The German Riveter: Wende Memories – WITHOUT TV by Sandra Hoffmann, 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.


More than the fall of the wall on 9 November 1989, I remember the TV news of 4 November, the day of the major demonstration on Berlin’s Alexanderplatz – the first genuine, that is registered and permitted, demonstration in the GDR – and especially how positive the mood was there. This is probably because I was familiar with demonstrating – I had marched against Pershing missiles and for peace in the southwest of Germany – and believed that human chains changed things. Perhaps also, though, it was because, at that time, I had a room without a TV, and on that 4 November was presumably somewhere that did have one, whereas on 9 November, I wasn’t. I was twenty-two.

By Sandra Hoffmann

Translated by Katy Derbyshire

Read The German Riveter here.

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


Sandra Hoffmann teaches creative & literary writing for the Munich Literaturhaus and at universities. She also writes for the radio and newspapers. She received the Squidward Troll Prize for her novel What He Will Miss When He Is Dead (Hanser Berlin, 2012) and the Hans Fallada Prize for her last novel Paula (Hanser Berlin, 2019).


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.

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