What is a writer's responsibility

: About the responsibility of the writer

For five days, 300 German authors and a number of foreign guests gathered in Berlin for the First German Writers' Congress in 1947. The event was organized by the Association for the Protection of German Authors, and the venue was the Chamber Games of the German Theater. The dispute that unfolded between the Russian Vishnevsky, the author of the film "Wir von Kronstadt", and the Englishwoman Mrs. Brainsford was sensational. Vishnewsky spoke against the "black reaction that is called England and America" ​​and shouted: "The atom bomb can we are not afraid, we know how to answer. ”Mrs. Brailsford, the wife of the well-known English humanist, complained“ with deep shock ”that two years after the war students could disappear from Berlin without a trace. The controversy between the American journalist Melville Lasky, who, amid interjection and protests, cited examples of the “totalitarian control of the intelligentsia in Russia, and the Russian playwright Kataev, who called his opponent a“ liar and arsonist ”, showed the stark contrasts in all sharpness that have opened up between Eastern and Western thinking. “Prophet on the right. Prophet on the left. Germany in the middle ”, this is how you could vary the Goehte word. - Ricarda Huch, the honorary president of the congress, Johannes R. Becher, Axel Eggebrecht and other authors represented German theses of the longing for peace, clarification and construction: for correct statements - whose reverberations threatened to be drowned in the noise of the dispute between Eastern and Western attitudes. - So that the representation was not missing: there was a feast on Russian invitation. And so that there was no lack of humor: ironists had entered the names of the pseudo-lyricist Nazi commemoration, Heinrich Anacker, and that of the author of the “Stalingrad” novel, Theodor Plivier, who had recently emigrated to western zones.

It was because the West was on the board Not was represented or because the congress took place in the Russian sector - at least: the free debate at the first German writers' congress was perceived by many, especially by those who were tied to Berlin, to be a risk. Nevertheless, the passionate debate remained unmolested. It was conducted on two levels: the Allied and the German level. And the motto was either: "Literature and violence" or "The writer and intellectual freedom." - "Freedom" and "Peace", these two magic formulas of the Congress were doomed to failure in the discussion, but strangely enough. not in practice, because the necessary agreement was actually reached on the only possible basis, namely the European-German basis of genuine literary solidarity. Eliot once finished a poem of a statesman's trouble with outcry: "We demand a committee, a representative committee, a commitce of investigation-Resign, Resign, Resign ..." ("We are calling for a committee, a representative committee, a commission of inquiry - resignation. Resignation, resignation ..."). The board of directors, which in Berlin had to steer the congress through the Scylla and Charybdis, the global split of opinion, did not know how to help itself other than by founding a committee, through the "coordination committee" to which the constitutive proposal of Rudolf Leonhard, to prepare a German literature academy, was entrusted. But where the real quarrel began and the regulation of professional interests ended, in the question of conscience about truth, freedom and justice, that triumphed Resign, resign, resign ...

So far, however, no congress has decided the intellectual disputes of mankind. After all, at this congress the question arose like a threatening shadow, which global powers would have the chance today this to rule our globe. A witty French has on the Geneva "Rencontres" found the formula that we had to choose between “freedom without justice”. (America) and “Justice without Freedom” (Russia). At the Berlin Congress, it is true, the fighting was not carried out with superior wit and not with the same intellectual sovereignty as did the Geneva "Rencontres" have left their mark, but meant the same thing.

