Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Lakritz, Latein und grosse Wäsche ...

It only cost 50 pfenning and was published by the Protestant publishing house in the GDR. Just 50 pages long and five short stories from five different authors.
The first is a love story by Siegfried Lenz and this is what I've been reading again this evening. It brings back lots of memories of being in the chapel in the cellar of the Predigerseminar in Wittenberg. That was where I first heard Lenz's love story told. It put a smile on our faces early in the morning and one of the line's in the story became a sort of code "Willst Lakritz?" - do you want liquorice - it was a way of trying to laugh at the crazy pointless necessity of studying theology in the middle of a revolution. Repeating that phrase also reminded us of the importance of story, of being touched by a narrative beyond our own - despite being caught up in that crazy political narrative. Remembering this little story helped us have a bit of control somehow - and it made us laugh.
What I love about this tiny pamphlet-like book is its lack of pretention but also its pure goodnaturedness, here are five really great short stories for reading aloud or reading alone. Enjoy. What a wonderful thing for a church publishing house to offer people living under communism - quite simply a good read, enjoyment, pleasure. Feed your mind and your imagination. Tell your story.
For me reading this story again also conjures up strong GDR cigarette smoke, the smell of the coffee grounds being brewed in the small kitchen outside my room and the image of us sprawled and talking in the corridor, telling stories, testing out our narratives.
The truth is that I have never much liked liquorice at all. However, narratives have a strange twist and part of my GDR story was about falling in love with the person I heard telling the Siegfried Lenz story. I was falling in love with someone while being in love with (and engaged to) another person who was a long way away. Most of that story was not written in my GDR diary but it forms part of the context and prism through which I look back to what it was like to live through a revolution. A time of heady personal emotions as well as of politics.
So what about you, willst Lakritz? Do you want some liquorice? What's your story?