Translated by Samuel P. Willcocks
6 x 9 inches, 544pp. January 2016
ISBN : 9780857423054
Rs 950.00 (HB)
Werner Bräunig was once regarded as the great hope of East German literature—until an extract from Rummelplatz was read before the East German censorship authorities in 1965, and fierce opposition summarily sealed its fate. The novel’s sin? It painted an all too accurate picture of East German society.
Rummelplatz, translated here by Samuel P. Willcocks, focuses on a notorious East German uranium mine, run by the Soviets and supplying the brotherland’s nuclear program. Veterans, fortune seekers and outsiders with tenuous family ties like narrator Peter Loose flock to the well-paying mine, but soon find their new lives bleak. Safety provisions are almost nonexistent and tools are not adequately supplied. The only outlets for workers are the bars and fairgrounds where copious amounts of alcohol are consumed and brawls quickly ensue. In Rummelplatz, Bräunig paints his characters as intrinsically human and treats the death of each worker, no matter how poor, as a great tragedy. Bräunig occupies a cultlike status in Germany, and this new translation of his masterpiece is an excellent introduction for English-language readers.
Werner Bräunig, born in Chemnitz in 1934, was regarded as the great hope of East German literature, until an extract from Rummelplatz was read at the eleventh plenum of the censoring central committee of the SED and met with a ferocious opposition that sealed its fate. He had started writing in the mid-1950s after various short-term jobs including a stint at the Wismut uranium mine. Bräunig studied at the Johannes R. Becher Institute of Literature. He died in Halle in 1976 at the young age of forty-two, but left behind one of the most important works of post-war German literature.
Samuel P. Willcocks was the 2010 winner of the German Ambassador's Award for Literary Translation (London). He translates from Czech, German, Romanian and Slovene into English and lives in Giurgiu on the Danube with his family.