82. A Publisher for DDR-Literatur im Tauwetter

Although I was able to retrieve all materials related to DDR-Literatur im Tauwetter (GDR Literature During the Thaw] from Nordland Publishing Company by the fall of 1982, I was unable to search actively for a new publisher that year. I had undergone a major operation in June 1982, just before my wife and I moved into a new house we had built that year, and on September 1, 1982, I became chair of Oberlin College’s Department of German and Russian. My plate was full, as the saying goes, and the stress was difficult to cope with. In February 1983, I came down with pneumonia, which interfered with my teaching and administrative duties. Not until the summer of 1983 was I able to begin searching for a suitable publisher for my three-volume book on GDR literature, which was going to be published entirely in German. For political reasons, I could not approach West German publishing houses, but publishers in politically neutral Austria and Switzerland were possibilities. My first choice was Peter Lang Publishing in Bern, Switzerland, which in 1974 had published my scholarly monograph on Edward Bulwer-Lytton and Germany (Vol. XVI of German Studies in America, ed. Heinrich Meyer).

In the fall of 1983, I contacted the Bern headquarters of Peter Lang Publishing and sent them a prospectus with information on my book. By coincidence, my wife and I were planning to spend Christmas vacation in a ski resort near Interlaken, about an hour away from Bern. Fortunately, I was able to get an appointment with Peter Lang himself and we had a very positive meeting and discussion of my project. Peter Lang had never published anything on East German literature and viewed this as a possible new direction for his company. Most of the books published by Peter Lang are in a series of one sort or another, but Peter Lang decided to do DDR-Literatur im Tauwetter as a free-standing book not connected to a series. I was delighted to have landed safely after the long delay.

In the spring semester of 1984, while Peter Lang Publishing was preparing my book manuscript for publication, I was directing an Oberlin College study abroad program in Germany and Austria. Before departing for Europe, I had applied for a full-year sabbatical leave in 1984-1985. It was fortunate that my application was approved, for this leave gave me the time I needed to work uninterruptedly on the book manuscript during the various production stages. I was extremely pleased with the appearance and layout of the book Peter Lang ultimately produced, and it was apparent that they had not tried to save money on this publication. DDR-Literatur im Tauwetter finally appeared in print in the fall of 1985, and complimentary copies were sent to all the East German writers represented and their publishing houses. The response from the writers was uniformly positive, which was very gratifying, especially in light of the prolonged delay we had experienced. One eminent author who had left the GDR in 1979 wrote and congratulated me on the book and its portrayal of GDR writers, offering this flattering comment: “Es ist das letzte Gruppenbild” (“It is the last group portrait.”). Indeed, it was and still is.


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