Cuban Theater Digital Archive

Heiner Müller

Author / playwright

Biography of Heiner Müller

I have no fantasy, not even the slightest. That is my strength.
Heiner Müller (1929 – 1995)

Heiner Müller was born on January 9, 1929 in Saxony. He spent his formative years in the newly formed post-WWII German Democratic Republic and emerged in the 1950s from under his mentor Bertolt Brecht as a wholly unique voice for the German theatre. Later he would be appointed the artistic director of Brecht’s Berliner Ensemble, a position he retained until his death on December 30, 1995.

In his earlier plays, The Correction (1958) and The Scab (1956), Müller confronted the futility of creating a socialist state in East Germany. These plays were largely inspired by Brecht’s Lehrstück (Lesson Plays). It was his interest in Georg Büchner’s unfinished theatrical piece and Woyzeck that inspired him to start writing synthetic pieces to free theatre artists from the constraints contemporary dramatic literature. The most famous example are the texts for Hamletmachine (1986) and Quartet (1987). In the 1980s he had a fruitful collaboration with American theatre artist Robert Wilson, with whom he developed the text and premiere production of Hamletmachine. Müller also developed the text for the Cologne section of CIVIL warS (1984).

Upon Müller’s death in 1995, Germany had begun the re-unification process. His life ended as his homeland was struggling to welcome the ideas of the West. His works are considered by most as the best reactions to the failure of socialism in the East Germany; his is a voice demanding redemption from a world in constant conflict and destruction.

Some obituaries:

Parting Heiner Muller

He who kept the dialogue with the dead, Now he is dead. A Chinese [Sage] in Prussia, The master is dead. The wave rolled over him, the water Keeps flowing without him. His stony work Slowly goes down to the ground. Before he could look out for the next millennium, His body betrayed him, the enemy. He who thought he was dying too slowly, He who was waiting patiently, nothing is waiting for him.

His cynicism was goodness Since he announced the great falls, the catastrophes That were silenced by harmony.

The terror he was writing of came from Germany.

(Durs Grunbein, December 30, 1995. Translated by Thomas Irmer.)

Perhaps his most moving and most important play will be the totality of all his public statements. There is a second, ultimately important and creative life for the playwright, even though he does not see the dramatic text become writing through himself: he performed it, as a speaker. Also, one can only speak and think in that way if one had been, for many years, in this absurd self-consuming state of waiting when one keeps listening and hopes that the text that emerges from the inner self can be understood, all of a sudden. Word for word.

Therefore it's a damn cheek that Heiner Muller is dead now. It doesn't matter that Deleuze died. And it is still hard to believe that Foucault isn't alive anymore. That Jasper Johns is living and Andy Warhol isn't: a disgusting absurdity. There used to be one so-called Hermann Burger, so what? And it is still unbearable, every other day, that Thomas Bernhard isn't around anymore, dead. And for more than eleven years, Truffaut is dead while Godard is still alive. This is horrible, it can't be true, absolutely impossible.

And therefore, unfortunately so, it will now be like that: whenever something important happens in the world, we will have this reflex-like thought: that it is a damn shame that Heiner Muller can't see this anymore. And that's so sad and wrong.

(Rainald Goetz, "Where is he, where is he?," 2 Jan 1996. Translated by Thomas Irmer.)

Written texts: +

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