Reading and discussion with Lucy Jones and Alexander Wells
Brigitte Reimann was one of the most important female voices in the GDR. A prolific writer, she wrote a clutch of novels before dying fifty years ago of cancer, aged 39. The English version of her novel „Die Geschwister“, has been published by Penguin Classics and Transit Books as Siblings, translated by Lucy Jones.
SIBLINGS is about how the division of Germany affected Reimann’s family personally. An early writer of autofiction because of her commitment to the causes she believed in, when her first brother defected to the West, she felt that her family had been torn apart. Siblings explores one day at Easter in 1963 when the narrator Elisabeth tries to persuade her second brother not to leave for the West too. She is a painter in the GDR who is trying to follow the call of the Bitterfeld Conference and bring art to the workers – but without toeing the socialist line.
This storyline too is closely based on Reimann’s fight to write literature in the 1960s that was more than just ideological fodder. In real life she stood up to those in power, expressing herself in „dense, jagged prose (…) convey(ing) a hunger for a life that encompasses idealism with desire“ (Alexander Wells, The Guardian, Sat 11 February 2023). Like a kind of „flickering street photography“ (Kevin Brazil, TLS) the novel evokes what it was like to live in the GDR of the 1960s, with so much at stake in personal and political terms.
Alexander Wells will be talking to the translator Lucy Jones about Reimann and SIBLINGS.
(c) Oliver Toth
Lucy Jones is a British-born writer and translator and has lived in Berlin since 1998. She has translated books by Anke Stelling, Silke Scheuermann and Theresia Enzensberger among others. Her writing has appeared in SAND Journal, Pigeon Papers NYC, 3AM Magazine, LitroMag and Statorec.
(c) Mathilde Montpetit
Alexander Wells is a freelance critic and essayist from Australia. His work has been published by The Guardian, The Baffler, European Review of Books and Meanjin among others. He is currently Books Editor for Exberliner and co-runs a reading series at Dussmann dedicated to international Berlin writing.