Der junge Marx in der DDR-Lyrik

Hauptsächlicher Artikelinhalt

Peter Geist


Young Marx in the Lyric of the GDR

Despite the compulsory exegeses of Marx conducted at universities in the GDR, which most poets completed, the work of the young Marx exerted a genuine creative fascination upon many of them, varying by gravity and intensity depending on the historical period. Bertolt Brecht, Hans Mayer, and Robert Havemann acted as mediators of Marx for the poets who emerged to dominate the lyric poetry of the GDR since the mid-1960s (Sarah Kirsch, Karl Mickel, Volker Braun, among others). Ernst Bloch’s most important work, „Das Prinzip Hoffnung“ (“The Principle of Hope”), which revolves around the utopian core idea of “the reconciliation of man and nature,” harkens back to the writings of the young Marx and can be regarded as central to the latter’s reception at the time. This is particularly evident in poems by Volker Braun and Karl Mickel, which will be considered here in more detail. Since the 1970s, however, socialist critique in poetry has increasingly been overlaid by a critique of civilization. This refocusing on the ‘globalist Marx,’ which had already been prepared by Karl Mickel’s poem „Der See“ (“The Lake”) (1963), has resulted in both the intensified resumption of Marxian / Blochian emblematics (Volker Braun) and a decided departure from any “principle of hope” (Günter Kunert). With postmodernism and the Wendezeit, lyrical insistence upon Marx seemed to have become obsolete. Yet along with the renaissance of nature poetry since the turn of the 21st century, Marx’s thinking – and particularly, the tradition of ‘Young Marx’ – has reemerged with new relevance to the “poetry of now” generation (Daniel Falb and others), who react critically to anthropogenic influence upon the climate and biosphere. In this context, the concept of the ‘Anthropocene’ occupies a key position in contemporary poetological reflection as well as in the practice of writing.


Geist, P. 2023. Der junge Marx in der DDR-Lyrik. Internationale Zeitschrift für Kulturkomparatistik. 10 (2023), 7–19. DOI: