Christoph Hein is one of the most important contemporary German writers. Born in 1944 in Heinzendorf/Silesia the son of a Protestant Minister, he grew up in Leipzig. Because of his background he was not allowed to attend secondary school in the GDR so he instead was enrolled in a boarding school in West Berlin. The construction of the Berlin Wall prevented him from finishing his schooling there so he earned his high school diploma at an East Berlin night school. For one year, Hein worked as direction assistant for Benno Besson at the Volksbühne (People's Theatre) in East Berlin. Otherwise he got by as a construction workeer, waiter and in other occupations, as the opportunity to study at university was at first denied him. Finally he was admitted to the university in Leipzig in 1967, where he studied philosophy and logic and earned his diploma in 1970, in Berlin. He then became dramaturg and house author at the Volksbühne. His first theater piece, "Schlötel oder Was solls", was premiered there in 1974. Further premieres of Christoph Hein's plays followed in Neustrelitz and Cottbus ("Die Geschäfte des Herrn John D./The Story of Mr. John D." and "Cromwell"). After fifteen planned premieres were cancelled, Hein quit the Volksbühne in East Berlin and worked as a free-lance writer starting in 1979. His plays, novels and short stories were published in East and West Germany starting in the mid-1980s ("Der fremde Freund/The Distant Lover", "Die Wahre Geschichte des AH Q/ The True Story of AH Q", "Horns Ende/Horns End", among others). In 1987, at the tenth Congress of the Writer's Guild, Hein gave a much admired speech, "Censorship is outdated, useless, paradox, inhuman and anti-social, illegal and punishable". His play "Passage" was performed in Essen and in Dresden. "Die Ritter der Tafelrunde/Knights of the Roundtable" was performed in Dresden. On November 4, 1989, Hein spoke along with other artists at a large rally organised by the Guild of Creative Artists at Berlin Alexanderplatz in front of nearly one million demonstrators. Also in reunited Germany Hein has remained a politically active writer. He protested against the Gulf War and has been an engaged opponent of xenophobic tendencies in Germany. After a prolonged illness, Hein published his first post-GDR novel, "Das Napoleon-Spiel/The Napoleon Game". One year later came the play "Randow", also a volume of short stories spanning 20 years, "Exekution eines Kalbes/The Execution of a Calf". In 1997, "Von allem Anfang an, eine fiktive Autobiographie/From the Very Beginning, a Fictional Autobiography" was published. From 1998 to 2000, Christoph Hein served as president of the German section of the PEN-Center.