Paweł Zajas (Adam Mickiewicz University)
Fellow in Research Area 4: "Literary Currencies"
July – September 2022
Socialist Transnationalism and the East German Publishing Field (1956–1989)
The forced integration of European socialist states following WWII is usually viewed as a history of political misunderstandings and genuine social failures. From the early modernism and avant-garde periods onwards, socialism was also a common experience for the whole of East and Central Europe. Since the late 1950s, the densifying network of relations among culture departments of socialist parties, culture ministries of individual countries, writer associations, publishers or literary journals has resulted in thus far unknown transnational literature circulation.
International writer associations, translators, literary intermediaries and publishing editor groups met for regular consultations in Moscow, Berlin, Warsaw, Budapest or Sofia. Ideological control over the whole of the socialist book market was the most important aim of such events. However, as a side effect, exchange of expertise, knowledge collection on censorship systems, transnational process of socialist literature cannon negotiation and common editorial projects abounded. In other words, a political utopia of socialist community generated a fully real literary space, a common literary field. A historiographic and theoretical description of this field is the objective of this project. The activities of specific associations and groups, organisation of conferences, the role of international literary bodies and international book fairs, as well as of specific common editorial projects are the focus of research.
Documents preserved in East German archives form the basis for the project. The grounds for this decision are twofold. First of all, following WWII, the GDR was an industrialised country with a perfectly profiled publishing market. In the postulated approximation of socialist cultures and national literatures, the GDR played, next to the Soviet Union, a coordinating role. Secondly, East German archives enable reconstruction of the cooperation and communication among nearly all those acting in the East European publishing field. The degree of preservation and ordering is far better than in the other countries of the former Eastern Bloc. Thanks to this, they may serve as a laboratory for research into processes of literature circulation in the areas of European socialist states.
Paweł Zajas studied German and Dutch literature in Wrocław (Breslau), he obtained his Ph.D. and Habilitation at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan. He is professor at the Department of Dutch and South African Studies in Poznań and research fellow at the University of Pretoria. His latest research and publications concern the sociology of literary translation, literature transfer, publishing practices in the German literary field and socialist transnationalism.