August 22, 1933, Chemnitz - May 6, 1990, Berlin
Irmtraud Morgner was the daughter of a railway engineer and grew up in a household without books. At the age of twelve she chanced upon a copy of Goethe's Faust and was hooked.
From 1952 to 1956, she studied literature and philosophy in Leipzig, taking classes from famous philosophers, Ernst Bloch and German scholar Hans Mayer. After graduating from college, she moved to Berlin and began working as an editorial assistant for the state run publication Neue deutsche Literatur (New German Literature). From 1958 onwards, she worked as a freelance writer.
She married Joachim Schreck, a future editor at Aufbau-Verlag, with whom she had a son in 1967. They divorced in 1970. In 1972 Paul Wiens became her second husband, whom she divorced in 1977. After the reunification of Germany, Wiens was revealed to have been one of the East German Stasi's top 'unofficial collaborators' in the literary field. Morgner herself had discovered the truth of his double life somewhat earlier: files in the Berlin Gauck Authority – which also contain letters received by Morgner which Wiens handed to his Stasi officer – later revealed the real reason why she divorced him suddenly in 1977.
In 1965, she wrote Rumba auf einen Herbst (Rumba in autumn). This novel led to trouble for her and did not get permission for publication. She was asked to rewrite and change several passages. Yet despite all the necessary compromises, she did not allow herself either to be iconized or to become part of the conformist literary establishment of the GDR. Despite this rejection Morgner did not entirely abandon the text, incorporating much of it into the seven intermezzos in Leben und Abenteuer der Trobadora Beatriz nach Zeugnissen ihrer Spielfrau Laura (The Life and Adventures of Trobadora Beatrice).
The 1968 novel Hochzeit in Konstantinopel (Wedding in Constantinople) was her first greater success (and also marked her international breakthrough when it was published in West Germany in 1969). It fuses a holiday diary on the Dalmatian coast with a series of beguiling short texts set in an imaginary no-man's land.
The body of work which got written after, show Morgner's increasingly playful approach, as well as certain recurring elements: Gauklerlegende: Eine Spielfrauengeschichte (Juggler’s legend: A story of women minstrels), Die wundersamen Reisen Gustavs des Weltfahrers: Lügenhafter Roman mit Kommentaren (The wondrous journeys of Gustav the world traveler: Mendacious novel with commentaries) and Amanda: Ein Hexenroman (Amanda: A witch novel).
In 1977, she was elected into the East German Union of Writers. In 1984, she travelled to USA together with Helga Schütz for public readings. As a communist she hoped in 1989 that there would be a new DDR but she suffered from cancer in her last years, and died in 1990.
Like many other authors of her time, Morgner believed that, despite all critical reservations regarding the GDR, her writing would make a contribution towards socialism, which was regarded as defective, yet still seemed an alternative to capitalism, for which it is worth fighting. In this respect, she is a typical representative of GDR, but her creation of new narrative structures, usual montage techniques, extensive use of the doppelganger motif as well as science-fiction topoi in her works, and an unconventional approach to the literary heritage all make her quite an exceptional case in GDR literature.
In our library, you find following books by Irmtraud Morgner and books on her life and works:
Morgner, Irmtraud: Amanda: Ein Hexenroman. Faber & Faber, 1995. 697 S.
Lewis, Alison: Subverting patriarchy. Feminism and fantasy in the works of Irmtraud Morgner. Berg, 1995. VI, 315 S.
In our eLibrary you find following eBooks by Irmtraud Morgner:
Morgner, Irmtraud: Amanda. Ein Hexenroman. Random House, 2011
Morgner, Irmtraud: Hochzeit in Konstantinopel. Roman. btb Verlag, 2012