The novel is set largely during the last days and immediate post-war years of WWII, in the British and Soviet Zones (later German Democratic Republic) of Berlin. Hermine (whose name comes from a novel by Hermann Hesse, proscribed by the Nazis) marries an English academic, Duncan, who encourages her to write her own account. This relates to her complicated experience of (English) Michael, his brother Henry (Heinrich), her German father Wartmann and others. Falling in love with Henry, she heartily dislikes Michael, whose only desire is to seduce as many women as possible.
From the Preface: “If one looks at the events leading to World War Two and resulting from it, it is all too easy to condemn the Germans. How could a highly civilized people have turned to the doctrine of Fascism as dictated by a vicious racist and psychopath? All of this, though, leads to a more basic question: could I, had I been brought up in a different society, ever have behaved in a similar fashion?”
“Henry found himself dreaming: “Oh I’m clever, oh I’m great. I rule. Eurore shudders at my might. I the Fuhrer, the artist they rejected: fools like all rest. I the people, I the nation, I the leader. Cheering me, admiring, fearing me. . . A Berlin of the mind, split between East and West, two hemispheres, left and right, now with an irrevocable dividing wall and the greatest tension at the crossover from one side to another. A peaceful man, a dull man even … A house in the country, and if I had children there’d be… what is it? . . . 1.7 of them. And there were no signposts. That was the thing about wartime Britain too: so as not to assist the enemy should he invade across the divide all the signs were removed.”
From Chapter One, Hermine:” I was raised in a concentration camp, without which my whole story would have been different. North of Berlin, Ravensbrück was specifically for women and, of course, their children. You can visit the museum there today and see the memorial, which was set up by the Soviets when Berlin was part of East Germany, and part of my story too.”
Book Review: As the author says in the book description and I quote, “The novel is set largely during the last days and immediate post-war years of WWII, in the British and Soviet Zones (later German Democratic Republic) of Berlin.”
I found this part of the Author’s Preface most interesting: “A friend of mine once suggested that the period in question was comparable to the Trojan War in the minds of those who lived through it. But I simply do not believe that Germans are fundamentally worse than other people. There are, to my mind, arseholes in all countries: it all depends on historical conditions leading to particular societies. The British can be as bad as Germans, sometimes more so, with their neo-Nazis, soccer riots, etc. The U.S.A has its deep-seated racist attitudes and violent gun culture. Canadians by and large are fortunate, except for their country’s residential schools and relations with its indigenous peoples. And Israel, which suffered more than any country in the holocaust, is unforgivingly anti-Arab. All of this leads to all kinds of abuses, which I have no intention of listing here, for a little thought will reveal them. As for Russia, or the most extreme manifestations of Islam and other religions with their sects—one thinks too of Christianity with Catholicism and others—well, again their problems are evident.”
Prologue, 1945, sets the stage where in the next seven chapter tell the stories of Hermine (survived Ravensbrück), Dr. Michael Warner (the antagonist) and Henry Warner or (again) Heinrich Werner.
The Interlude states: “I learnt later that there were other players in that ultimate drama: Henry’s first wife, Estelle, amongst them.” Chapters Eight to Ten bring us back into Michael’s, Henry’s and Hermine’s life. The book concludes with Epilogue One: Michael and Epilogue Two: Hermine.
This is intense and satisfying reading for history buffs.
I, Theodocia McLean endorse A Berlin Of The Mind by A. Colin Wright as an intellectual read. As intense as this period of time so is the knowledge and passion with which the author writes. I have had the pleasure of reading the authors other book titled Veronica’s Papers. It is important to know his bio and I quote.
“A. Colin Wright was born and raised in the county of Essex, England. After serving as a linguist in the British Royal Air Force, Wright attended Cambridge University, where he earned undergraduate and graduate degrees. In 1964, he was appointed a professor of Russian at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. He remained at Queen’s until his retirement in 1999 and still resides there today. Dr. Wright is married and has two grown sons. He acts and directs in the local theatre. With a love of languages (he speaks English, French, German, Russian and Italian, with a smattering of Spanish and Scottish Gaelic), he is adamant about correct grammar in his writing. This unfortunately also makes him highly critical of others! He also loves travel and has led various groups for Craig Travel in Toronto to Russia, Ukraine, China, South Africa, Southern India, Alaska and the islands of the North Atlantic.”
This review was completed on May 28, 2017.