Reiner Kunze on the Aura of Words (Elke Philburn)

Aus NürnbergWiki
Wechseln zu: Navigation, Suche

Der Artikel Reiner Kunze on the Aura of Words (Elke Philburn) enthält einen Bericht Elke Philburns über eine Lesung Reiner Kunzes in der Bayerischen Akademie der Schönen Künste in München am 3. Dezember 2002 aus seinem Buch „Die Aura der Wörter“.

Aura 9783871733031.jpg

Zur Geschichte

Der Schriftsteller, Lyriker und Übersetzer Reiner Kunze wurde 1976 aus dem Schriftstellerverband der DDR ausgeschlossen. 1977 erhielt er die Erlaubnis der Ausreise in die Bundesrepublik Deutschland.

Elke Philburn veröffentlichte ihren englischen Bericht am 12. Januar 2003. Der Bericht Elke Philburns stand in der englischsprachigen Wikipedia in der Benutzerseite von Manfred Riebe. Da er dort offenbar unerwünscht war, wurde er von Unbekannt gelöscht.

Text des Berichtes

Reiner Kunze on the Aura of Words
Von Elke Philburn

On 3rd December 2002, the Bayerische Akademie der Schönen Künste in Munich was unusually well attended. On the agenda was a reading from the book "Die Aura der Wörter" - a resume of the controversial German spelling reform - by its author Reiner Kunze, to be followed by a discussion with a high-profile panel of authors, germanists and publicists.

Reiner Kunze, one of Germany's main contemporary authors, was born in 1933 in Oelsnitz. He studied philosophy and journalism in Leipzig from 1951 to 1955. From the early 1960s onwards it became increasingly difficult for him to publish in the then GDR, leading to his eventual departure in 1977 for West Germany. Since then, his poetry, prose, and essays (as well as translation work) have won him numerous awards. In the late 90's, Kunze turned his attention to the spelling reform and joined the numerous established authors who, like the majority of Germans, perceived an unnecessary and damaging attack on an orthographic system that had developed historically through the changing requirements and conventions of the language community.

Kunze's book begins with a critical view of the new rules on the separation of compound words. For example, the word "Handvoll" refers to a distinctively small amount. When separated, however, "Hand voll" refers to something different, more akin to a hand full of something. A ban on the spelling "Handvoll" not only eradicates this word from the written language and with it the subtle semantic difference expressed by the spelling, but also makes it impossible for the German language to develop new compound words of related structures in the future. In the majority of cases the separation of compound words represents in fact a regression to earlier stages of written German. Kunze believes that 'to decree that compound words, formerly spelled in one word, have to be separated again, ignores the linguistic intuition and intelligence that a language community of almost 100 million people had developed and invested over the last 100 years.' (p. 9)

Further, Kunze notes the effects that such interventions in language have on the individual members of the speech community. In Kunze's view, the word has an 'aura' that resides in its written form, spoken sound, and associations that it raises. Systematic reformation of words, for example by separating compound words into two, inserting triple letters or spreading them apart through hyphens, essentially destroys this aura. The effect on the reader is what Kunze refers to as a 'micro-trauma'; a tiny psychological 'lesion', which in the long term leads to language desensitisation, resignation and increasingly hostile feelings towards those who caused all this without any necessity.

One of the main arguments for a reform of the German spelling system goes back to the reform friendly 1970s when it was believed that working-class children were refused access to higher education, among other things, because they were singled out by their lack of mastery of the overly complicated spelling rules. Kunze comments, "I am from a working-class family but only now, at the age of 70, have I learnt that for us working-class children the over-subtleties of spelling had been a barrier [...]. To abuse the social status of working-class children as an excuse for cultural regression seems to be the privilege of an intellectual minority that sees itself in the position of a cultural guardian."

Kunze goes on to consider the fact that the simplification one had hoped for had never materialised. The previous 212 spelling rules which had been reduced to 112 were in fact inflated by so many exceptions and word-lists, that, even more than before, mastering these new rules was a matter of one's educational background.

Authors like Kunze, who refuse that their work be transferred into new spelling, are at danger of being excluded from school-books in the future. Text-books are only licenced for use at school if they comply with the new spelling system. This affects not only Kunze's work but also seminal works like Brecht's 'Mutter Courage', whose editors have refused a conversion into new spelling. When Siegfried Unseld, editor of the Suhrkamp publishing house, disallowed the publisher of a school-book to transfer the play into new spelling, he was told by the publisher that in this case the text was no longer suitable for schools. (p. 24). Kunze compares this exclusion from school-books with the deprivation of citizenship, which he himself experienced in the GDR.

The passionate mood at the Bayerische Akademie der Schönen Künste at Kunze's reading signalled that the 'reform' remains to be an unresolved and controversial issue that people still have strong feelings about.

Representatives of the Verein für deutsche Rechtschreibung und Sprachpflege(VRS), an association which had emerged from teachers' initiatives, received spontaneous rounds of applause for their contributions to the following discussion.

Particular attention was given to a brochure distributed by the recently established Forschungsgruppe Deutsche Sprache, which gave an impressive insight into the effects of the reform, with particular emphasis on the increasing number of spelling errors in the German press.

Kunze's memorandum of the Rechtschreibreform titled "Die Aura der Wörter", is available from Radius Verlag, Olgastraße 114, 70180 Stuttgart,, E-mail:


  • Reiner Kunze: Die Aura der Wörter. Denkschrift zur Rechtschreibreform. Neuausgabe mit Zwischenbilanz. Stuttgart: Radius, 2004, 78 S., ISBN 3-87173-303-2





  • German Spelling Reform, Rechtschreibreform. In:, a part of The New York Times Company -
  • Initiative „Wir Lehrer gegen die Rechtschreibreform“ - Wikipedia
  • Stoppt das Chaos! Resolution zur Wiederherstellung der Einheitlichkeit der deutschen Rechtschreibung. Anzeige. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung vom 18. Juni 2002, S. 49 - PDF-Datei
  • Resolution zur Wiederherstellung der Einheitlichkeit der deutschen Rechtschreibung - DSW