Literary Archive

Zeichnung von Heinrich Mann: "Die Piazza, das Café und der Kirchturm", im Manuskript von "Die kleine Stadt", entstanden 1907-1909 (Heinrich-Mann-Archiv)

The Literary Archive of the Academy of Arts, which currently contains 282 holdings relating to individual people, archives of institutions and collections (2,800 consecutive metres of shelving), is not only the largest archive department in the Academy, but also– − along with the German Literary Archive in Marbach and the Goethe-Schiller Archive in Weimar– − forms one of the greatest literary archive facilities in Germany. The literary documents assembled here, from the last years of the German Empire to the present, provide a representative cross section of German literature of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
The documentary remainsliterary estates of Heinrich Mann, obtained in 1952, form the connection with the Prussian Academy of Arts. The great novelist, author of Der Untertan and Henri Quatre, had been head of the Poetic Arts Section, founded in 1926, and, following the seizure of power by the Nazis, had been forced out of the Academy and into exile. Speaking in Los Angeles in 1949, he said he was willing to become President of the German Academy of Arts in East Berlin, but he died shortly before its foundingation in March 1950. The documentary evidence provided by the Heinrich Mann archive stretches all the way from the period of the Empire, through the Weimar Republic and Mann’s years of exile, to the post-war period. The literature of the Weimar Republic is well represented, in all its variety. We may mention here, among others, Georg Kaiser, Vicki Baum, Gottfried Benn, Ferdinand Bruckner, Leonhard Frank, Franz Jung, Klabund and Hans José Rehfisch. Here too belong Theodor Däubler, Carl Einstein and Salomo Friedlaender, whose avant- garde symbolism is rooted in Expressionism, as well as Walter von Molo and Bernhard Kellermann, representatives of a more traditional mode of writing. Not forgetting members of the critical opposition, such as Kurt Tucholski; Walter Mehring, the sharpest critic of the National Socialists to appear in print; or Erich Mühsam, the directly committed social revolutionary.
A One focal point of the collection is that of exile. Most of the émigrés had already made a name for themselves in the Weimar Republic. After the war many of them went to the GDR, such as Johannes R. Becher, Anna Seghers, Friedrich Wolf, Arnold Zweig and, last but not least, Bertolt Brecht, the outstanding dramatist, director and founder of the Berlin Ensemble. Many did not return. Walter Benjamin, fleeing from his German persecutors, took his own life; his documentary literary remains estate, gathered from various sources, has been preserved in the Academy since 2004.

The documentary literary remains estate of Hans Werner Richter, founder of Group 47, which had a highly formative influence on the literary life of the Federal Republic of Germany between the end of the war and 1968, forms an anchor point for the archive holdings of West German literature. Many famous names appear here: Reinhard Baumgart, Wolfgang Hildesheimer, Walter Jens, Reinhard Lettau, Wolfdietrich Schnurre and Peter Weiss.
GDR writers of various generations are represented by pre-mortem and post-mortem bequests: Erich Arendt, Franz Fühmann and Georg Maurer were major patrons and mentors to the following: the lyricists Uwe Gressmann, Heinz Kahlau, Rainer Kirsch and Inge Müller, or the dramatists Heiner Müller and Georg Seidel. The younger generation of authors, forced from the GDR as a result of their critical stance, is also represented by the archives of  Kurt Bartsch, Jurek Becker, Thomas Brasch, Wolfgang Hilbig, Karl-Heinz Jakobs and Klaus Schlesinger.

A source collection of a particular kind is due to the work of Walter Kempowski, unique in its wealth of documents, both his own and those of others, unique in its historical dimension, in its linkage of biographical and artistic message. It is in quite another way that Edgar Hilsenrath and Nobel prize-winner Imre Ketrész gave form to the catastrophes of the last century. The archives of these authors are likewise preserved in the Academy of Arts, as is the many-sided work of author, composer and cabaret artist Georg Kreisler, which stretches from his exile to the present day.
Major holdings of files provide an insight into the conditions and the background to literary developments, debates and compromises: the archives of the GDR Writers’ Union, the East German and West German PEN Associations, the Cultural Work Centre of the GDR and the Volk und Welt publishing house. This is also the context for the documentary literary remains estates of arts administrators such as Alexander Abusch, Otto Gotsche and Alfred Kurella. 
Experimental authors, whose works cross the classical genres, are represented by Helmut Heissenbüttel and Reinhard Döhl. Their works of concrete poetry, their typographical and calligraphic experiments, find an adequate reception in the interdisciplinary character of the Academy Archive, as does a major collection of acoustic poetry from the publishing house of edition s press. In this context we should also mention the archive of the lyricist and performance artist Ginka Steinwachs and the publisher’s archive of Redaktion PRO/Hans Bulkowski, containing important materials relating to conceptual art. The Archive has a special responsibility to safeguard and preserve the manuscripts and letters of Academy members and prize-winners. With such major literary pre-mortem bequests such as those of Friedrich Dieckmann, Günter Grass, Harald Hartung, Rolf Haufs, the Literary Archive is opening to the future.


(Stand 08.05.2013)

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