When we first conceived the idea for The German Riveter we wanted to bring you snapshots of 1989 from the point of view of those who’d lived through it. The writer, translator and publisher Katy Derbyshire has collected and translated for us a selection of memories of the Wende (‘the changes, the turning point’) from eight of Germany’s best-known writers.
I was twenty-four and in love. In love with a city. For the first time in my life, I knew: you’re in the right place at the right time, you privileged creature. Escaped from Zurich, at home in West Berlin. My obsessively blissful frenzy lasted 847 days, which consisted more of nights than of days. Then came November 1989. I cried, like so many – the excess of emotions, the images, radiant eyes, other people’s joy. I walked the streets along the wall, my dog by my side. I cried along with them and laughed and hugged – and froze. I didn’t know it yet but I sensed it: something was dying, in me, in the city. The darkness, the emptiness (West Berlin was that above all: dark and empty), the lost and at the same time accentuated and protected, the unfinished, all these gaps, they would vanish. Of course it was childish, that we-in-here are enough for us, what do we care about the rest-of-the-world-out-there? But it was wonderful. It was community. It was freedom.
There is no more we-in-here today. There is barely any darkness. Barely any fractures. No more floating, no fairy-tale slumber. Nothing but reality.
By Zora de Buono
Translated by Katy Derbyshire
Read The German Riveter in its entirety here.
Find the books from The German Riveter on the Goethe-Institut page.
Zora del Buono studied architecture and worked in Berlin as a construction supervisor after the collapse of the GDR. She has published six books to date, including a literary travelogue for which she traced down fourteen of the oldest trees in the world.
Katy Derbyshire is a London-born, award-winning translator who has lived in Berlin for over twenty years. She is now also publisher at V & Q Books, and in 2020 will be the London Book Fair’s Literary Translator of the Fair.