Friday, June 19, 2015

A REVIEW: Going Over, YA by Beth Kephart

There are so few novels about teenagers in the East and West sections of Berlin that I was excited to find Kephart's slender volume about two young people in love in the early 1980s. As far as I know, this teen more-than-a-romance, based on true stories of escaping East Berlin, may be the only one in English--I am now on a feverish search for more in German.

Kephart sugarcoats nothing in this beautiful story written in evocative prose. Her fascination with and love and admiration for the people of Berlin are palpable.

Indeed, Berlin is a city that continually reinvents itself, which it could not do without the indomitable spirit of its people.

Oh, Berlin, your air is both heavy with tragedy and the past, and shining with optimism and hope. You are alive with art and music. When with you, I feel the sorrow of your people, the hope of those who are determined to keep sight of strong beliefs and love for family, friends, and justice. Berlin, you propel me backwards and forwards simultaneously, even while I stand in awe, breathing your presence, the present. You are richly represented in Kephart's novel--your young and your old; your hope and your despair; your regrets and your penance; your revolutionary spirit, intellect, and solidarity.

Every time I fly into Berlin I feel like I've time traveled, but I can never pinpoint to which time. Along the Spree I loll in a time of peace, picnics, and privilege; by the Gedächtniskirche and Denkmäler I admire the willingness--almost obsessive acceptance of responsibility--of your young people to own their parents' mistakes; in the streets of your many neighborhoods I commune with generations and linger over plaques in the pavement and plaques on the walls. By both the Fernsehturm and the Galleries Lafayette I marvel at the hypocrisy and vanity of us all.

By the Leere Bibliothek im Bebelplatz I feel the presence of Heinrich Heine in his powerful words: Dort wo man Bücher verbrent, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen: "Where men burn books, in the end they will also burn people." But the thing is--Heine's great Romantic spirit lives there, both presaging men's brutal folly and mourning his own people. What an emblem of consciousness and spirit, warning of the darkness within humanity, and testimony to the timelessness of brutality, the fragility of honor, compassion, and ethics.

Currently, I am planning and researching a novel about teenagers in Berlin. Since I was a college student, I've wanted to write about the revolutionary spirit and courage of young Germans who as part of the White Rose (die Weiße Rosa) believed in freedom, courageously acted upon their convictions, and were silenced by the Nazis. Now, I can write about those who helped freedom come to pass so many years after Sophie and Hans Scholl and their compatriots lost their lives in an attempt to prevent fascism from doing its filthy work. However, now aware that the law of unintended consequences also ruled Der Fall der Mauer and die Wiedervereinigung, I have some additional thoughts to share ... and will do so in my next long writing project. Beware! ;-)

Meanwhile ...

Ich danke Ihnen, Beth Kephart, für Ihre Darstellung der Anstrengungen und Kraft für das Weiterleben der Berliners ! Ein schöner Roman! Fünf Sterne!

1 comment:

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