The wall jumper by Peter Schneider
Translator – Leigh Harfey
Peter Schneider is a German writer in the sixties he was very active on the German student movement ,he has written numerous novel ,short stories and film scripts ,he currently teaches at Georgetown in the USA .This book was originally published in the early Eighties and is about the Berlin wall we are introduced to an array of characters that have jump the Berlin wall and survived from east to west ,one such character is Robert an east Berliner who was attracted to the bright lights ,we meet him in a bar in Berlin and we find that he is finding it hard to adjust to his new life in the west .As he struggles he has descended into drink .Other stories are about people wanting to see western films .Lena an ex lover of the narrator of this book whose whole family are still stuck in the east side of germany .There is a lot of sorrow at times in these tales of the grass not being greener on the other side of the fence .
In conversations with Robert ,it has become clearer what I’m looking for :the story of a man who lose himself and starts turning into a nobody .By a chain of circumstances still unknown to me ,he become a boundary walker between the two german states .
the narrator weighing up Robert .
When I saw this on the library shelf I was quite looking forward to it as one of my favourite films is der himmel über berlin (wings of desire )which is set just before the Berlin wall fell and the wall is a large character in that film ,and it is in this book but some how I found Schneider writing very dry almost Journalistic in a way .The description of the people the narrator talks to all feel like the could have been drawn from the newspapers of the time ,you never get further than the story of how they got there and how they are coping ,we also get a lot of factual info that slow the narrative at a point .I m not saying I didn’t enjoy the book I did I just think if I d read it twenty years ago just as the wall was there or just after it has fallen I d called it the best book I d ever read but time has passed and it is a good book on the time and the power the wall had on the city not just as a barrier but also as a symbol for the cold war .I m sure in another twenty years this will be a must read for the generations that can’t remember the wall .The book was translated by Leigh Harfey a reasonable translation you get no clue to if the book was a s dry in the original german but I think it may have been .
Have your read this book ?