Thursday, December 07, 2006

German books in English

DW-WORLD.DE has selected some great German books that have recently become available in English translation.

One of the selections:
After The Wall by Jana Hensel

"I got my first pair of acid-washed jeans just after the Wall fell," wrote Jana Hensel in "After the Wall."

Hensel was 13 years and three months old when the Berlin Wall came down on Nov. 9, 1989, the day she said her childhood ended. The book is both a memoir and an analysis of the generation that integrated into the West with apparent ease.

Like her peers, Hensel spent her early years coveting things from the "other side" -- acid-washed jeans, western chocolate, fancy cars. At the same time, a giant portrait of Karl Marx hung in her school classroom and she was taught to be suspect of children who brought bananas in their lunchboxes or came from single-parent homes.

When the Wall fell, not just Hensel's country but everything she knew was swallowed up by the Federal Republic of Germany. She no longer recognized her home town of Leipzig, where people started sporting top western fashions, eating at McDonald's and speaking western slang.

The author was also among those who adapted at lightening speed, dropped her Saxon accent and quickly became embarrassed by her parents, who seemed to have been left behind in an obsolete culture. By capturing the everyday in a loose, authentic style, Hensel manages to convey nostalgia for her youth without being overly sentimental. Despite the initial euphoria of reunification and the sudden abundance of everything East German children had coveted for so long, the process of assimilation that took place in the early 1990s was also accompanied by a nearly unnoticed sense of loss, which is precisely what Hensel draws attention to.

The 30-year-old author wrote the book "because there was a gap in German literature that has to be filled about how young people feel about what is happening," she said in an interview for the Goethe Institute. "Our world changed from one day to the next."

The former East Germany is so often painted in shades of grey, with secret service agents lurking around every corner. But Hensel's memoir offers a refreshing and realistic perspective that is neither apologetic nor sensationalized.
Click here to read about the other German books in translation.

Click here to read an excerpt from After The Wall.

--Marshal Zeringue