'Austlit' behind the wall – Australian literature
in the German Democratic Republic
Friday 30 September 2011
University of New South Wales at ADFA
South Lecture Theatre 2
Convenor: Associate Professor Nicole Moore
English Program, UNSW@ADFA
RSVP: Shirley Ramsay
Email: email@example.com Tel: 6268 8845 – by Friday 16 September
"Australia, too, belongs to that unreachable paradise of cars and fridges;
and it won't do them any harm to find out what it is really like there".
The German Democratic Republic was a closely surveyed literary marketplace, where writing, reading and publishing were put in the service of the socialist state. Books were considered the blocks with which a new, truly socialist German state could be built and their publication was closely scrutinised by the Ministry of Culture, which ruled a stratified network of publishers, allocated paper and hard currency, and, most importantly, subjected each new title to a rigorous approval process.
From 1950, some of Australia's most important writers were published in this unique setting: Frank Hardy, Marcus Clarke, Katherine Susannah Prichard, Xavier Herbert, Dorothy Hewett, Walter Kaufmann, Thomas Keneally, Patrick White and many others. Some of them forged close connections with their East German publishers. Hardy and Hewett visited the GDR several times; Kaufmann lived there. Often, their work appeared in high print runs and saw several reprints. Stretching to 1990, when a translated collection of Judith Wright's poetry became the last Australian title released by an East German publisher, the forty years of Australian titles published in the GDR form an alternative canon, a shadowy literary archive that rewrites Australia's postwar cultural history from behind the iron curtain.
Funded by the Group of Eight, the DAAD and the University of New South Wales, this day-long seminar brings together an international team of literary scholars and book historians from Australia and Germany to map this unique chapter in the offshore life of Australian literature in the postwar period. Why and how was it made to matter to readers behind the wall? What were the effects in Australia?