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GERMAN FIRM TO RESTORE WRITER’S DILAPIDATED HOME

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It has been home to a famous novelist and to vagrants, burned by an arsonist, exploited for obscure artistic purposes - and generally reviled by Atlantans.

But now the dilapidated, charred ruin where Margaret Mitchell wrote most of "Gone With the Wind" is about to be restored to turn-of-the-century glory by a German industrial company.Daimler-Benz AG of Stuttgart, Germany, maker of Mercedes-Benz automobiles, said this month that it has approached the site's current owner, an Atlanta developer, with a plan to buy and restore the building before the 1996 Olympic Games here.

"One of the reasons we got into this project is that we, like everybody else all over the world, are familiar with `Gone With the Wind,"' said Bernd Harling, director of corporate communications for Daimler-Benz North America.

Atlantans are not just familiar with "Gone With the Wind," but haunted by it. The novel has sold more copies than any book except the Bible. But the South it depicts is one that many Atlantans disdain.

"I think there is a real ambivalence about our history," said Mary Rose Taylor, president of Margaret Mitchell House, the small but dogged group of preservationists who have fought for more than seven years to restore the house. "We're embarrassed, ashamed in some ways."

Slavery is not the only skeleton. "To be Southern was to be backward, inferior," Taylor said. "Many people in Atlanta would just as soon forget all about it."

And many others are indifferent.