Book look: Schmidt’s socialist time travel

Jochen Schmidt has travelled eastern Germany to find out what is still left of the Communist GDR (DDR).

The renowned author, who previously released “Drüben und drüben” (with David Wagner) and “Gebrauchsanweisung für Rumänien” among other books, went by car and visited several towns across the country. Schmidt, who grew up in East Berlin, kept away from touristic hotspots like the ancient city centre of Dresden but focused on places outside the public spotlight.

For “Gebrauchsanweisung für Ostdeutschland”, the writer visited Kyffhäuser, Guben, Mödlareuth and several other, mostly small towns but also cities like Leipzig. Wherever he went, Schmidt examined architectural developments since Germany’s reunification. He also searched different flea markets and antiques stores for DDR era books, dishes and toys. His approach to the issue is a highly personal one. Not every reader will agree with his strongly subjective stance.

Throughout the book, Schmidt criticises different occurrences between 1990 and today. He does not try to hide his support for various sociological circumstances regarding people’s coexistence in the former GDR and abstains from writing about contemporary clichés and many inhabitants’ support for far-right and nationalist ideology. Readers who are not familiar with certain historical events and economic aspects concerning the socialist regime in Eastern Germany will find it difficult to understand certain episodes told by Schmidt in his new book.

The author shares many anecdotes from his childhood and how he experienced growing up in the GDR with all the country’s bizarre political and economical constellations. He obviously does not care much about explaining today’s shiny sides of tourism key areas like Berlin and Potsdam. “Gebrauchsanweisung für Ostdeutschland” turns out to be an intensive journey through time with a controversially dominating personal scent as Schmidt writes about aspects like preferred toys and fashion as a teenager and his current passion for learning Russian.

Gebrauchsanweisung für Ostdeutschland
By Jochen Schmidt
Published by Piper (www.piper.de)

::: The Austrian Culture Channel on Twitter: @accthomas

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