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Red Love: The Story of an East German Family (Demy Hardback) Hardcover – 12 Sep 2013

4.2 out of 5 stars 91 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Pushkin Press (12 Sept. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1908968516
  • ISBN-13: 978-1908968517
  • Product Dimensions: 14.3 x 2.9 x 22.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 99,101 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'A wry and unheroic witness to the distorting impact ... that ideology has upon the daily life of the individual ...He describes these 'ordinary lies' ... with great clarity, humour and truthfulness...his personal memoir serves as an unofficial history of a country that no longer exists' --Julian Barnes

'In this winner of the European Book Prize, Leo not only produces a moving family memoir, but also a probing exploration of the human need to believe and belong'---Kirkus

Tender, acute and utterly absorbing. In fine portraits of his family members Leo takes us through three generations of his family, showing how they adopt, reject and survive the fierce, uplifting and ultimately catastrophic ideologies of 20th century Europe. We are taken on an intimate journey from the exhilaration and extreme courage of the French Resistance to the uncomfortable moral accommodations of passive resistance in the GDR. With wonderful insight Leo shows how the human need to believe and to belong to a cause greater than ourselves can inspire a person to acts of heroism, but can then ossify into loyalty to a cause that long ago betrayed its people. --Anna Funder, author of Stasiland

"Beautiful and supremely touching" Keith Lowe, Sunday Telegraph

"Compelling ... [Leo] is terrific at elucidating the slow, incremental steps by which people come to lie to themselves... Guile, guilt and disappointment drip from these pages and Red Love is all the more affecting for it" New Statesman

"Leo uses the intimate scope of his family to explore the turbulent political history of East Germany from a perspective that has not been seen before. The result is an absorbing and personal account that gives outsiders an insight into life in the GDR" Shortlist

"Affectionate, insightful... Red Love is a fascinating tale... beautifully written and translated" Bookoxygen

About the Author

Maxim Leo was born in 1970 in East Berlin. He studied Political Science at the Free University in Berlin and at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris. Since 1997 he is Editor of the Berliner Zeitung. In 2002 he was nominated for the Egon-Erwin-Kisch Prize, and in the same year won the German-French Journalism Prize. He won the Theodor Wolff Prize in 2006. He lives in Berlin.


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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Leo's diligent investigation of his family's roots prior to and during the existence of the GDR is a remarkable story with a raw honesty and criticism I had not expected to find. Indeed, had I not been lent the book I would never have opened it. Now that I've read it I've had to buy it. This is an exceptional piece of writing and a necessary piece of writing.

Whether you are interested in the decidedly unsexy history of the ex-GDR or not is to a large extent immaterial as regards reading this book. Leo's literary style and narration is second to none in weaving through his tumultuous family history from mainly the 1930s, through WW2, the post war reconstruction and up to the fall of the Berlin wall. It is about personal romantic dreams and betrayal between people and between people and society. It's about what happens when a whole population becomes subjected to a few visionaries' narrow and uncompromising dream from which nobody is expected to ever wake.

For someone whose experience of the liberal arts was a landslide of leftist theory and dewy eyes when thinking about the great Communist ideals and its demise, this read was a breath of fresh air. However, this in no way some crude gloating right-wing, socialist-bashing exercise. When finished it I felt refreshed and upbeat despite the smothered hopes and wishes of two generations of his family and broader GDR society. Leo's story offers inner reflection, doubt and confession. Leo's family saga could so easily have been that of most people reading it.

It should be required reading in school.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Maxim Leo is editor of the Berliner Zeitung. He was born in 1970, in East Berlin in the middle of the GDR's short life. This memoir covers more than those four decades. It takes us back to the eve of the First World War - to the farm of his greatgreatgrandfather. We pass through the generations - his grandfather Werner and then his own father, Wolf. He traces maternal ancestors to Dagobert, then Gerhard and then his daughter and Maxim's mother, Anne. To recover them the book uses published memoirs, unpublished diaries, interviews and even Stasi files.
These people certainly lived through interesting times. The book is certainly readable. Some of the "memories" I suspect are, if not invented, then embellished. However, there are bigger issues. Firstly, where are the women? Wolf was brought up entirely by his mother, Sigrid, who gets a page or two only. She fares better than Gerhard's wife, Norah - who barely gets a mention. Anne is discussed almost entirely through her relationship with her father and his alter ego, the East German state. Secondly, as Maxim does admit, his parents were more privileged than most East Germans, his family not typical. When Anne resigns from her magazine she is funded [by the state!]to do a doctorate on Spanish trade unionism. It is painfully ironic that when Maxim is rejected for the Abitur, his mother is utterly distressed because her son is fated to be a worker. In Maxim's East Germany we notice the working class but fleetingly - sleep walking their way to the factories with pale faces and distant eyes. Thank God for the intelligentsia!!
The author retails familiar anecdotes [true/false/exaggerated?] set against a standard western view of East Germany - a grey landscape, populated by working class ghosts and the shadows of the informers.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A fascinating account of the life of several generations of an East German family. Maxim Leo is a young man when the Wall comes down in 1989. This is a fascinating account of the differing attitudes and assumptions of generations of his family. His great grandparents suffered (or otherwise) under the Nazis (one of them died in Auschwitz and another spent time in Oranienburg concentration camp). His grandparents' generation fought in the war as young adults, one of them being in the French resistance, and later were members of the idealistic generation that founded the German Democratic Republic. However disillusioned they later became, they generally retained a fundamental loyalty to the concept of their state as a bulwark against supposed fascism in Western Germany. Between this generation on the one hand, and, on the other hand, Maxim's generation with little or no loyalty or feelings towards their state, was the generation of Maxim's parents Wolf and Anne, who were small children when the GDR came into being, so were children of this system, with some of the instinctive loyalty of their parents, but with a growing wish for a wider variety of experiences in life and work than their state would permit them, culminating in the relatively sudden explosion of desire for freedom that caused the Wall to fall and the GDR to collapse in that heady autumn of 1989. A great read with a lot to say about generational attitudes and how they are shaped by external circumstances as well as the personae of the individuals themselves.
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Format: Hardcover
Being Eastgerman myself and born the same year as Maxim Leo I can say this is the best personal account of this part of German history I have ever read. Well researched, intelligently analysed, nicely written. Even with a different social or historical background this book will genuinely open up a time and country that has now long vanished - or so it seems. And by looking at the past so intensely it also shows what the presence really is for us, what the meaning of the Now is and how easily we ignore it and how little we probably actually learn despite of where we come from and despite of how we were shaped by our upbringing. This is a positive book though and my only criticism is the English translation in parts - what is a " fat blanket" or a " tooth mug" or "raffish"? Not a good advertisement for the Goethe Institute...
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