This self-published book crossed my tracks almost accidentally, when I had just finished reading »Rummelplatz« (Amusement Park) by Werner Bräunig and was overcome by a deep emptiness on the fringes of which questions began to arise. How did the socialist and working man’s author, Bräunig tolerate the public hostilities targeting his literature and the fact that his novel was never published? How did Bräunig, the artist, survive the »failure« that had been imposed on him? What were the circumstances that caused Werner Bräunig, the man, to die at the age of just 42?
Anna-Lena Wenzel is spending her time studying on a scholarship in Halle-Neustadt, East Germany, at one of the model projects of socialist housing featuring the typical paneling. The place is just like the one where I grew up (albeit in a different city) and where Bräunig isolated himself in 1968 to either get drunk or re-invent himself. Wenzel’s narrative consists of diary-like notes that approach Bräunig, the individual from different angles primarily – and that’s what I like the most about this book – under the direct influence of Halle-Neustadt, the concrete location. It’s a joy to read how she exposes herself to him, allows him to let her despair and even runs away from him only to return to him some time later.
The personal insights Anna-Lena Wenzels reveals are touching as well. They can already be derived from the dedication to her father, Wolfgang Wenzel, who also passed away in his forties, which precedes the narrative. With sensitivity and respect, the author questions the suffering of both men and the circumstances that made life impossible for them. In conjunction with this, she also constantly questions her own role, as offspring, as the one left behind, as someone who was socialized but not in East Germany. The intelligent narratives provide answers to many of the questions I asked at the beginning. Moreover, the narrative is complemented by a very insightful interview with Bräunig’s son Claus Bräunig. The book actually makes you want to take a drive and visit Halle-Neustadt or any other place where we will find the traces affiliated with us.
Stefan Wartenberg, February 2023