Peter Hacks was born in Breslau, Germany (now Wrocaw, Poland), in 1928, into an upper-middle-class family, the son of a lawyer who was a member of the Social Democratic Party. He studied philosophy, sociology, German literature, and theater arts in Munich, receiving a Ph.D. in German literature in 1951 with a dissertation on nineteenth century German drama. He began writing radio drama and cabaret sketches, and in 1954, he won a prize for his first major drama, Eröffnung des indischen Zeitalters, which premiered in Munich in 1955. During the same year, Hacks decided to move to the German Democratic Republic (GDR). There, he served as a dramaturgical assistant to Wolfgang Langhoff, director of the Deutsches Theater in Berlin, until 1963, when both Hacks and Langhoff were dismissed because of conflicts with the cultural policies of the government.
At the Bitterfeld Conference of 1959, which was arranged by the ruling state party to plan in detail the future of socialist literature, dialectic drama had been proscribed, and dramatists had been admonished to write more about the workers and their lives. Literature was to treat topics of national significance. Hacks had tried his hand at realist drama, as prescribed by the Bitterfeld Conference, by writing Die Sorgen und die Macht, a play about brown coal production. Its dialectics, however, proved to be in conflict with official cultural policies. The play’s second production at the...
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