He interpolates reality and fantasy to construct narratives about the history of the Sorbian people and voice criticism of the East German government and its policies concerning the Sorbians in a more subtle manner.
The first of these works is the "Hanusch Trilogy," a series of three novels -- Der Gymnasiast (The High Schooler; 1958), Semester der verlorenen Zeit (The Semester of Lost Time; 1960), and Mannesjahre (Man's Year; 1964) -- which trace the historical development of the Sorbians through the eyes of the protagonist Felix Hanusch, the son of a peddler and later Communist Party member.
Krabat, the symbol of the Sorbian people, their past, present, and future, moves freely in time and space to various historical epochs and confronts Sorbians in their continual struggle to survive.
During the autumn of 2000, I had the opportunity to interview Jurij Brezan, and we talked about his life as a Sorbian in Germany under both the fascist and the communist regimes, as well as about Sorbian history, Sorbian culture and literature, and the most pressing challenges facing Sorbians at the beginning of the new millennium.
GW: Do the Sorbians continue to celebrate this holiday?
How have the lives of Sorbians in your village changed since your childhood?
GW: How was the relationship between the Germans who were forced to immigrate from Poland or Czechoslovakia and the Sorbians in Rackelwitz or in Lausatia in general?
GW: Although the Sorbians have never had an independent state, they have lived in Lausatia for more than 1,500 years and have maintained their language and culture.
His experiences -- ranging from his expulsion from his Gymnasium during the Third Reich because of an essay he wrote, sufferings as a soldier in Russia, travels in Eastern and Western Europe, activities in the Deutscher Schriftstellerverband, initiatives on behalf of the Sorbians and Sorbian culture, to his reaction to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the unification of Germany -- provide the historical and cultural content for his literary works and his life.
Brezan, born in 1916 in small Sorbian village in the Lausitz region of eastern Germany, near the Czech border,, narrates, in his masterstoryteller style, the events and personal experiences that affected his decision to write and his development as author.