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German author Thomas Brussig’s novel, The Short End of the Sonnenallee, is a novel set in Communist East Germany in the decade before the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is a rich, at times funny, at times sad, account of a group of interrelated individuals living in the shadow of the Berlin Wall, as the regime is showing signs of decay from within.
Brussig’s novel, a bestseller in Germany, has now been translated into English by award-winning American author Jonathan Franzen and Dr. Jenny Watson, professor of German at Marquette University. Brussig, Franzen, and Watson will present the English translation of the novel at Marquette on April 13.
A Novel by Thomas Brussig, translated from the German by Jonathan Franzen and Jenny Watson
April 13, 2023 | Weasler Auditorium, Marquette University
“An ordinary novel might play up the sorrow of their situation. An extraordinary novel, while acknowledging the sorrow, plays up its ridiculousness.”
- Jonathan Franzen -
Thomas Brussig is a German writer best known for his satirical novels that deal with German Democratic Republic. Brussig's first novel, Wasserfarben ("Watercolors") was published in 1991 under the pseudonym "Cordt Berneburger." In 1995, he published his breakthrough novel, Helden wie wir (Heroes Like Us, FSG 1997), which dealt with the fall of the Berlin Wall. The book was a critical and commercial success and was later turned into a movie. Two movies of his books have been released, "Helden wie wir" and "Sonnenallee".
Jonathan Franzen is the author of six novels, most recently Crossroads and Purity, and five works of nonfiction, including The Discomfort Zone, Farther Away, and The End of the End of the Earth. Among his honors are the National Book Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Award, the Heartland Prize, Die Welt Literature Prize, the Budapest Grand Prize, and the first Carlos Fuentes Medal awarded at the Guadalajara International Book Fair. Franzen is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the German Akademie der Künste, and the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
Dr. Jenny Watson, associate professor of German in the department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures and the at Marquette University. Dr. Watson's research interests include Swedish author, Selma Lagerlöf, East German literature and history, German-Swedish poet, Nelly Sachs, and German theatre practitioner Bertolt Brecht.
Dr. Sebastian Luft, professor of Philosophy at Marquette University, specializes in 19th & 20th Century European Philosophy esp. Kant, German Idealism, Neo-Kantianism, the Phenomenological Movement as well as Hermeneutics, Philosophy of Culture (including Theory of the Human and Cultural Sciences), Epistemology, and the Philosophy of History.
Dr. Alison Efford, associate professor of History at Marquette University, is an expert on German immigration to the United States. She recently collaborated with Viktorija Bilic to publish an edited translation of the correspondence of German American feminist Mathilde Franziska Anneke.”
Young Micha Kuppisch lives on the nubbin of a street, the Sonnenallee, whose long end extends beyond the Berlin Wall outside his apartment building. Like his friends and family, who have their own quixotic dreams―to secure an original English pressing of Exile on Main St., to travel to Mongolia, to escape from East Germany by buying up cheap farmland and seceding from the country―Micha is desperate for one thing. It’s not what his mother wants for him, which is to be an exemplary young Socialist and study in Moscow. What Micha wants is a love letter that may or may not have been meant for him, and may or may not have been written by the most beautiful girl on the Sonnenallee. Stolen by a gust of wind before he could open it, the letter now lies on the fortified “death strip” at the base of the Wall, as tantalizingly close as the freedoms of the West and seemingly no more attainable.
The Short End of the Sonnenallee, finally available to an American audience in a pitch-perfect translation by Jonathan Franzen and Jenny Watson, confounds the stereotypes of life in totalitarian East Germany. Brussig’s novel is a funny, charming tale of adolescents being adolescents, a portrait of a surprisingly warm community enduring in the shadow of the Iron Curtain. As Franzen writes in his foreword, the book is “a reminder that, even when the public realm becomes a nightmare, people can still privately manage to preserve their humanity, and be silly, and forgive.”
Event organized by: Michael Koch, Sebastian Luft, John Pustejovski, and Jenny Watson in conjunction with the Center for the Advancement of the Humanities (CFAH).
The organizers of this event gratefully acknowledge support from: