At 60 I fell in love with another woman. She was not even forty when I met her.
I told my wife. She was broad minded as she usually is and didn’t raise objections to my new relation. On the contrary, she was happy for my renewed passion. So we decided to pay a visit to Brigitte’s home in Neubrandenburg, Germany, together.
Brigitte Reimann was a famous author in the Deutsche Demokratische Republik. Almost forgotten though towards the end of the century.
After the “West had won the cold war” and the Berlin wall had come tumbling down, the achievements of artists who had their career behind the Iron Curtain and had not been oppositional, generally were in low esteem. And actually Brigitte Reimann had been one of those novelists who had had high hopes and socialist ideals in her country.
Now of course Babes, my wife, had few reasons to be jealous. After all this particular DDR writer had died at the start of the seventies. And my sudden infatuation was a direct result of the hype the unexpected publication of her diaries caused in literary Bundesrepublik Deutschland.
Her life – on a modest scale- was heroic. In spite of her obvious literary success, tragic also. Because of her genuine ideals fading bye and bye, her sloppy love life and her anxieties while loosing her battle against breast cancer. Yet she didn’t give in, kept on writing and publishing and always stood out as an intelligent, independent woman.
Perhaps – though her “Ankunft im Alltag” is social realism at it’s best - she is not the most prominent female author of novels the DDR has produced. But her diaries definitely belong to the top. I even think they are the best since ’45. I’m taking all continents in consideration.
I bought part 1, “Ich bedaure nichts” ( I regret nothing), and got carried way. Next I bought part 2, “Alles Schmeckt nach Abscheid” ( The taste of goodbye is everywhere), and got moved to tears. Then I bought all of her oeuvre I could buy which was a lot actually. After the commercial success of her diaries publishers were eager to publish whatever they could in connection with this lady. And I still wasn’t satisfied. Hence the visit to Neubrandenburg.
Well, that’s what happens when a man falls head over heels in love with a woman, okay?
This was a voice from the past. A lucid and independent voice, an upright voice also. One that told what made young German idealists in the Eastern part of the country tick immediately after WWII and two decades on. Not blinded by ideology but driven by cool idealism, subtle but clear language, touching sentiments but without sentimentality, realistic but in no way playing victim.
She took me along to make me understand what it meant to be hot-blooded in DDR’s prudish society, to be literary talented but stay in line with officialdom, to dedicate time to manual labour for idealistic reasons in stead of writing and ultimately be a dead woman walking after cancer had been diagnosed without complaining.
She died at the age of 39. An aborted talent. An unfinished life. But still the author of two of my most favourite books ever.