25th Anniversary of the Berlin Wall !

Yes and how to imagine what this was like for the people of Germany? There are plenty of films around dealing with life in a divided Germany (see Margarete von Trotta’s ‘Das Versprechen’, Christian Petzold’s ‘Barbara’ and of course ‘Das Leben der anderen/The lives of Others) but what about reading matter? Those of you lucky enough to be heading off to Berlin in the next couple of months, mindful of this important anniversary of the Fall of the Wall, might be looking for something. For the non German speakers try Anna Funder’s ‘Stasiland’, an account of interviews and investigations held by Funder in the 1990s trying to get to the bottom of the activities and ideology of the East German state and the secret police, the Stasi, in particular. As well as being informative, the book is beautifully written- Funder is also a novelist. My favourite book about the DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik- East Germany) is Jana Hensel’s ‘Zonenkinder’, about her childhood in the DDR and the erasing of her memories and childhood which came with reunification. It disappeared overnight- T.V. programmes, Saturday morning fund raising for developing countries and she describes vividly the feeling of her past being wiped out of existence, disappeared. This book has been translated- by an American, Jefferson Chase, and the translation is reviewed on a Goethe Institute website- but do go for the German if you can.Lastly I enjoyed 5 years ago a collection by Renatus Deckert of pieces by German speaking writers called ‘Die Nacht, in der die Mauer fiel’ in which writers reflected on where they were when the wall fell and what this meant to them. There is a real range of experiences here and I especially enjoyed the contributions of the women writers Kerstin Hensel, Katja Lange- Mueller and Katrin Schmidt… and I’m going to mark this momentous anniversary by rereading them..

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