Berlin: The Wall and its traces

While we were in Berlin, our hosts took us to the new museum constructed like a watchtower overlooking a section of the Berlin Wall. Not much is left, and the wide swath it left through the middle of the city is now very valuable property. Mostly, it is being reserved for public uses, including the new memorial designed by Peter Eisenman, which actually has turned out to be more effective than if the designer's original intentions had been strictly followed. City authorities insisted on adding an information center beneath the Eisenman monoliths, which gives literal depth and figurative meaning to the work. (For images and background, see the official Holocaust-Mahnmal site.) When I got home I thought it was time I read what had been the emblematic novel of the wall -- though "novel" is a misleading term for what appears to be lightly disguised personal memoir by a West German writer who was about 40 in 1982, when it still seemed as though the Wall would last forever.

Schneider, Peter (1983). The Wall Jumper (Der Mauerspringer, tr. by Leigh Hafrey). New York, Pantheon Books.
Anecdotal "novel" about Berliners on either side of the Wall and those who cross repeatedly from one side to the other, and about their radically different ways of perceiving the world and of relating to one another. In the West, lefties like Schneider are laid back, curious & naïvely open to the ideas of the East; in the East, & among those who have recently come from the East, every intellectual he meets is suspicious, guarded and cynical.
"It will take us longer to tear down the Wall in our heads than any wrecking company will need for the Wall we can see." 119

"'I come from Germany.' Either it [the expression] has no meaning, or I am speaking of a country that appears on no political map. ... If I were asked where it lies, I could only locate it in history and in the language I speak." 126-127
To see what Schneider was talking about, look at this marvelous collection of photos by Jürgen Müller, Die Berlinermauer. And this observation about news presentation is still relevant, 16 years after the cracking of that particular wall:
"Network executives on both sides are laughably alike: in ther own camp, they let only the rulers speak; in the enemy camp, only the oppressed." 117-118
One of the participants at the conference we attended was the Dutch artist Ronald Klein Tank, who has been documenting the disappearance of the wall and its lingering "traces," die Mauerspuren.

For more links, check out Andreas Ramos's Personal Account of The Fall of the Berlin Wall: The 11th and 12th of November, 1989

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