Book Review: ‘Fatherland,’ by Burkhard Bilger

Its 18 chapters are nicely organized into the various roles Günner played throughout his life, with a table of contents that looks like a John le Carré collage: teacher, traitor, soldier, ghost. Attending an interesting theatrical group therapy session in Berlin “To be reconciled with the dead” Bilger is asked to take on the role of adult war refugee children. “Will you be my father?” asks the new acquaintance.

Genner was known as a beloved educator when he died in 1979 at the age of 80. His grandparents, during a family visit to Germany, treated young Burkhardt with solemnity and aloofness, with “glass eyes that unsettledly strayed from the line when spoken.” (A teenage boy lost the original to shrapnel during combat during the war). World War I).

“He questioned me in a grave, cautious voice, like an astronaut meeting a Martian,” Birger wrote. It’s deep, but it’s also sweet. ”

The accompanying stickiness and stinging were largely unexplored until 2005, when Birger’s mother, historian Edeltraut, received a parcel of old letters from her aunt. It was a compelling primary document for further examination of Gyunna’s moral character. Edeltraut, with her heroic investigative ability to translate the old-fashioned and funny language from childhood memories, will be her son’s most important ally in overturning the term’s negative wartime accusations. deaf. Prussian letters, through the glaucomatous cloud. Banning the script, she joked darkly, “may be the only good thing Hitler did.”

Even if family ties were the closest, reconstructing Gjönner’s life would require many archives in a language that Birger hymns “full of forest and earth, wind and weather and rumbling”. I needed a dive and an interview. Its umlauts and guttural consonants are horns and woodwinds. (This is arguably one of his kindest descriptions in German ever published between covers.) His subject matter is delicate, but his sensuality is undiminished. . You can taste a schnitzel served in a pair of sauces he serves, followed by “a giant pie that looks like it’s got all the fruit in the garden” and as he roams the woods, You can feel spongy, springy moss under your feet.

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