Plenzdorf, Ulrich 1934-2007

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Plenzdorf, Ulrich 1934-2007


See index for CA sketch: Born October 26, 1934, in Berlin, Germany; died August 9, 2007, in Berlin, Germany. Playwright, screenwriter, and television writer. Plenzdorf was a lifelong Communist whose scripts and novels were popular in his East German homeland despite, or perhaps because of, his ability to criticize the government and its policies without crossing the fine line that separated approval from censorship. He began writing for the East German state-operated film studio near Potsdam in 1963, producing one script after another. The films were popular at home but rarely available elsewhere. There was one major exception, Die neuen Leiden des jungen W., which went through several incarnations—as a film script reworked as a stage play in 1972, published as a novel in 1973, readapted as a screenplay in 1976, and finally translated as The New Sufferings of Young W: A Novel in 1979. This was the story of a young angst-filled fellow named Edgar Wibeau, who drops out of society, moves into a dilapidated shack, and discovers a coverless copy of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's 1774 novel The Sorrows of Young Werther. He does not recognize the novel or the author, but in several ways Edgar's life unfolds along the same lines as that of the fictional Werther until he arrives at an untimely demise that may or may not have been accidental. Though Plenzdorf remained a loyal Communist for his entire life, he was by no means an apologist for the party line. As in Young W., he wrote often of people torn between political loyalty and personal freedom, and his writings capture the stark dreariness of daily life in Communist Germany without going so far as to criticize it openly. Plenzdorf wrote another work that received some exposure in the West: the screenplay Die Legende von Paul und Paula (1973), reportedly based on the popular Love Story by Eric Segal, but most of his writings had their greatest appeal and circulation in East Germany. After the reunification of the two Germanys in 1990, Plenzdorf continued to write, including scripts for West German television, but he never abandoned the part of Germany where he was born and raised.



Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 75: Contemporary German Fiction Writers, Second Series, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1988.


New York Times, August 12, 2007, p. A25.

Times (London, England), August 12, 2007, p. 54.