The Short End of the Sonnenallee

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The Short End of the Sonnenallee

The Short End of the Sonnenallee

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Visiting relatives from the other side bring them Western goods, at considerable personal risk, and the teenagers obsessively record songs onto audio cassettes from Western radio stations. As Franzen nicely puts it, “they may be continually deprived, but the texture of their daily lives is paradoxically one of fullness. In their scavenging and resourceful way, they experience the West more vividly, and appreciate it more deeply, than Westerners themselves do.” This book, for some reason never previously translated into English, has found an influential champion in the American novelist Jonathan Franzen. Franzen’s collaboration with Jenny Watson, an academic scholar of German, has produced an airy, cheerful translation that delivers on everything Franzen’s introduction promises. Brussig’s Berlin, Franzen writes, is “neither a dystopia nor a utopia”. It is, simply, one more place for human beings to be human – and more specifically, for teenagers to be teenagers. It plays the sorry situation of its teenagers – living so close to the Wall that they can hear the voices of western gawkers even while aware they may never get to visit them – as gentle comedy.

Thomas Brussig’s classic German novel, The Short End of the Sonnenallee, now appearing for the first time in English, is a moving and miraculously comic story of life in East Berlin before the fall of the Wall Brussig won't make it into my little pantheon of German stylists with his simple, paratactic sentences and his omniscient narrator, but I did enjoy the occasional use of Ossi colloquialisms.(**) And he did make me laugh, even though there was no subtlety to the humor. Young Micha Kuppisch lives on the nubbin of a street, the Sonnenallee, whose long end extends beyond the Berlin Wall outside his apartment building. Like his friends and family, who have their own quixotic dreams―to secure an original English pressing of Exile on Main St., to travel to Mongolia, to escape from East Germany by buying up cheap farmland and seceding from the country―Micha is desperate for one thing. It’s not what his mother wants for him, which is to be an exemplary young Socialist and study in Moscow. What Micha wants is a love letter that may or may not have been meant for him, and may or may not have been written by the most beautiful girl on the Sonnenallee. Stolen by a gust of wind before he could open it, the letter now lies on the fortified “death strip” at the base of the Wall, as tantalizingly close as the freedoms of the West and seemingly no more attainable.Young Micha Kuppisch lives on the nubbin of a street, the Sonnenallee, whose long end extends beyond the Berlin Wall outside his apartment building. Like his friends and family, who have their own quixotic dreams―to secure an original English pressing of Exile on Main St. , to travel to Mongolia, to escape from East Germany by buying up cheap farmland and seceding from the country―Micha is desperate for one thing. It’s not what his mother wants for him, which is to be an exemplary young Socialist and study in Moscow. What Micha wants is a love letter that may or may not have been meant for him, and may or may not have been written by the most beautiful girl on the Sonnenallee. Stolen by a gust of wind before he could open it, the letter now lies on the fortified “death strip” at the base of the Wall, as tantalizingly close as the freedoms of the West and seemingly no more attainable.

Centered around young Micha Kupisch and his family and friends, the novel relates a variety of episodes exposing the bizarre and grotesque everyday lives of those living in the German Democratic Republic. This is an entirely charming tale of “rich memories” and “making peace with the past”." - John Self, The GuardianThe Short End of the Sonnenallee is a charming light comedy. (...) The Short End of the Sonnenallee, which first appeared in German in 1999, might be accused of looking at the GDR with the soft focus of nostalgia, and this wouldn’t be entirely wrong: a former East Berliner, Brussig concedes that memory is not an accurate instrument for examining the past. But this novel also performs what the author calls “the miracle of making peace with the past”, and this, he ventures, may be a greater feat." - Maren Meinhardt, Times Literary Supplement

Thomas Brussig is a German writer best known for his satirical novels that deal with German Democratic Republic. Brussig's first novel, Wasserfarben ("Watercolors") was published in 1991 under the pseudonym "Cordt Berneburger." In 1995, he published his breakthrough novel, Helden wie wir(Heroes Like Us , FSG 1997), which dealt with the fall of the Berlin Wall. The book was a critical and commercial success and was later turned into a movie. Two movies of his books have been released, "Helden wie wir" and "Sonnenallee ". Michael Kuppisch was always looking for explanations because he was all too often confronted with things that didn’t seem normal to him. It never ceased to amaze him that he lived on a street where the lowest house number was 379. He was likewise unable to ignore the daily humiliation of stepping out of his apartment building and being greeted with ridicule from the observation platform on the West side—entire school classes shouting and whistling and yelling, “Look, a real Zonie!” or “Zonie, come on, give us a little wave, we wanna take your picture!” And yet, strange as this all was, it was nothing compared to the utterly unbelievable sight of his first-ever love letter being carried by the wind into the death strip and coming to rest there—before he’d even read it. Throughout the novel Brussig shows almost perfect comic timing, the humour almost never too forced, and adding one or two layers to each situation in pushing it to the limits of the believably absurd. German author Thomas Brussig’s novel, The Short End of the Sonnenallee, is a novel set in Communist East Germany in the decade before the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is a rich, at times funny, at times sad, account of a group of interrelated individuals living in the shadow of the Berlin Wall, as the regime is showing signs of decay from within. The involvement of Franzen gives this entertaining translation of Brussig’s charming East German novel plenty of star quality. But you can see why the American was so keen to bring this superb slice of life behind the Berlin Wall to a wider audience. Written in 1999, each chapter from the point of view of teenager Michael, it is a pitch-perfect takedown of the totalitarian experience. A reminder that no matter the harshness of a situation, a community can still live with hope and humour. OxbloodAm kürzeren Ende der Sonnenallee is the book to the film, Brussig's novelization of the film Sonnenallee he wrote with Leander Haußmann.



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