the GDR buried with a pickaxe


Berlin jubilant on New Year's Eve 1989.

“Stern 111”, by Lutz Seiler, translated from German by Philippe Giraudon, Verdier, 576 p., €25.

On the night of November 9 to 10, 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, to everyone's amazement. Germany is moving towards its reunification. The images are broadcast around the world: a compact crowd leaves the East to join the West. A year later, on October 9, 1990, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) disappears actually to be integrated into West Germany.

It took thirty years for Lutz Seiler, a poet and novelist born in the GDR, to restore to this moment of historical change all the richness of a human experience that was both fruitful and uncertain. Ample in its narrative and powerful in its imagination, Stern 111 is the "Wenderman" par excellence, the great “turning point novel”.

A strange wind rises

Aged 26, Carl Bischoff, a young mason by training, was not (yet) in Berlin when the Wall fell. Having recently resumed studies, he has just received a telegram from his parents. At Leipzig station, trying to reach Gera, his hometown in Thuringia, Carl has to make his way through all those who are trying to board the Berlin express in the opposite direction. Which seems to lead the young hero to Stern 111 in a direction totally opposite to the direction of history draws on the contrary the first lineaments.

Barely arrived at his parents' house, Carl indeed feels a strange wind rising: "a kind of hissing, muffled and delicate, such as only happens once every fifty or a hundred years". His parents left their country and left for the West. Visit of each room of the apartment, particularities of the new stove, electrical installation and circuit breaker. They say goodbye to everything, but promise their son that they will send him letters. It is now up to him to "keep the place". Muted by “the violence of the incomprehensible”Carl offers no resistance at the moment to this "handover". In the sweetish smell of grease in his father's garage, his hands lit by the workbench lamp, his father, while explaining to him how the tools are classified, repeats to him one last time what he has always told him since the beginning. 'childhood : “The world demanded focus – and patience. It was unstable, fragile, of an uncertain nature, but repairable. »

A rag picker from the ruins of East Berlin

Three weeks later, contravening parental injunctions, the son went to Berlin aboard his father's Jigouli, “a kind of Fiat, an Italian, except that it comes from Siberia”. Leaving with only a few maps of the city, the five lines of a first poem and a satchel full of tools, Carl, in turn, sets off in search of the border – more precisely the passage that will lead him to a poetic existence. Because the time for political radicalism is over before the fall. Collected by a small band of enlightened ones that he baptizes "the intelligent pack"Carl becomes a rag picker from the ruins of East Berlin, who picks up, picks up, consolidates before everything collapses: “The rubble was like a fault, and the work fixed everything. » In his “raft bed”Carl also discovers love with Effie, and dreams of future poems, doubly helping to make the world, not better, but better. "habitable".

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