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Backblog August 30, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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Too dim to write a book review. And too freezing. Why must it be THIS cold? I’ve got every orifice to the outside world closed and am wearing a number of layers. I already let my eye linger lovingly on some long-johns this afternoon. But, anyway, I’ve got a backblog to clear and A Woman in Berlin was one of the things on it.

As I say, no review. But a quote, as our non-anonymous anonymous heroine wonders how to go on with her city and Volk in tatters. (Honestly, how prehistoric. Hasn’t mental cut-&-paste been invented yet? I actually have to type this out…)

Sunday May 13th 1945.
I’m just an ordinary labourer, I have to be satisfied with that. All I can do is touch my circle and be a good friend. What’s left is just to wait for the end. Still, the dark and amazing adventure of life beckons. I’ll stick around, out of curiosity, and because I enjoy breathing and stretching my healthy limbs.

I rather like that matter-of-factness. The book is full of it. Its stories are sometimes incredible, but the incredible became ordinary. Rape became ordinary. But life was got on with, for what else could be done? The collective experience of rape was somehow its only comfort. As the heroine explains, if this hadn’t been wartime, there’d have been the reporting of it, the having to face the rapist, potentially. Now, you got on with it in the knowledge that most of the other women you met had been raped too.

And the relationship with the Soviet soldiers is equally odd. There are moments of warmth. By befriending the right soldiers, food can be guaranteed. By befriending one soldier, the attentions of others can be avoided. Befriending the wolf to stave off the pack, as the heroine herself puts it. And how she wishes all stocks of alcohol could somehow have been destroyed before the final advance. There would have been much less rape without it.

There is fear, in some quarters, that this book may be a fake. It is wonderfully well written, but then the authoress was a journalist with rich travel experience and a handy turn of phrase. It wasn’t published for years after the war, and in English first. Germans only got to read it in the 60s and it caused such uproar – such a humiliation for German men – that it has only been rereleased in the last couple of years, since the authoress’s death. Perhaps it was touched up once the war was a more distant memory. A gripping read nonetheless.

Comments»

1. Berlinbound - August 30, 2006

Sounds like a great read … The title/author?

2. Wyndham - August 30, 2006

The man’s got a point, bib. Nice review, though.

3. BiB - August 30, 2006

That’s the thing. We don’t know. It’s anonymous. Which I suppose only helps fuel the rumours that it’s a fake. However, it’s almost common knowledge that the authoress was a certain Marta Hiller. But you’ll find it under Anonymous. And it’s called, simply, A Woman in Berlin. Eine Frau in Berlin in the original.

Hello Berlinbound, by the way. And hello Wynders. Been tempted back into the fold yet?


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