The Stasi Poetry Circle


Berlin, 1962. Morale is at rock bottom in East Germany, thrown into chaos by the new Berlin Wall. The Ministry for State Security is hunting for a new weapon in the war against capitalism – and their solution is stranger than fiction. Rather than guns, tanks, or bombs, the Stasi resolve to fight the enemy through rhyme and verse, winning the Culture Wars through poetry – and the result is the most bizarre book club in history. Consisting of 15 secret agents – from WW2 veterans to schoolboy recruits – the ‘Working Group of Writing Chekists’ met monthly from 1962 until the Wall fell.

Out of stock

Email when stock available

ISBN: 9780571331208 Category: Tags: ,


The extraordinary true story of the Stasi’s poetry club: Stasiland and The Lives of Others crossed with Dead Poets Society.

‘Engrossing.’ Observer

‘Remarkable.’ The Times

‘Magnificent.’ Phillipe Sands

‘Gripping.’ Literary Review

‘A history so outlandish and unlikely that you feel it must be true . . . [A] grippingly well-written book.’ Anthony Quinn, Observer Book of the Week

In 1982, East Germany’s fearsome secret police – convinced that writers were embedding subversive messages in their work – decided to train their own writers, weaponising poetry in the struggle against the class enemy. Once a month, a group of soldiers and border guards gathered in a heavily guarded military compound in East Berlin for meetings to learn how to write lyrical verse.

Journalist Philip Oltermann spent five years rifling through Stasi files, digging out lost volumes of poetry and tracking down surviving members of this Red poet’s society, to illustrate the little known story in which spies turned poets and poets spies.