Ten Years After: The New Berlin

In October and November of 1999, Writers & Company presented a series of conversations recorded by Eleanor Wachtel in Berlin, ten years after the end of the Berlin Wall, and focussing on the city as the new/old capital of a unified Germany.

Read more about Ten Years After: The New Berlin

Series Broadcast October 10 - November 7, 1999

Author information and reading list

A meeting point for East and West, Berlin has always been a city of complex character and unique creative energy. Ten years after the fall of the Wall, the once divided city is engaged in the difficult process of rebuilding itself- not just physically, with a recognition of its painful history, but in a deeper sense reinventing itself as the capital of a unified Germany. In this special series, Eleanor Wachtel explores that process with a variety of outstanding Berlin writers.

Program 1: Hanns Zischler and Volker Schlondorff

Hanns Zischler--Hanns Zischler is an outspoken cultural critic, publisher and actor, whose views on Berlin are always provocative. His books include Kafka Goes to the Movies and Berlin Is Too Big for Berlin. Zischler has acted with directors such as Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol and Wim Wenders. (You can see him in the current movie Sunshine, directed by Istvan Szabo, where he plays Ralph Fiennes' fencing instructor). Although Hanns Zischler's name is well known in Europe, none of his published work is yet available in English..

Volker Schlondorff--International director Volker Schlondorff , b. 1939, is perhaps best known for his adaptation of The Tin Drum, by the Nobel prize-winning novelist Gunter Grass. He spent fifteen years in France, where he began his career as a filmmaker, working with New Wave directors such as Louis Malle, Alain Resnais and Jean-Pierre Melville. His other films include Young Torless, The Handmaid's Tale, The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum, Swann in Love and The Ogre. In 1992, Schlondorff took over as head of Berlin's Studio Babelsberg-a filmmaking centre in the former East with a long history in German cinema. While making his own films, he continues to act as chief advisor there.

Program 2: Bernhard Schlink

Bernhard Schlink's stunning 1995 novel The Reader has become a surprising international publishing sensation. The English translation, published by Random House in 1997, was the first foreign title to be selected by Oprah's Book Club; described as "morally devastating," the novel continues to provoke debate. Born in 1944, Schlink is a practising judge and professor of law at Humboldt University in the former East Berlin. He is also the author of several prize-winning crime novels.

Program 3: Pieke Biermann and Brigitte Burmeister

Pieke Biermann--b. 1949, is an award-winning crime novelist whose edgy, authentic fiction probes the underworld of Berlin. As her unconventional homicide squad investigates crimes in different neighborhoods of the city, she draws on Berlin's rich layers of history. Her novel Violetta is the only one of her books to be translated so far into English; it's available from Serpent's Tail, London (1996). You can also find one of her stories in the anthology Women on the Case: 26 Original Stories by the Best Women Crime Writers of Our Time, edited by Sara Paretsky (Dell Publishing, New York, 1996).

Brigitte Burmeister--b. 1940, was born and raised in the former East Germany. She moved to East Berlin more than 30 years ago, working as a literary historian and translator. Her novels, all set in Berlin, explore East German identity and life before and after the Wall. Critics praise her work as "wende-roman"-literally novels about the "turning" of the past ten years. None of her work is available in English.

Program 4: Erica Fischer and Peter Schneider

Erica Fischer--Journalist Erica Fischer documents a surprising love affair in her in her award-winning book Aimee & Jaguar: A Love Story, Berlin 1943 (HarperCollins Publishers, 1995; Alyson Publications Inc., 1998). Through letters, diaries, interviews and various documents of the period, she tells the story of Lily Wust, mother of four and wife of a Nazi officer, and Felice Schragenheim, a young Jewish woman living underground in wartime Berlin. This compelling account has the feel of a novel; a film version of the story opened the Berlin Film Festival in February 1999.

Peter Schneider--Novelist and essayist Peter Schneider, b. 1940, is known as an astute chronicler of Berlin and the German psyche. He was a leading member of the 1968 student movement in Berlin. His books include The Wall Jumper, a book of essays titled The Germany Comedy and Couplings (all published in English by Farrar, Straus & Giroux). This spring his latest novel, Edward's Homecoming, will be released in English translation. He has also written the screenplay for the internationally praised film, Knife in the Head.

Program 5: Ingo Schulze

Ingo Schulze, born in the East German city of Dresden in 1962, has been heralded as the new voice of post-unification Germany. His first collection of short fiction, titled 33 Moments of Happiness: St. Petersburg Stories (Knopf, 1998), draws on his experience running an advertising weekly in post-Communist Russia. His latest novel, Simple Stories, is set in Altenburg, a small East German city where he worked as dramaturge of a theatre company; it will be published in January by Knopf. Ingo Schulze now lives in Berlin. You can find some of his fiction in North American publications such as The New Yorker and Grand Street.

*All five tapes are available for purchase at a cost of $50.00 (or $20.00 each).
Please send cheque payable to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to:
CBC Writers & Company: P.O. Box 500, Station "A" Toronto, Ontario M5W 1E6

The series Ten Years After: The New Berlin was produced for Writers & Company by Sandra Rabinovitch.

Comments are closed.