No Comment — May 17, 2007, 6:19 pm

Die Stasi ist mein Eckermann

The disclosures of James Comey and the tedious answers of Alberto Gonzales are a wonderful evocation of the Stasi state, indeed they show how much closer America is moving towards that workers’ paradise with every passing week. Those who have seen the “Life of Others” know the tale of Georg Dreyman, a playwright, and his actress paramour – but for those who have toiled in the vineyard of GDR literature (and a valuable vineyard it is), know that the producers have only ever so lightly adopted the story of a great dissident personage, namely the songwriter Wolf Biermann. Note that the names come within only a few letters, the plot itself is a very close approximation of events from Biermann’s life, and then we have that telltale volume of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn found in Dreyman’s apartment – “that in particular was a gift of Margot Honecker,” he says to the Stasi investigator – again a parallel to an event involving Biermann.

Known for his biting satire and his dedication to Socialism, Biermann chronicled his life under surveillance with a powerful sense of humor, and nowhere better than in the “Stasi Ballad” from 1974, with its classic refrain – “Die Stasi ist mein Eckermann.” That is a reference to the German poet Johann Peter Eckermann, who patiently chronicled the utterances of that Olympian figure of German literature, Johann Wolfgang Goethe – ultimately published in Goethe’s Conversations With Eckermann in the Last Years of His Life, which Nietzsche called the “greatest work in the German language”. Here is an English rendition:

I feel a common humanity
With the poor Stasi dogs,
Required to sit through snow and downpours of rain
Tediously listening to me through the
Microphone they have installed
Which catches every sound,
Songs, jokes and soft curses
Sitting on the toilet and in the kitchen
Brothers from state security – you alone
Know all my troubles.

You alone can attest,
How my whole human effort
Is committed with passionate tenderness
And zest to Our Great Cause.
Words which otherwise would be lost,
Are captured firmly on your tapes,
And – I’m sure of it – now and again
You sing my songs in bed.
I sing my gratitude to you,
Stasi is my Ecker,
Stasi is my Ecker,
Stasi is my Eckermann.

  • Wolf Biermann, “Die Stasi Ballade” (1974) (S.H. transl.)
Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

From the June 2014 issue

The Guantánamo “Suicides,” Revisited

A missing document suggests a possible CIA cover-up

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

February 2015

The War of the World

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Sharp Edge of Life

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Great Republican Land Heist

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Captive Market

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Day of the Sea

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
The Great Republican Land Heist·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The wholesale transfer of public lands to state control may never be achieved. But the goal might be more subtle: to attack the value of public lands.”
Photograph by Chad Ress
Article
The Sharp Edge of Life·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The struggle of the novelist has been to establish a measure, a view of human nature, and usually, though not always, as large a view as belief and imagination can wring from observable facts.”
Photo by Eddie Adams/Associated Press
Article
Captive Market·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Fear of random violence lives on, but the reality is that violent-crime rates have dropped to levels not seen since the early Seventies."
Photograph by Richard Ross
Article
The Day of the Sea·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Fifteen judges will then sit together in a wood-paneled room, in a city thousands of miles from the Andes, and decide whether the ocean Bolivia claims as its right will at last be returned to it.”
Photo by Fabio Cuttica/Contrasto/Redux
Post
Introducing the February Issue·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Ruin of the West
Christopher Ketcham investigates Cliven Bundy’s years-long battle with the BLM, Annie Murphy reflects on Bolivia’s lost coast, and more
Painting by Richard Prince, whose work was on view in October at Gagosian Gallery in New York City © The artist. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

Percentage increase in the annual number of polio cases in Pakistan since 2005:

857

A bowl of 4,000-year-old noodles was found in northwestern China; and a spokesman for the Chinese Academy of Sciences said that “this is the earliest empirical evidence of noodles ever found.”

A federal judge sentenced the journalist Barrett Brown to 63 months in prison for sharing a link to information stolen from the private-intelligence firm Stratfor by a hacker in 2011. “Good news!” Brown said in a statement. “They’re now going to send me to investigate the prison-industrial complex.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today