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on 29 November 2005
This is a Brilliant essay-novel which is also extremely funny in the vein of Catch 22 - characters who try to outwit the communist system which somehow still manages to get the better of them. However it is more thoughtful than Catch-22 and particularly at the beginning hardly feels like a novel at all as characterisation is set aside in favour of thematic exposition. This short book also provides terrific insight into the minds of people both sides of the Berlin Wall well before it came down.However it has an unfinished feel, as it concentrates on a small subsection of people of a certain age (mainly men) and has hardly any women characters. The book is actually a novella of only 140 pages which in one sense is its main flaw. If it had been developed - particularly the characterisation - and expanded, it would have easily have sat up there with major classics. Even so, given the paucity of literature about divided Berlin, this book is an absolute must for anyone wanting to know what it was really like for the inhabitants before 1989. At All times Peter Schneider's writing is assured, polished and extremely effective. The main problem with the penguin edition, however, is that it uses a very American translation which jars.
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on 28 December 2010
Ian McEwan acknowledges in the introduction "at a glance The Wall Jumper appears to be reportage rather than fiction." Published in 1982, seven years befopre the wall came down, this novella has little plot and character interaction but it deftly highlights the obvious and also the subtle differences between West and East Berliners. The reportage of various famous wall jumper incidents over the years is blended in with the impact each German state's influence has on its citizens. The narrator is a West Berliner who regularly visits East Berlin and writes about the meetings he has with various citizens. The narrator's encounters with Robert a former East Berliner now living disenchantedly in West Berlin highlight their different 'eyes' and conclusions in which they perceive the same events. An interesting aside Schneider reminds us that the US had boycotted the Moscow Olympics because of Russia's occupation of Afghanistan. This book is not for those big on plot and characterisation but it is a very revealing account on the influence the state has over the individual and the way we perceive things.
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This completely frank, thought-provoking, and often wryly humorous account of life in Berlin before the fall of the Wall tugs at the heartstrings with its fascinating stories and tales from both sides of the Divided City. With poignancy and warmth, the author creates believable characters who adhere to their own truths, not necessarily the expectations of the reader. The personable, unnamed speaker in this first person narrative is a writer trying to create the story of a man "caught in a back-and-forth motion over the Wall, like a soccer goalie in an instant replay, always taking the same dive to miss the same ball." Virtually all the Berliners we meet here--from both East and West--are in the same situation as the unfortunate goalie, as they, too, go back and forth, repeatedly mistaking the moves of people from the other "side," misinterpreting signals, and often, in their ignorance, failing to "get it."
The author provides an amazingly complete, though somewhat sanitized, picture of the Wall-jumpers--not those poor souls who were brutally machine-gunned by Wall guards, but people like the speaker who come and go across the Wall with relative impunity because they do not call attention to themselves. And Schneider is quick to point out that most of the East Berliners are fairly satisfied with their lives, which are depicted with much warmth, as families and friends spend a great deal of time with each other, undistracted by the responsibilities of "freedom." The fascinating philosophical discussions and personal revelations that occur among friends from both sides may sweep away your preconceptions about life in Berlin before the fall of the Wall. Mary Whipple
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on 7 January 2011
This book could have been more interesting if the writer took the time to write everything in order. We have flash backs and disjointed conversations. The author introduces people with no background or placement. The conversations are unrealistic and seem more like general rants. The stories of wall jumpers could have been more interesting if they were just left a stories of jumpers than weaved through the main story.
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on 23 February 2017
if you are looking for a book recommendation look no further. "The Wall Jumper" by Peter Schneider is short, funny, and relevant to politics today!
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on 7 February 2015
A bit dull. Struggled to stay interested which surprised me as the subject itself is so interesting. had it been longer I would have given up.
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on 6 January 2017
An astonishing reminder of the bad times before the Berlin Wall was demolished and the ingenuity in play to preserve freedom of movement.
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on 20 July 2009
Well written book on stories of indivduals living on both sides of the Berlin Wall
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