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Book review: the Evocative memories of Dresden in the Years at the zoo

The real paradise, said Proust, is the paradise lost; a melancholy (but probably reasonable) observation that, like a thin red thread winds its way through the many literary portrayals of the childhood landscape. ”You can't go home again”, was (almost too clear), a posthumously published novel of the early deceased, always elegiske american 30-famous Thomas Wolfe.

What stands out in the rearview mirror are doomed to disappear, and the more blurred, the past appears all the more seductive shimmers in the memory. Countless are the works in which middle-aged men remember the trips, fjärilshåvar and fishing rods, tonårsförälskelser and other diversions in a nostalgic reflection once somewhere far away in a lost world.

Durs Grünbein: ”It was absolutely inconceivable that Kafka would be teaching materials in the DDR”

attracted in a country that has since been consigned to the history was lost? If it was a dictatorship, surrounded by barbed wire? If one was and constantly longed away?

When Durs Grünbein, in ”the Years at the zoo,” looking back at the place where he spent his first twenty-seven years is madeleinekakorna spiced with wormwood. If we are to believe the title was DDR a cage. In such a will be no happy, and much of the text revolves around the flyktfantasier, dreams of departure, the sense of promise surrounding his hometown's train station.

But it is always more complicated than that. The environment leaves traces and imprints; a part kroppsminnen will remain for the rest of your life. I remember how I discovered Durs Grünbeins early collections of poetry just then the berlin Wall had fallen, and I remember the paradoxical impression of his poetry did. Of the DDR's author, he emerged as both the most european and the most clearly originated in a specific geography.

His generation in the east, an anachronistic avant-garde as happy grown romantic konstnärsmyter, shocked the west German criticism (during the years busy with theories about the author's death and the subject's crisis) by claiming that poetry was a vocation and they themselves were born to write.

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always to the hometown: Dresden had made him a poet. While cities such as Hamburg, Berlin, Warsaw after the war was built up on the new remained of the bombed-out barockpärlan in decades a ruinlandskap. In such an environment sharpens the gaze and what they put themselves at in his early poems, was how great he put words on that feeling of ”the east”, at once vague and unmistakable, that at the time many tried to catch – a territory of the rust, heaps, empty flagpoles in front of the abandoned partibyggnader. Already then you could suspect that all the props should not be interpreted metaphorically but as an inventory of the east German streets and industrial areas.

When the same wings now, almost thirty years later, popping up in memoarernas prelude to be confirmed slightly to Grünbeins DDR always signed out of memory. Förstadsgator with heeling trams and koppärriga facades; the Elbe, and the river's muddy water where the dead fish float past with the abdomen upwards. Address is more personal than in the poems, the members of the family flutters past the portraits in a photo album. The clearest, depicted with equal parts tenderness and remotely: the author's grandfather. He has been a butcher, a ordkarg man, who long after retirement, make frequent visits at the workplace, the Dresden slaughterhouse, where vaktpersonalen provides him with korvpaket. Carry out daily activities in a planned economy – and at the same time, a trip in an apocalyptic landscape:

”I have memories of veritable eskers of each other inkilade djurkroppsrester, bestialiskt stinking mountain of bones, gleaming in the sunlight, surrounded by screaming seagulls.”

In German is a noun pining away, the negation of homesickness: Fernweh.

a temporary measure, beyond time and space. As the narrator grows up, he becomes increasingly obsessed with the decoding of the city's hidden (or repressed) secrets and soon he begins to empty antikvariaten on the old hand-coloured postcards, photographs of how the city looked like before the bombs fell and everything became a burned-out crater.

A motif recurs constantly in these images (and thus also in the text): the train station. A building that survived the wars, revolutions, and the shifting ideologies and, therefore, in Grünbeins interpretation ensues as a kind of extraterritorial enclave. At the station are the misfits, the: the six day war and uteliggarna; and from the platforms can catch a train to far away destinations.

In German is a noun pining away, the negation of homesickness: Fernweh. That little boy is the author of the nights in bed and listening to sjöfartsnytt in radio, a séance, which culminates in the name as the ”Paramaribo” and ”Mombasa”. When he is old enough he takes the train to Prague, Budapest, Bulgaria's beach resorts.

All of this is fascinating in itself, but the memoir gets its suggestive charge of a consistent dubbelexponering: while the young Grünbein, with each step leaving a piece of DDR behind travels to the other, he who records these memories, in the opposite direction. What one want to abandon searching for the second conjure. It is easy to sympathize with both, he who wants to escape, and he that in the moment the past no longer seems threatening is prepared to some extent to reconcile with the place he grew up on.

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my own recollection, there are a large number of newly written poems and breathtaking essäistiska digressions – about nazism in Dresden, the utopian garden city Hellerau, the Red army barracks, and Caspar David Friedrich. All genregränser is repealed, an approach which does not seem to have sought without only kongenialt with the subject: if a temporary measure, you can perhaps just write in an open, changing shape as groping. As always, Ulrika Wallenströms translation a pleasure.

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