21. Project Status: Summer/Fall, 1976

My three-week stay in the GDR was very productive, but much work remained to be done on my book project and my sabbatical leave was coming to an end. The tape-recorded interviews needed to be transcribed and then authorized by each writer for publication in my book. I also had to gather a text from each author, along with permission to publish that text from either the author or his/her publishing house, and I also needed a portrait photograph of each writer. In addition, I had many more authors to visit and interview, since my list had grown from 30 to 45, the number of writers actually represented in the three-volume book, DDR-Literatur im Tauwetter. My original idea had been to do a single volume with 20 writers, but the project mushroomed in size as GDR writers on the original list and the GDR Writers’ Union recommended the inclusion of other authors they considered important. It threatened to overwhelm me, but I was determined to complete my work and publish a comprehensive documentary of the period of thaw in GDR cultural policies that soon would come to an end.

I returned to Vienna in the final week of June 1976, and then in late July flew home to Ohio, back to my full-time job at Oberlin College. In the fall and winter of 1976, I did two things related to my project: first, I gave a 20-minute presentation at the December Modern language Association Annual Convention on the work I had been doing in the GDR; second, I applied for an International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) grant, so I would be able to return to the GDR in the fall of 1977 and continue work on my half-finished project. Fortunately, my IREX application was successful and enabled me to spend three more months in the GDR. If I had not been awarded this grant, I doubt that the GDR authorities would have permitted me to continue interviewing writers and gathering materials in the GDR.