Jurek Becker’s "The Wall: And Other Stories"
A Conversation with Christine and Jonathan Becker, moderated by Huberta von Voss
Tuesday, May 6, 2014, 6:30 p.m.
Deutsches Haus at NYU
Jurek Becker was one of the giants of postwar German literature. The novel, for which he is best known, Jakob the Liar, won worldwide acclaim, was awarded the Heinrich Mann and Charles Veillon prizes, and was made into two movies, including the U.S. version starring Robin Williams. It has been called “a novel about the martyrdom of Europe’s Jews that has never been surpassed”.
The Wall: And Other Stories, which will be published in May with Skyhorse Publishing, is a new collection of stories by Becker that either have never been translated into English or have never been published in the United States in book form before. Christine Becker, the widow of Jurek Becker, has provided an introduction to the collection.
The title story, “The Wall,” recounts two boys’ risky adventure when they scale the wall of a transit camp to visit the ghetto their families have recently vacated. In “The Most Popular Family Story,” a favorite anecdote recounted year after year at the gatherings of an extended Jewish family subtly marks the absences left by the Holocaust. Also included are the stories of Communist East Germany and the wall that divided Berlin, “The Suspect” and “Romeo,” as well as a short essay on the Lodz ghetto, “The Invisible City.”
Christine Becker studied German Literature and Publishing at the Free University of Berlin. She was married to Jurek Becker from 1986 until his death in 1997. Their son Jonathan was born in 1990. Becker edited a collection of letters written by her husband between 1969–96, entitled You Nonpareils (2004) followed by a collection of essays, interviews and lectures, entitled My Father, the Germans and I (2007), both are published by Suhrkamp. She also edited a compilation of essays in the English language. In 2009 she edited an audiobook of readings by Jurek Becker followed by an audiobook of his novel Bronstein’s Children read by Christoph Grube, which she directed. Since 2007 Becker visited various universities in the US to give lectures, introduce film screenings or present books. She recently completed work on an English edition of short stories written by her husband, to be published in spring 2014. Becker lives in Berlin.
Jonathan Becker is the son of Christine and Jurek Becker, finished school in the UK, worked at the Suhrkamp Publishing House, Seagull Books, Calcutta, and at the Volksbuehne Berlin. He studied Politics and History at International Jacobs University, Bremen. Jonathan translated his father’s essays, published in 2010, and short stories to be published in spring 2014.
Huberta von Voss is a German journalist, based in New York and Washington D.C. She started her career as a political correspondent for various newspapers in the early 90's and reported on the reunification process. After some years as a spokesperson for Rita Suessmuth, the president of the German Bundestag, she followed her husband Peter Wittig on ambassadorial postings to Beirut and Nicosia. She served as an expert for international politics and human rights in the Bundestag upon returning to Berlin and published several books, among them Arme Kinder, reiches Land on child poverty in Germany (Rowohlt 2008).
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