meyer-Gosau is keen to present Hein's contribution in as uncompromised a light as...

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Graham Jackman (essay date fall 1995)

SOURCE: Jackman, Graham. “The Fear of Allegory: Benjaminian Elements in Christoph Hein's The Distant Lover.New German Critique 66, no. 66 (fall 1995): 164–92.

[In the following excerpt, Jackman explores the influence of German art theorist Walter Benjamin on the structure of allegory in Hein's The Distant Lover.]

Christoph Hein's knowledge of and interest in the work of Walter Benjamin is unmistakable. Almost all his major essays contain explicit references to Benjamin, to whom he referred in 1983 as “probably the most important and exemplary German art theorist of our century.”1 It is thus hardly surprising that critical studies of Hein's...

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Phillip McKnight (essay date 1995)

SOURCE: McKnight, Phillip. “The Vulnerability of Silence: The Distant Lover.” In Understanding Christoph Hein, edited by James Hardin, pp. 20–39. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1995.

[In the following essay, McKnight explores the themes of emotional self-alienation and invasion in The Distant Lover.]

The key to Der fremde Freund, 1982 (The Distant Lover) is understanding Hein's use of short, staccato, matter-of-fact sentences relaying the thoughts of the first-person narrator about other people, her environment, and herself. Claudia, a physician, describes emptiness with the vocabulary of fulfillment, presents unlived life as...

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Phillip McKnight (essay date 1995)

SOURCE: McKnight, Phillip. “Homesickness for the Cell: Der Tangospieler.” In Understanding Christoph Hein, edited by James Hardin, pp. 88–112. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1995.

[In the following excerpt, McKnight examines the inability of Der Tangospieler's protagonist, Dallow, to function outside of prison after his release.]

The spring 1989 publication of Der Tangospieler (The Tango Player), translated into English in 1992, completes what could be designated as a trilogy of historical prose writings by Hein, each of which focuses on a time during a key historical turning point in East Germany: The Distant...

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Phillip McKnight (essay date 1995)

SOURCE: McKnight, Phillip. “The Absence of Malice: Das Napoleon-Spiel.” In Understanding Christoph Hein, edited by James Hardin, pp. 113–35. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1995.

[In the following essay, McKnight analyzes the character Wörle's explanations for how and why he plays games in Das Napoleon-Spiel.]

Das Napoleon-Spiel, 1993 (The Napoleon Game), Hein's most recent novel, appeared as a series in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in the spring of 1993 before the book was released. While he was writing the novel, Hein's attention was diverted by the events of 1989 and especially by his own participation on the...

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Graham Jackman (essay date winter 1999)

SOURCE: Jackman, Graham. “‘Nur wo er spielt, ganz Mensch?’ Christoph Hein's Das Napoleon-Spiel.German Quarterly (winter 1999): 17–32.

[In the following essay, Jackman examines the character Wörle in Das Napoleon-Spiel, and the psychological reasons behind his obsessions.]

On its appearance in 1993 Christoph Hein's novel Das Napoleon-Spiel was on the whole not well received. In part, the critics' lack of enthusiasm was the result of disappointed expectations: Hein had not produced the awaited Wende-Roman. However, this did not prevent many reviewers from reading the novel in terms of immediate post-Wende concerns: “Das...

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David W. Robinson (essay date 1999)

SOURCE: Robinson, David W. “Hein's Historians: Fictions of Social Memory.” In Deconstructing East Germany: Christoph Hein's Literature of Dissent, edited by James Hardin, pp. 125–80. Columbia, South Carolina: Camden House, 1999.

[In the following essay, Robinson analyzes Hein's theory that historical chronicle is a subjective record influenced by personal experience.]


While all of Christoph Hein's work reveals a fascination with the impact of history on individual experience, several of his most ambitious texts deal explicitly with history as an intellectual discipline and space for social engagement. The early story...

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David W. Robinson (essay date 1999)

SOURCE: Robinson, David W. “Chronicling the Cold War's Losers and Winners.” In Deconstructing East Germany: Christoph Hein's Literature of Dissent, edited by James Hardin, pp. 181–219. Columbia, South Carolina: Camden House, 1999.

[In the following excerpt, Robinson explores Hein's post-unification literature and how it indirectly attacks capitalism and Western culture.]

In early 1989, two major events in Hein's career took on larger significance as the political ground began to shift. The first was the publication of Der Tangospieler, a book that would have stood out as a remarkable event even had it not been Hein's last novel of the GDR era. The novel's...

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David Clarke (essay date 2000)

SOURCE: Clarke, David “‘Himmel auf Erden’? Christoph Hein, Capitalism, and the ‘Wende.’” In Christoph Hein in Perspective, edited by Graham Jackman, pp. 21–44. Atlanta, Georgia: Rodopi, 2000.

[In the following essay, Clarke examines Hein's rejection of Western capitalism and his desire to establish a social system based upon shared personal and political values.]

Christoph Hein is well known as a GDR author whose fiction portrays some of the most negative aspects of East German society and its effects on the individual. However, during the ‘Wende’ of 1989, Hein called upon his fellow East Germans to reject the lure of Western...

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Owen Evans (essay date 2000)

SOURCE: Evans, Owen. “Hope for the Future? Günter de Bruyn's Neue Herrlichkeit and Christoph Hein's Der Tangospieler.” In Christoph Hein in Perspective, edited by Graham Jackman, pp. 77–94. Atlanta, Georgia: Rodopi, 2000.

[In the following excerpt, Evans examines the character Dallow in Der Tangospieler as a victim of his own apathy, who has remained unchanged despite his imprisonment.]

Christoph Hein's Der Tangospieler1 provides further insight into social stagnation in the GDR and in the process reveals certain parallels with Neue Herrlichkeit. Published in 1989, the text focuses on Hans-Peter Dallow, like Viktor...

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Graham Jackman (essay date 2000)

SOURCE: Jackman, Graham. “Von allem Anfang an ‘A Portrait of a Young Man?’” In Christoph Hein in Perspective, edited by Graham Jackman, pp. 187–210. Atlanta, Georgia: Rodopi, 2000.

[In the following essay, Jackman explores the classification of Von allem Anfang an as fictional autobiography.]

The title of Christoph Hein's most recent major prose work Von allem Anfang an provides the starting point for an examination of a number of aspects of the text. Its obvious autobiographical dimension may provide insights into the beginnings of Hein's aspirations as a writer who rejects all forms of conformism in favour of the...

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Further Reading


Fischer, Bernd. “Einladung zum Lever Bourgeois: Christoph Hein's First Prose.” In Studies in GDR Culture and Society, pp. 125–36. Lanham: University Press of America, 1984.

Fischer offers a discussion on Hein's early short fiction.

Graves, Peter. “Dialectical Ironies.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 4503 (21 July 1989): 802.

Graves discusses the misfortune of Der Tangospieler's protagonist, the hollow nature of his ideology, the novel's empty resolution, and the work's political undertones.

———. “A Shocking Self-Sufficiency.” Times Literary...

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