Thoughtful Gifts for Curious People
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Berlin, 1982. Morale is at rock bottom as an all-out nuclear war looms. The Ministry for State Security needs creative new weapons in the war against the class enemy - and their solution is stranger than fiction. Rather than explosives, the Stasi develop a programme to fight capitalism through verse, aiming to win the culture war through poetry - resulting in history's most unusual book club.
Consisting of spies, soldiers and border guards - some WW2 veterans, others schoolboys - the 'Working Group of Writing Chekists' met monthly until the fall of the Berlin wall. In a classroom adorned with portraits of Lenin, they composed poems and were taught verse, metre, and rhetoric by East German poet Uwe Berger.
The regime hoped that poetry would affirm the spies' belief in the words of Marx and Lenin, and strengthen the socialist faith of their comrades. But the result was quite the opposite. Rather than entrenching State ideology, they began to question it - and the GDR's secret weapon dramatically backfired.
Weaving together unseen archival material and exclusive interviews with surviving members, Philip Oltermann reveals the incredible hidden story of a unique experiment: weaponising poetry for politics. Both a gripping true story and a parable about creativity in a surveillance state, this is history writing at its finest.
Paperback, 224 pages.
Measures 12.9 x 19.8 x 27 cm.