Uff, the writer Eberhard Hilscher moaned in his diary in February 2000 after the venerable Hanser publishing house rejected the sequel to his novel “Die Weltzeituhr” (1983). “Such a Nulpen publishing house does not understand that it should have published exceptional poetry for the first time at the start of the new millennium”, …

Uff, the writer Eberhard Hilscher moaned in his diary in February 2000 after the venerable Hanser publishing house rejected the sequel to his novel “Die Weltzeituhr” (1983). “Such a Nulpen publishing house does not understand that it should have published exceptional poetry for the first time at the start of the new millennium,” he growls. Hilscher wonders briefly. “When, you fool, will I finally realize my failure and the impossibility of one day entering world literature?” Only to continue with his typical megalomania: “Never. My monogram EH = Ecce Homo. You can laugh about it because of me. I think my part.” He considers himself, as he writes, as a “creative Uomo universale, who knows philosophy, aesthetics, art, natural and cultural history like no other contemporary”.

Psychoanalysts would find their real pleasure in this Eberhard Hilscher (1927-2005), which few know today. He was born as the son of a teacher in Schwiebus (now Swiebodzin in Poland). He has to leave high school because of his bad grades. The schoolboy sees the Flak project in 1943 as a “liberation from boring everyday school life”. He worships the Führer. Even if he still owes her the autograph he so longed for. A year later, he found himself with the tank troops at Neuruppin and was posted to Denmark. He returned from American captivity at 48 kilos. Together with his mother, who found a home in Ketzin in Havelland after his escape, he finds accommodation and soon completes a new teacher training course in Wiesenburg in Potsdam-Mittelmark. As the son of an NSDAP member, however, he was quickly expelled. At the Humboldt University in Berlin, he studied German and geography to become a teacher. He does not believe in the drivel of the “Lukács and Mayers”. He much prefers to read Flaubert. “He can do whatever I can’t. Hilscher’s early papers are rejected because they lack a “clear ideological orientation.” After a time as a lecturer at the Writers’ Association and as a research assistant at the Volk & Wissen publishing house, he devoted himself exclusively to writing.

He published three novels during his lifetime. In addition to his magnum opus “Die Weltzeituhr” one on Walther von der Vogelweide (“The Morning Star or the Four Metamorphoses of a Man”, 1976) and one on a blind painter in the computer and atomic age (” Venus conquers the volcano “, 1992). Also a story (“Tierra del Fuego ahoi! Monsieur Darwin made a discovery”, 1961), historical miniatures (“The discovery of love”, 1962) and biographies on Arnold Zweig (1962), Thomas Mann (1965) and Gerhart Hauptmann (1969). The sequel to “Weltzeituhr” could only appear posthumously (“Gamblers and spoilers”, 2008). Eberhard Hilscher was neither one of the state writers in the GDR nor one of the celebrated dissidents in the West. This is the reason why it is not found in any literary history today. He considered that Wolf Biermann’s expatriation in 1976 was an “arbitrary act”. However, he did not want to sign the resolution of his colleagues because, in his opinion, a rebellion would have been a “suicide” for him. In his diary, he wrote three years later: “I am not one of the celebrities, I have neither a big financial cushion, nor an audience, nor the possibility of publishing, of denying myself in a demonstrative way to the superiors of the RDA and to show myself dissatisfied, even indignant. . “

It is more than commendable that the cultural publisher Volker Oesterreich, with his book “Between Adjustment and Inner Resistance”, is now probing the literary coordinates of the GDR writer and thus saving him from oblivion. He carried out research for his doctoral thesis at the Berlin State Library, the German Literature Archives in Marbach, the Academy of Arts, the Stasi Records Authority and the Biblioteka Eberharda Hilschera in the birthplace from Hilscher to Swiebodzin. He consulted 1,500 typed pages of diaries and Hilscher’s correspondence with well-known figures such as Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, Thomas Mann, Arnold Zweig, Johannes R. Becher and Günter Grass. Anyone who wants to deal with this author from the GDR in the future cannot ignore the book by Volker Oesterreich. It is a biography, a work and a story of impact at the same time.

As a long-time cultural director of the Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung and author of 13 travel books, illustrated books and anthologies, Oesterreich not only knows how to present a demanding subject in an understandable way, but also knows Hilscher personally from the 1990s in as an editor at Berliner Morgenpost while researching for “Gamblers and Spoilers”, of which a journalist is one of the main characters. With the same thirst for encyclopedic knowledge that Hilscher possessed during his romantic research, Austria, born in Heidelberg in 1960, paints the portrait of a somewhat tragic artist who “tried to assert himself in his spirit of resistance without losing his publication opportunities. had to keep repeating himself to adapt and be ready to compromise. When the Stasi wanted to recruit him as an IM, he refused him on the grounds that he was “hearing impaired”. Then he is observed himself.

While his early publications were still in the spirit of socialist realism, the writer presents the GDR in his experimental novels in a sometimes mischievous way. It exploits the possibilities of the modern novel in an avant-garde way and does not make it easy for readers. He wants to represent the totality of the world, the simultaneity of events results in jumps in time and speeches. In the GDR, it is suspect of formalism, in the West it has no commercial success. Often he does not even earn 5,000 marks a year. The editors continue to reject it. “It’s a delicate, crazy and sometimes bouncy book,” Piper publisher manager Walter Fritzsche wrote when he returned Walther von der Vogelweide’s manuscript to him in 1975. But Hilscher remains steadfast. He aspires to universal poetry, wants to combine poetry and natural sciences in his work and develops, as Oesterreich writes, “a sort of martyred conscience of the elitists and the ingenious, intellectuals misunderstood by many …”.

In his diary, he has nothing but contempt for his fellow writers. He complains about the “poverty” of the poetic expressiveness of HC Artmann and Friederike Mayröcker, rants against the “philistine and sparrow brain” of Christa Wolf and her “linguistically insignificant works” and seriously believes that Günter Grass in his memory book “My Century” (1999) copied the design of his “world clock”, which he considered to be such a success that, as he noted in his diary, when the time came, he hoped for the prize for it. Nobel Prize for Literature.

Book advice: Volker Oesterreich: “Between adjustment and interior resistance”, Morio-Verlag, 400 pages, 54 euros.