GUNDERMANN: East Germany's Coal Miner Rock Poet by DAVID SHIRREFF
This tale follows Gundermann's
progress from local song-maker
to people’s tribune
in an uncomfortably
GERHARD GUNDERMANN was an artisan poet, who drove one of the world’s biggest mining machines by day, and wowed fans with his music by night. He grew up in the wilds of socialist East Germany and by some alchemy created songs and poetry that resonate today. He is sometimes known as the miners’ Bob Dylan.
This is the first biography in English of someone who deserves an audience beyond his homeland, for his songs, for his extraordinary intellectual curiosity, for his poetry, and for his life that was full of contradictions: a coal-miner and eco-warrior, a critic of the regime - but one who also spied on his fellow citizens.
He died in 1998 at the height of his powers. His band, die Seilschaft, took a decade to recover from the shock. Now his songs are widely sung by several bands in Germany, a testimony to the staying-power of his powerful, haunting lyrics.
David Shirreff was a correspondent for The Economist in Germany. This story came out of his fascination for a country in transition, a failed socialist state that fell victim to a Western takeover, and which still relies on lignite mining - one of the world’s filthiest industries - to fuel its economy.
“Gundermann” opens a window not just on the man but also on the world he inhabited.