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Peggy Farooqi
Mum of 3 (1994, 1995, 1998)- born in East Germany --lived in UK/ Kent since 1993 -- studied criminology -- love reading / writing / travelling / needlecraft 
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24 January 2015

Lieb Vaterland mags ruhig sein
Johannes Mario Simmel
Droemersche Verlag
Publication Date
history, novel


Translated from German by Peggy Farooqi

This epic novel tells the story of a man with a somewhat shady past who gets sucked into the dark worlds of the secret services both from East and West Germany shortly after the erection of the German wall in 1964. We get to see the colourful sides of Berlin, and on both sides of the wall and get to know the people who plan, finance and build the escape tunnels from East to West. 

My review:  

This book has only been published in German and as far as I am know, not been translated into English. As it is a rather big book, I have not attempted the translation myself (I sometimes do this for my own purposes only, as, of course, I don't have the permission from the publisher to distribute a translation). So all my English only readers will not get the chance to read this book, but I would still like to publish a review on it to log all the books I read. And, I believe there are some other Simmel books which have been translated and it is well worth picking them up! Most are long and epic works, but very detailed. 

Here, the story starts with a rather large lady being stuck in a hole. Except... this is the entrance hole to a tunnel. A tunnel which has been dug illegally and under threat of being shot dead which leads from East to West Berlin and allows people to flee into the West. Bruno Knolle, in his 40's, has just come out of jail in East Berlin and also comes through the same tunnel, escaping into the West. But not all is like it seems with Bruno. His 'escape' into the West is orchestrated and he has orders what to do. But Bruno is just a simple man dreaming from having his own pub and being with his girl, Nellie. But he gets sucked into the dark world of secret services on both sides. 

We meet many different characters, and even the most minor characters (who may be just mentioned once for a couple of pages) are beautifully drawn and we feel that we know all about them. Often, characters in his books interconnect later on and we 'meet' them again. Simmel also always has a message in his books - mainly that we are all humans living on this earth. Here specifically I find he shows the idiocy and ridiculousness of the devision of Berlin. Of course it was dead serious, but having the benefit of hindsight now it just sound so silly how the secret services worked against each other - often even with double agents who swap sides several times. I also find it simply incredible that this book was published in 1965 and while we know that history has long moved on, the writing is flawless and current. 

Simmel's books are not a small feast, but you will find yourself lost in it quickly and before you know it, you have read over 700 pages. 

About the author:  
From Wikipedia

  1. Johannes Mario Simmel, also known as J. M. Simmel, was an Austrian writer. He was born in Vienna and grew up in Austria and England. He was trained as a chemical engineer and worked in research from 1943 to the end of World War II. Wikipedia
  2. BornApril 7, 1924, Vienna, Austria
  3. DiedJanuary 1, 2009, Lucerne, Switzerland