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 June 1989, a few months before the wall fell, I went on a school trip to Berlin, and I don’t know whether I was the only one of my group with no idea about the place. We came from the other end of the country, a small town in the south of Germany, and it was our first time in such a big city. The GDR, the Berlin Wall – I read about them in my school textbooks, and they both felt as far or as near as the French Revolution. Of course, we went to look at the wall and after that we bought paperbacks, sketchpads and strawberry tart for tiny amounts on Alexanderplatz. At a meeting at a political foundation, they told us the GDR would not exist for much longer. I was amazed: How did this man know that? How could he predict the end? After the trip, the city disappeared from my life again. It was only in 1998, when I moved to Berlin to work at the Berliner Zeitung along with fellow journalists from the East and West, that I gradually began to understand what the GDR was and how people had lived there.
By Dilek Güngör
Translated by Katy Derbyshire
Read The German Riveter in its entirety here.
Find the books from The German Riveter on the Goethe-Institut page.
Dilek Güngör, born and raised in the small southern German town of Schwäbisch Gmünd, is the daughter of Turkish guest-workers. She now lives in Berlin, where she is a prominent writer and columnist.
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.