In 1951, the young author Horst Bienek was arrested in East Berlin, accused of working for the American secret service, and sentenced to 20 years in a forced labour camp. He spent approximately three years in Workuta, north of the polar circle, until he was released to West Germany in 1955. He soon began to process this existential experience in his works, in »Traumbuch eines Gefangenen« (Dream Book of a Prisoner, 1957) or »Die Zelle« (The Cell, 1968).
Shortly before his death, already suffering from the effects of AIDS, -Bienek recorded his memories of Workuta in scenic flashbacks. Here he describes the long period of detention with countless interrogations whilst awaiting trial, and his subsequent conviction. He also gives an account of the long journey to the Urals and particularly the inhuman conditions in the labour camp. Bieneck died in 1990, before completing his notes.
Life experience translated into language – a literary discovery.
Horst Bienek (1930-1990) was an author, artist and film-maker. In the 1960s he worked for HR Broadcasting Service and as an editor with dtv before moving to Munich in 1968 to work as a freelance author. Until 1990 he was the head of the Literature Department of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts. He has received many prizes, including the Wilhelm Raabe Prize and the Jean Paul Prize.
Michael Krüger, born in 1943, is the CEO of the Carl Hanser Publishing House in Munich and a writer of lyric poetry and prose, for which he has received important prizes. He is the publisher of the literary journal »Akzente«. For many years Michael Krüger was Horst Bienek’s editor, and continues to be his publisher up to the present day.