Thursday 27 June 2019

#BlogTour Distant Signs by Anne Richter

Today it's my turn on the BlogTour Distant Signs by Anne Richter.Translated from German by Douglas Irving. It's literary and historical fiction.
About the Author
Anne Richter was born in 1973 in Jena, in the former German Democratic Republic. Her degree in Romance languages and English included study periods in England, Italy and France. In 2011, Anne was nominated for the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize, a highly regarded German-language literary award. Her debut novel, Distant Signs, was published in Germany in 2013. Anne is currently writing her second novel.
Buy Distant Signs

About the book
Historic fiction and family saga from East Germany post WWII to just after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Distant Signs provides us with an intimate portrait of families across three generations. In 1960s East
Germany, Margret, a professor’s daughter from the city, meets and marries Hans, from a small village in Thuringia. The couple struggle to contend with their different backgrounds, and the emotional scars they bear from childhood in the aftermath of war. As East German history gradually unravels, with collision of the personal and political, acutely observed vigne Kes quietly reveal their two families’ hidden truths.

I spent over three decades in West-Germany or BRD (Bundesrepublik Deutschland). I was a few years older than the author when the Berlin Wall came down. It's hard for people outside the country to understand how much of an impact the division of the country has had on the German people.

Even now, years after the fall of the wall, they still make the distinction between East and West.
As I was growing up it was referred to as Dunkel Deutschland - Dark Germany, mainly because of the oppressive regime the other side of the wall lived under.

I can remember a young girl joining our school, her family was from East Germany, she turned up in her Young Pioneers uniform. She sat there in a uniform donned with a blue neckerchief in the midst of a room full of kids dressed in a variety of clothes and colours. It never dawned on me at the time to question the how or the why.

It's also important to know that the focus in history lessons and books was on the division of the country, whereas the sordid details of WW2 weren't a focus in the curriculum. In the last few decades this has changed and there is a lot of reflection by younger generations determined to deal with the past.

I digress. (As per usual)

Although the above may seem like my usual meanderings, it is important to comprehend that everyone suffers in wartime. I think the author has purposely started this story in the aftermath of the war, so the focus will be on the Germans, as opposed to the Allies and the victims of the Nazi regime.

The attempt to get the reader to envision the characters as victims, and not just as perpetrators or part of said regime. This is especially evident in the stories of Friedrich and Johanna. Friedrich's account of the Trümmerfrauen and their children, of Johanna and their children starving and without a home.

The same can be said for Hans and Margret, who experience the trauma of war in a completely different way and are both defined by their experiences. As we move further into the future the insidious nature of East Germany becomes almost synonymous with the oppressive regime they thought they had left behind, but wasn't too different - barring the genocide of course.

It's literary and historical fiction. Relationships built on the fraught emotional remains of traumatised children, young people and adults. I think it's probably better to have some historical references or knowledge going into the read, if only for the reason mentioned above.

It's hard to separate the more horrific narrative from the simple fact that Richter wants the reader to experience the characters and their story as individuals without the added connotations of mass-murder. It can however be done. I would love to read it in the original language too.

Buy Distant Signs at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Buy at Amazon com. Publisher: Neem Tree Press Limited pub date 21 Feb. 2019. Hardback Price £14.99, eBook price £8.99

About the translator - Douglas Irving
Douglas Irving is Scottish. He studied German and Spanish at Aberdeen University. In 2014 he completed a Masters in Translation at Glasgow University. His first translation, Crossing: A Love Story by Anna Seghers was published in 2016 in the US to positive reviews. His translation of Anna Seghers’ last work published in her lifetime, Three Women from Haiti, is set to follow.

Neem Tree Press
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