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Twenty Years After: Germany Then and Now

November 2009

On the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, this month’s contributors address the events and aftermath of that transformative time in Germany. Whether witnessing the collapse of Communism firsthand or growing up in its shadow, natives and more recent arrivals explore life before and after reunification. See how Kathrin Aehnlich, Stefan Heym, Yadé Kara, Uwe Kolbe, Günter Kunert, Robert Menasse, Uwe Mengel, Thomas Pletzinger, and Feridun Zaimoglu produce a nuanced portrait of a country coming to terms with its history. We also salute Herta Müller’s Nobel with an extract from her new novel Atemschaukel. And we hope you’ll join us in celebrating the publication of our new print anthology, The Wall in My Head: Words and Images from the Fall of the Iron Curtain. We thank for its generous support for this issue.

On Packing
By Herta Müller
I carried everything I had. It wasn’t actually mine.
Translated from German by Donal McLaughlin
Three Times Germany
By Uwe Mengel
Well, I don’t know, but somehow those East German men don’t interest me.
Translated from German by the author
Capoeira With Heckler & Koch
By Thomas Pletzinger
My bag in the back of the truck, the Antarctica bottles open, and we’re off.
Translated from German by Ross Benjamin
Eternal Youth
By Robert Menasse
My father was horrified when I told him that I was getting married and that the date and place were already set.
Translated from German by Ross Benjamin
From “Everyone Dies, Even the Paddlefish”
By Kathrin Aehnlich
Her voice still sounded friendly, but it had that slight quaver that signaled danger.
Translated from German by Edna McCown
The Knowledge Holder Doesn’t Choke on Cleverness
By Feridun Zaimoglu
Who taught child’s heart cruelty? How were you lured to the poison dish?
Translated from German by Kristin Dickinson, Robin Ellis & Priscilla Layne
Selam Berlin
By Yadé Kara
It all began on a Thursday evening in November 1989. From that night on, things would never again be the same.
Translated from German by Tim Mohr
To Awaken with Her
By Uwe Kolbe
To awaken with her, this dream / to begin days, days full and ripe
Translated from German by Anne Posten