Pictures, Video & Audio

Focus Transformation #1

“Well, let’s see what happens”

In German language

Author Martin Gross and media and communications expert Mandy Tröger talk about the book Das letzte Jahr. Aufzeichnungen aus einem ungültigen Land, and the hopes and disappointments in the East German press landscape in 1990. The conversation is moderated by publisher Jan Wenzel.

In 1990, the West German author Martin Gross lived predominantly in the GDR to observe the country’s decline and reorganization at close quarters. In numerous everyday notes, he described how people made the transition from the old to the new system. He portrayed people as diverse as the guard of a former Stasi prison, the store manager of one of the new supermarkets, the stokers of a power plant, the bodyguards of a minister, and the cleaners of a government building.

His book Das letzte Jahr. Aufzeichnungen aus einem ungültigen Land (The last year. Records of an invalid country) was published in 1992 by BasisDruck Berlin, but quickly fell into oblivion. In 2019, Jan Wenzel came across Martin Gross while researching his book Das Jahr 1990 freilegen and adopted many of his records. With a distance of 30 years, they were now perceived by critics as “clear-sighted,” “precise,” “stylistically brilliant” observations of the year 1990. In the fall of 2020, Spector Books published a new edition of Martin Gross’ book, which went into its second printing after only a few weeks.

A recurring motif in Das letzte Jahr is the story of a daily newspaper, the Dresden newspaper Die Union. The question of how the East German media public changed in 1990, what hopes and disappointments this process generated, is the focus of the book presentation. Publisher Jan Wenzel will moderate a conversation between author Martin Gross and the communication and media scholar Mandy Tröger, who has been researching the transformation of the East German press landscape; her most recent book was Pressefrühling und Profit. Wie westdeutsche Verlage 1989/1990 den Osten eroberten, Herbert von Halem Verlag, 2019.

Martin Gross, born in 1952 in the Black Forest, moved to West Berlin in 1970. From 1981 he worked as a lecturer in German studies and as a feature writer. Later he worked as a coordinator for projects between Russian, Indian and European universities. He lives near Lüneburg.

Mandy Tröger holds a PhD in Communication and Media Research from the Institute of Communications Research, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), USA. Between June 2015 and December 2017, she was a PhD fellow of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Berlin, Germany, and successfully defended her thesis at the Union for Democratic Communication (UDC) conference in Chicago in May 2018. Since December 2018, she holds a research position at LMU in Munich. In November 2017, she joined the organizing committee of the Network of Critical Communication Researchers (krikowi) Germany. Her research interests are Post-Socialist Media, Comparative Media and Communication History, Critical Theory.

Jan Wenzel lives and works as an author and publisher in Leipzig. Together with Anne König and Markus Dreßen, he founded the publishing house Spector Books in 2001, which has since published more than 500 titles. In 2018 Spector Books received the Saxon Publishing Prize, in 2019 the German Publishing Prize. Together with Anne König, Jan Wenzel curated the festival for photography f/stop in Leipzig in 2016 and 2018. From 2011 to 2017 he had his own column in the magazine Camera Austria, The Revolving Bookshelf, in which he regularly wrote about books and bookmaking. In 2020 he was nominated for the Leipzig Book Fair Prize for his book Das Jahr 1990 freilegen.

— The event was broadcast and recorded on 25 March 2021. —

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