The German Riveter: Wende Memories – EMPTINESS OF CUT-OFF STREETS by Inka Parei, translated by Katy Derbyshire

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.


In November 1989 I was living in Kreuzberg, in a quiet street close to the wall. There were many such border areas in the west of the city. Most people avoided them. Others, like me, were drawn there over and over again.

The day the wall fell was one of the most unremarkable days in my entire life. I was at home all day, heard the news on TV, and afterwards I was strangely tired, lethargic, absent. I went to bed early.

My family never suppressed the fact that my father and mother both came from East Germany and left the GDR before the wall was built. It seemed to be utterly unimportant, as though life consisted only of the present. Sometimes we children expressed a wish to see where our parents were born. The emptiness that filled the room for a few minutes after questions like that was made of the same stuff as the quiet in the dead ends, cut-off streets and blind corners where I so liked to spend my time in the years before and after the wall fell. But I didn’t understand that until much later.

By Inka Parei

Translated by Katy Derbyshire

Read The German Riveter in its entirety here.

Find the books from The German Riveter on the Goethe-Institut page.


Inka Parei was born in Frankfurt and moved to Berlin in 1987, where she studied German literature and Chinese studies. She now spends her time writing and tutoring emerging literary talents. She won the 2003 Ingeborg Bachmann Prize for excerpts from her book Was Dunkelheit war.


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.

Category: November 2019 - The German RiveterThe RiveterTranslations

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