It was about the conflict between a metaphysical and a social-materialistic tendency in the West. The corruption of these terms was so evident and the columnar mirror battle was so rhetorical that the positions at issue were not taken with full clarity. Although Elisabeth Langgässer and Rudolf Hagelstange, probably also the emigrant Stübs, had clearly worked out a metaphysical stance, this thesis was not understood by the other side, let alone refuted: it was half contradicted in the air, but not fruitful , and that is why the dispute about “freedom” had to come to nothing inextricably. Because basically, everyone meant the freedom he claimed for himself. As soon as the dispute over names solidified - unfortunately the name André Gides from the Russians (apparently in response to his unforgiven book "A’ retour de l’URSS ") was drawn into the discussion polemically - one no longer fought for the matter, but for words. This dispute is actually as old in Europe as the struggle between the symbolists and the materialists and naturalists. He has to deal with pro and counter fascism - as you always do. want to make believe - nothing at all to create. Or do you want such venerable apparitions as the Jew Franz Kafka, who is undoubtedly a metaphysician, do you want to eradicate Kierkegaard or Rainer Maria Rilke from literature because they cannot be used in the daily struggle for humanity on the one hand and social ethics on the other? Isn't every spiritual person a representative of a world that has nothing to do with oil and other economic interests? No country in the world would want to restrict the freedom of a nuclear researcher to ask questions and to investigate. because he hopes for important results; but the metaphysician who inquiringly seeks to come closer to the truth is evidently denied the freedom of research by the proponents of historical materialism - just as it once happened to the natural scientist by the medieval church. the state that limits the metaphysician cuts off the atomic researcher because there is simply only an indivisible freedom! So the struggle for freedom has recently been a struggle for self-preservation. There is only (an either-or. Progress or regression; for the thoughts -that have to be thought, will eventually break through the - iron gate of compulsion, even if it takes centuries of work.

Now, of course, the position of the writer was not so much developed by the metaphysicians as by the social ethicists; this happened in France, where the concept of the responsible writer was established in revolutionary literature. So it may be that the literary organization has always benefited from the journalistic, active social ethicist. as was expressed once again in the exemplary conduct of the congress at the Berlin Writers' Congress. The French and Anglo-Saxons. it was the writer who always considered the highest task of the writer to stand up for the disenfranchised individual. That is why the Dreyfus trial has become the touchstone for an entire generation of French writers. Mrs. Brailsford's attack on the kidnapping of the Berlin students without a formal trial had arisen from the same writer's responsibility. He has aroused the passions to the highest, because he is the typical writer. Obligation had thrown into the debate: to stand up for the disenfranchised individual. Such attacks are also part of the literary responsibility, no less than denouncing war-inciting monopolists or armaments manufacturers.

But will the spiritual conversation be continued in the future? Without a certain liberality, the dispute must end with a short circuit. After all, there is a common basis: our common German suffering, our recent past and the ethical disgust for what has raped people and thus Europe. Just like against Hitler, there is also now the inner solidarity of the poets and writers who have maintained a genuine relationship with the human and who know that they are above zonal doctrinalism. In the address that Johannes R. Becher gave to the writers in the “Kulturbund zur Democratic Renewal” and in the moving closing remarks that the congress received from the mouth of the aged Ricarda Huch, the ideological gap was bridged by the poetic. So is the longing for peace strong enough to dissolve the ideological nightmare into direct, human conversation, as the great European poetry and music preached for centuries? Will we grow out of guilt, suffering and grief one day a reconciling mission?

It is the last alternative we have left: the alternative for the mind. Because the European situation is reminiscent of the tragic narrowing of the view. on which ancient Greece failed before the Macedonian annexation. The nationalisms of today correspond to the Greek city-states of yore. The continental expanse of the victorious Helenism has determined Europe up to the present day, and new, global perspectives are already at the gates of Europe. The Russian writer - Boris Gorbatov. W. Wischnewski and Valentin Katajew - are undoubtedly ideological representatives for whom the experience of "uniform thought leadership". as one of them emphasized it has become decisive. But they are at the same time representatives of a literature that, from Pushkin to Mayakovsky and Boris Pasternak, from Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky to Berdjajew, has developed a universalism that Europe did not have. Gorbatov, to whom the final word of the foreign guests fell, was like his massive one, shimmered with Gogolian humor. Block: The same humanity was admired there as Western Europe, there was a warm artistic expanse and prudence that was thought and felt from another continent. It was wrong to deny this fact out of bitterness at the Russian doctrinarism: it seems artistically more far-sighted than is assumed in the West, but the Janus face of ideologies not only obscures the view of those afflicted by it, but also of outsiders. It creates confusion. One thing, however, should have taught the confusion of words and concepts at this congress: that the writer's only valid teacher is suffering and compassion for human beings. Pushkin himself provided the decisive insight as to where the poets' deeds are to be looked for: in the word.

The writer's responsibility, therefore, lies in the word and not in any form of misguided activity.