The Guardian‘s Berlin bureau chief reveals the strange but true story of the book club that tried to win the Cold War through lyrical verse.
In 1982, East Germany’s fearsome secret police – convinced that writers were embedding subversive messages in their work – decided to train their own writers, weaponising poetry in the struggle against the class enemy.
Journalist Philip Oltermann spent five years rifling through Stasi files, digging up lost volumes of poetry from musty basements, and tracking down the surviving members of the circle to uncover the little-known story of this famously ruthless intelligence agency’s obsession with literature. In this episode of the podcast, he joins us to reveal what he discovered.
Praise for Philip Oltermann’s The Stasi Poetry Circle:
‘A magnificent book . . . at once touching, exquisite, devastating and extraordinary.’ – Philippe Sands
‘A vivid, funny, and imperturbable portrait of Soviet Russia’s most loyal satellite.’ – Nell Zink
‘Grippingly well-written’ Anthony Quinn, Observer
‘Oltermann’s own prose is fast-moving and lucid, with a enjoyably pulpy, hardboiled quality’ Telegraph