20 May 2005

100 words on a poem: No.2

Günter Kunert’s poem ‘Atlas’ evokes the globe-bearing figure from Greek myth. Shocked by ‘der Verlust der Last’, Kunert’s Atlas stands still bent, in an attitude of servitude. This image is the core of an exploration into the ambivalence of liberation. ‘Plötzlich überflüssig / ein nackter Überlebender seiner Aufgabe’ also describes the position of a poet transferred from the GDR to the FRG (a move Kunert himself made in 1977). Without his burdening social role, the Atlas-poet is directionless and unbearably light; his poetry becomes ‘ein paar Fetzen’, unlike the weighty burden which once deformed him.

See Günter Kunert, Unterwegs nach Utopia (Munich and Vienna: Hanser, 1977).