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Repercussions of Writing under Socialism: GDR Retellings of Myths and Epics as Educational Tools and Challenging Testimonies (Sylvia Warnecke)

This study of children’s book publishing in the German Democratic Republic highlights pointedly the conflict between idealism and control in the sphere of children’s literature in the 1960s and 1970s. The most powerful example of this dichotomy was the state-initiated publishing project of the retellings of myths, epics and fairy tales for children. Intended to become central educational tools in the upbringing of so-called ‘socialist personalities’, these literary adaptations written by some of the country’s finest authors soon became a major corpus of socio-critical analyses of the reality life in this socialist country. However, the authors did not simply strive to condemn their society and its leaders but searched for ways to improve the status quo in support of the power of the working classes. The case of Reineke Fuchs by Franz Fühmann is a telling example of how the attempt to translate state policies into children’s literature had to fail but how it led readers and writers to new insights into the workings of human society.

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