Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 708
Peter Schneider's 1983 book The Wall Jumper is set in Berlin, not long after the Berlin Wall was constructed to divide and separate East Berlin and West Berlin.
Let's look at some quotes from the book and discuss their significance.
The best time to cross the border at Heirich Heine Strasse is between twelve and two in the afternoon. The checkpoint is almost empty: just one other traveler, with a shepherd dog on a leash, waits under the loudspeaker for his number to be called. I could simply drive up to the shed from which a border official will soon emerge to hand me my numbered ticket. But I know the consequences of crossing the white line unasked: the officer, even if he is there and ready, will wave me back and make me wait until he gives me a sign. I can’t follow impulse: I have to wait for his beckoning hand, and I can’t afford to miss it. The message in this ritual is clear and seems deliberate: I am entering a state where even things that will happen anyway require authorisation.
Here, we get a practical look at what it would have been like to cross the border between East and West Berlin. This story is told from the perspective of an unnamed narrator—Schneider himself, it's considered, as he lived in Berlin at this time. The author himself made the trip back and forth over the border, and here, he captures what that experience was like.
Apart from the technicalities (the shed, the numbered ticket, the loudspeaker), we get a sense of how the city was under strict governmental control. Look at the last line: "I am entering a state where even things that will happen anyway require authorisation." It's absurd—and telling about the state of things at that time.
I turned forty last year. The two states which bear the word “German” in their initials have just celebrated their thirtieth birthday. So I am ten years older than the state that has grown up around me and in me. On the basis of age alone, I can’t call it my fatherland. What’s more, this state represents only a part of the country that would be my fatherland. If my fatherland exists, it isn’t a state, and the state of which I am a citizen is not a fatherland.
This passage hints at the disorientation that Berliners, including the narrator, felt during the Berlin Wall era. What is a city after it's been divided in two? What do borders really mean? If Germany is only a part of the country that would have been the narrator's fatherland, is it really his fatherland? This excerpt is powerful in that it addresses larger questions about territory and identity.
At first Pommerer was...
(The entire section contains 708 words.)
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