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Settlement Hardcover – 1 Jul 2008

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books (imprint of Henry Holt & Company); 1st U.S. Ed edition (1 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805077685
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805077681
  • Product Dimensions: 14.9 x 2.7 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 979,628 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Christoph Hein, novelist, playwright, and essayist, is one of Europe's most respected literary and political voices. He is the author of the widely translated and internationally acclaimed novels "Willenbrock," "The Distant Lover," and "The Tango Player," among others. A former president of PEN Germany and the winner of several literary prizes, he lives in Berlin.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Common Reader TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 13 Jun 2010
Format: Hardcover
Christopher Hein is adept at capturing the mood of the old German Democratic Republic and the flat prose of Settlement, perfectly captures the mood of 1950s East Germany, echoing the need to keep things to yourself, to mind your own business and keep you out of trouble. However, its apparent simplicity disguises complex themes.

As the book opens we find ourselves in the provincial town of Guldenberg in 1950 soon after the Second World War. German refugees are flooding over into East Germany from the lands ceded to Poland, but with the general poverty of the nation, they receive scant comfort from the settled Germans who have problems of their own to deal with. The refugees are temporarily accommodated with German families or else make their own homes in derelict buildings and outhouses.

Bernard Haber, the ten year old son of a refugee carpenter arrives in the local school and is introduced to the class as an emigré from Poland. The children notice his throaty Eastern accent and his cloth bag made from an old military coat and begin to treat him with the contempt which immigrants from the east attract. Within a day or two however, Bernard has established himself as a tough character, well able to stand up for himself and he gains a sort of grudging acceptance, which follows him through his adult life, eventually enabling him to rise to prominence among the town's administration.

Bernard's life story is told through the eyes of a schoolmate, a girlfriend, a sister in law, an accomplice in smuggling people to the West, and a local business associate.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is about a village and its people in Eastern Germany. The book covers the period from post WWII to the near present. The central character is a German boy, who arrives as a refugee from the East. The book follows his life through the eyes of four of his neighbours as he rises from being bullied when young to becoming a prominent person in the village. If you're looking for an exciting story line, with ex-Nazis & Communists and all the rest of it, this is not the book for you. Instead, you get a story of how one village and its people, got on with their lives in dealing with the aftermath of WWII. English speakers and readers don't really have an appreciation of how life was for the Germans in that period. We get lots of war stuff in which the allies are the good guys but little of the German viewpoint. This is a book that gives one insight.
I enjoyed reading this book. I was left wondering at the end what happened next. I would have liked the story to have continued. I don't know if thats a good or bad thing. Anyway, I recommend this book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Guldenbergers, native vs. refugee, in postwar East Germany 12 Jan 2009
By K. M. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
When World War II ended, ten-year-old Bernhard Haber and his family came to the small east German town of Guldenberg as refugees. They were part of the German population expelled from their homes when lower Silesia and other lands were transferred to Poland as "recovered" territories. As a schoolmate of Bernhard's recounts, the hard-headed Haber boy told their teacher that he was from Breslau. Herr Voigt demanded a politically correct revision from Bernhard: "[Y]ou come from Wroclaw in the Polish People's Republic. Understand?" After a long, tense standoff, Bernhard acknowledged, "I come from Wroclaw." He then blurted defiantly, "But I was born in Breslau."

Thomas Nicolas, the schoolmate, recollects the hard life of "Pollack" Bernhard. His father lost a hand in the war, severely impairing his ability to ply his trade as a carpenter. Still with Bernhard's help, his modest woodworking shop sustained the family -- until someone burned it down and yet another new beginning had to be made. Bernhard's beloved dog was killed too. Bernhard's reaction was to vow revenge and become harder and even more withdrawn.

Besides Thomas, four other Guldenbergers relate how their lives intersected with that of Bernhard. There is the girlfriend who watched Bernhard get involved with local Party politics in order to strike back at a wealthy farmer, the young man who got jobs from Bernhard smuggling people to the West, Bernhard's seductive sister-in-law who tells the tale of the hot-air balloon ride, and the lumber mill owner with whom Bernhard forms a prosperous business alliance after the fall of the Wall.

Christopher Hein doesn't allow the reader to know Bernhard firsthand. We must rely on these very different and generally not particularly sympathetic outside views of him. This creates a curious and unsettled remoteness. Furthermore, although Bernhard as subject ties SETTLEMENT together, he tends to take a back seat in some of the reminisces as the narrators tells stories about themselves and East Germany as it evolved after the war. For instance, Peter Koller is more wrapped up in his own girlfriend's betrayal and in his rebuilt Adler "limousine." Peter gets to know Bernhard only tangentially and as someone who could conceivably (but not provenly) have betrayed him too.

One is not sure when Bernhard releases his grudges, including one about his father's death, or exactly how he does. Perhaps time, maturity, and investment in the community lessen them. But throughout the novel. one wonders exactly how far Bernhard goes to further his youthful agenda of payback. He and his role in the lives before us are largely inscrutable.

He remains in the shadows, a taciturn person irrevocably shaped by being a refugee, but a man who ultimately prospers despite setback and sorrow. In this he is arguably a symbol of his defeated country which carried its burden and agony largely in silence, but advanced and flourished again in the postwar world.

SETTLEMENT (which of course evokes meanings for a place settled, becoming a permanent resident, and an act of payment) is sometimes too preoccupied with the non-Bernhardian aspects of the narrators' lives to effectively hold attention, but the novel is an unusual and enlightening examination of many of the historical actualities of postwar East Germany such as refugee integration, communist collectivization and property confiscation, postwar values, and the economic changes after reunification. Spend some time with the fictional Guldenbergers to gain some insights into Germany. 3.7 stars.
What we were never told about the East Germany experience following WW2 11 Sep 2013
By voyageur - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
The story is told from the viewpoint of five memoir style narratives of separate characters; each formulating a unique perspective of the protagonist. Within this framework we see how the despotic nature of the East German government becomes more intense the further the distance from the West German border. The tale passes through a microscope how life was for those from the repartioned parts of Poland inherited by East Germany. The new border definition led to the refugee displacement of those Polish nationals trapped within the new border, who became refugees in what had been their own land. How they were then regarded by those chosen to sequester them and reemploy them by force from the government reveals what a dog eat dog miasma all were in.
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A Friend's Memories 3 Mar 2009
By Troy Townsend Jr. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
My best friend who's German was born in Selesia but moved to Berlin during
WWII. His father, whom he never knew, was killed on the Russian Front.
I bought the book for him as a gift. Later, I asked him now he liked it.
He replied, "It was good and bad because it also brought up the bad
memories." It is a well written book.
1 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Not quite what was promised 20 Jan 2009
By B. Kalama - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was a bit surprised when the book arrived that it was not quite what I expected. It was not hardbound as promised and had a stamp on the front cover "advance reader's edition - not for sale". There were also quite a few grammatical erros and typos.
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