Sagen von Unirdischen

[This page by Douglas Irving]

Sagen von Unirdischen; Tales of Other Worlds (1973)

This story, written in 1972, was first published in a 1973 collection called Sonderbare Begegnungen; Unusual Encounters. This ground-breaking work of science fiction may have paved the way for other GDR authors embracing the genre. The story is probably set on earth in the Middle Ages and concerns several visits from a distant advanced planet by two separate flying scouts, who have come to observe and investigate the earth, thus giving an outside perspective on earth. The story affords Seghers a space to reflect upon themes of importance to her including art, religion, other nations and cultures. In particular it reminds us of Seghers’s committed pacifist stance, as it contains a very straightforward anti-war message, encapsulated in the visitor to earth reflecting on the uniquely human ability to create and then destroy their own creation. Much as Seghers wished the story not to be considered a parable, it is impossible not to pick up on the profound concern for the state of humanity at the heart of the story. By building this into a strangely gentle and uplifting story, Seghers subtly advocates change in her reader. There is much here for the attentive reader of socialist literature at the time, as well as it being a thought-provoking and beguiling story for us today.

Characteristically, the main focus is on the male protagonist, with the females playing a subsidiary role, however in this case both main female protagonists are very much used as symbols of hope by Seghers.

German Edition

Sonderbare Begegnung; Unusual Encounters (Berlin: Aufbau, 1973) [This collection contains three separate stories, namely Sagen von Unirdischen; Tales of Other Worlds, Der Treffpunkt; The Meeting Place, Reisebegegnung; A Meeting on the Road]

English Translation

Anna Seghers, Tales of Another World, trans. by Douglas Irving, unpublished, 2014

Further Reading in German

Christiane Zehl Romero, Anna Seghers: Eine Biographie 1947-1983 (Berlin: Aufbau, 2003), pp. 286-87