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Volker Braun

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To purchase Hinze-Kunze-Roman

Title: Hinze-Kunze-Roman
Author: Volker Braun
Genre: Novel
Written: (1985)
Length: 187 pages
Original in: German
Availability: in Hinze-Kunze-Roman - Deutschland
Hinze-Kunze-Roman - Deutschland
Le Roman de Hinze et Kunze - France
  • Hinze-Kunze-Roman has not been translated into English
  • First published in 1985 in both East Germany (by MDV) and West Germany (by Suhrkamp). The East German edition had an afterword by Dieter Schlenstedt

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Our Assessment:

A- : clever, sharp, dense satire

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Der Spiegel . 18/11/1985 Rolf Schneider

  From the Reviews:
  • "Volker Braun hat bessere und bösere Texte verfaßt als diesen. Nach der Rehabilitierung des dreißig Jahre lang verfemten Max Hölz ist sogar ein bißchen Anarchismus gestattet; man wird bald entdecken, daß es Volker Braun um nichts geht, als den zu diskutieren" - Rolf Schneider, Der Spiegel
  • "The final comments do not augur well for the narrator or Braun, and the sense of isolation remains unmistakable. Despite the commitment to the active reader and the quasi-erotic intensity of the writer's projections, the sombre conclusion suggests a conspiratorial communication which itself is increasingly marginal and under threat." - Colin B. Grant, Literary communication from consensus to rupture (1995)

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The debate around Volker Braun's Hinze-Kunze-Roman, written in 1981 but only published in 1985 (and then in both East and West Germany), made for one of the last big literary controversies in the German Democratic Republic. Nominally the story of the functionary Kunze and his driver Hinze, Hinze-Kunze-Roman ("Hinze-Kunze-Novel") is also a literary text, its author intruding, describing what he can and can't do. It is, very much, a text about censorship, and the authorial voice reminds the reader of the consequences of any literary work requiring the sanction of the state to be published. (It is this, in particular, that delayed publication of the text in East Germany, with Braun making the debate as public as he can here.)
       The story of Hinze and Kunze is fairly unremarkable. They are an odd pair, driver and public official in the less than paradisiacal workers' state that was the GDR. Their names suggest a comedic pairing rather than a master-servant relationship.
       The novel begins:

Was hielt sie zusammen ? Wie hielten sie es miteinander aus ? Ich begreife es nicht, ich beschreibe es.

(What kept them together ? How did they stand each other ? I don't understand it, I describe it.)
       The answer Hinze und Kunze give to the questions is the same reason, Braun claims, why he writes: "Im gesellschaftlichen Interesse" ("For the good of society"). The society in question is that of the Workers' State -- East Germany, anno 1980 --, and from Braun's wry tone it is clear that the stock answer is not quite as simple as it might appear.
       The disparity between socialist ideal and socialist reality was a stark one -- and obvious and all to familiar to his original intended audience. Braun does not have to interpret: the descriptions of the official absurdities and empty phrases speak for themselves.
       Braun constantly reminds the reader of the constraints of this society -- specifically on him as a writer, but also more generally on the public. Early on Hinze drives Kunze somewhere: the street names, the destination, the purpose are left blank in the text, the expected secrecy around all official functions hardly surprising:
Aber Hinze wartete draußen. Er hat auch später nichts erfahren, und auch der Leser wird es nicht. Vergessen wir nicht, daß wir im gesellschaftlichen Interesse schreiben und auch lesen. Weshalb sonst kann so vieles nicht direkt gesagt werden ?

(But Hinze waited outside. He did not find out anything later, and neither will the reader. Let's not forget that we write -- and also read -- for the good of society. Why else can so much not be said directly ?)
       Cheekily Braun here then does the unthinkable, immediately offering an example of a story where it is "undenkbar, sie aufzuschreiben" ("unthinkable, to write it down").
       Braun continues the debate throughout the novel, finally abandoning his characters and describing a reading of his own works (where he read "die gefährlichsten Texte: Liebesgedichte" ("the most dangerous texts: love poems"). And the debate raged on outside the framework of the novel as Braun then tried to publish the work, tussling with the censor and the powers that were over the question of what could be said and printed in this society supposedly so open to self-criticism and analysis.
       The uneasy relationship between Hinze and Kunze itself also makes for an effective examination of the situation in East Germany at the time. Hinze's wife Lisa, in whom Kunze is sexually interested, complicates the personal dynamic between the two characters, while their jobs -- their official roles in the state -- also limit their range of responses and actions. Justifications abound which find some basis in ideology, but ideology has become a frail and unconvincing support. Hinze and especially Kunze toe the official line, but recognize it also as dangerously empty.
       Braun's sharp, precise writing impresses throughout. A dense, rich text, he frequently reverts to straightforward dialogue between the characters (again avoiding interpretation). Throughout, the writing is very effective. A dark satire, Hinze-Kunze-Roman is among the strongest novels from the last decade of the GDR.
       An historically important work, Hinze-Kunze-Roman is also a significant and worthwhile literary text. Recommended.

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Hinze-Kunze-Roman: Reviews: Volker Braun: Other books by Volker Braun under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       (East) German poet and dramatist Volker Braun was born in 1939. He has won numerous literary prizes, including the Heinrich Mann Prize, and the Georg Büchner Prize.

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