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Erich Loest and the 'Fourth Censor'

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image of East Central Europe

In March 1981, Erich Loest left the GDR. Technically, his departure was a temporary one, since he had been granted a visa valid for three years and for one exit and one entry, but in effect the deal implied an invitation to Loest to tear up the return half of his ticket. In the autumn of 1983, once his family had also been settled in the West, he made it clear that he would not return. He came to live in Osnabrück, but has since moved to Bonn. If Loest's departure from his native Saxony passed off quietly and virtually unnoticed by the West German media, usually alert to such incidents, this was in complete contrast to the turbulent sequence of events which preceded it and which had their beginning in 1974. Loest himself has set down his chronicle of these events in Der vierte Zensor. Vom Entstehen und Sterben eines Romans in der DDR.1 This is one of the most detailed and immediate accounts of the workings of the censorship system in the GDR so far to reach the West. In attempting to make it accessible to a non-German readership, I intend to rely principally on translated and paraphrased material from Loest's own narrative and to keep commentary to a minimum.

Affiliations: 1: (University of Nottingham, Glasgow, U. K.


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