“Es gibt keine Universalgeschichte”: Heiner Müller’s Der Auftrag as Critique of Cold War Revolutionary Theory

Elena Stramaglia


The article analyzes Heiner Müller’s play Der Auftrag (1979) as a critique of GDR ‘solidarity’ interventions in decolonizing countries during the 1970s. In the 18th-century narrative of three emissaries exporting the French Revolution to colonial Jamaica, Müller inscribes a critique of Cold War neoimperialisms and particularly of the Eastern Bloc’s ambiguous ideological program of ‘exporting the revolution.’ This discourse is framed within a broader problematizing of the European revolutionary tradition and the assimilatory tendencies inherent in its universalism, entailing also a self-problematizing of the socialist intellectual’s position vis-à-vis the emerging ‘Third World revolution.’ The analysis highlights how Müller construes this critique by means of a textual interaction with several politico-literary models pertaining to the European tradition. Finally, it shows how Müller draws from postcolonial literature and theory in parallel as he gestures towards a potential cultural and political alternative model. (ES)

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