Volker Braun

Volker Braun was born in Dresden in 1939. After finishing school he worked for three years in printing, in underground engineering, and in strip mining before studying Philosophy. In 1962 he was threatened with expulsion after Stephan Hermlin recited Braun’s poems at a reading at the Akademie der Künste. In 1965 Helene Weigel brought him to the Berliner Ensemble, where his first piece, »Die Kipper« (t: The Dumpers), was staged (and banned). Following the put down of the Prague Spring, he wrote »T« (Trotzki) and »Lenins Tod« (t: Lenin’s Death). Between 1972 and 1977 he collaborated with the Deutsche Theater, and in 1990 he became house author of the Berliner Ensemble. Many of his later works were printed and, in some cases, performed, years after their conception: among them »Unvollendete Geschichte« (t: Unfinished Story), »Hinze-Kunze-Roman« (t: Hinze-Kunze Novel), the volumes of poetry »Training des aufrechten Gangs« (t: Training to Walk Erect) and »Langsamer knirschender Morgen« (t: Slowly Grinding Morning), the theatre pieces »Dmitri« and »Die Übergangsgesellschaft« (t: The Transformation Society), and the essay collection »Verheerende Folgen mangelnden Anscheins innerbetrieblicher Demokratie« (t: Devastating Consequences of Lacking Appearance of Internal Democracy). Braun calls it all »work against the rock crust of promises«. Despite the fundamental criticism he received, Braun considers himself a socialist, who through his »conspiratorial Realism« pushes for changes of circumstances. »One searches for a perspective which does not comply with the official way of thinking, nor with appeasing or conformist thinking – in other words, a view on things from below.« He remained true to this attitude after the German reunification, be it with the abyssal novella »Die vier Werkzeugmacher« (t: The four Tool Makers), the cycle of poems »Rot ist Marlboro« (t: Red is Marlboro) and »Tumulus«, or the theatre pieces »Der Staub von Brandenburg« (t: Brandenburg Bust) and »Limes. Mark Aurel«. The Academy in Darmstadt awarded the Büchner Prize 2000 »to the poet, who with wit and mercy has created a lively chronicle of his historical world«, and »has renewed and transformed the language and forms of the philosophical era of German literature«. In 2005, Braun was awarded the Serbian Poetry Prize, the Golden Key of the Town of Smederevo. He has been head of the department for literature at the German Academy of the Arts, Berlin, since 2006.

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