Monday, 9 November 2015

Red love, Maxim Leo

What is is like to grow up in a totalitarian state? 

A state that decided for you if you could study or not or what profession you could have. 

A state that kept a close eye on its people and where everything could be reason to be arrested. 

A state that kept its people prisoner and told them it was for their own safety. 

A state that distorted the truth and told its people that was freedom.  

Maxim Leo grew up in the socialist state of East Germany. His mother Anne was a party member and believed in the ideals of the socialist state. This was due to her father who was one of the leading members in the state. Only when she found out as a journalist how she has to compromise with the truth she began to have doubts, although she was not ready yet to give up all her beliefs.

His father Wolf was an artist who did not believe in the DDR and who tried to find his own path within the system. This caused many arguments with his father in law.

When he was young, Maxim wanted nothing more than to be a West German. One of his favorite pastimes with his friends was to walk through East Berlin in their western jeans, with a map in their hands saying things like: ‘gosh, this does look different than on our side’.

When the Berlin wall fell the first thing he did was to make sure he had a passport of West Germany, so he would have no problems if the wall would close again.

Maxim became a journalist, just like his mother and grandfather and gradually he had questions.
What happened to his grandfather Gerhard that he believed so strongly in the DDR? How did his other grandfather switch from being a national-socialist to a communist? How did his mother and father cope within the system? Maxim decides to talk to his familymembers to get the whole story.

I do not know what the Dutch and English publishers thought when they translated the German title into Red love, it sounds like soft porn from the seventies. Luckily I found out what the book was really about, and when I went to Berlin it seemed like a good moment to read the book.
 
The Berlin wall is gone, but sill visible in many ways
Red love is a very interesting story about recent history, that somehow seems so very far away already. I remember being 14 yo and sitting in front of the television when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. It was an impressive historical moment.

Reading this book while I was in Berlin made it extra special, because I recognized things.

Red love is a very good book about the DDR and the people who lived in it, and a must read for everybody who is interested in European history.

Original German title: Haltet euer Herz bereit
Published in 2009

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