Werner Bräunig: Rummelplatz

translated by Samuel P. Willcocks

Werner Bräunig was once regarded as the great hope of East German literature – until an extract from Rummelplatz was read before the East German censorship authorities in 1965, and fierce opposition summarily sealed its fate. The novel’s sin? It painted an all too accurate picture auf East German society.

Rummelplatz focuses on a notorious East German uranium mine, run by the Soviets and supplying the brotherland’s nuclear programme. Veterans, fortune seekers and outsiders with tenuous family ties like narrator Peter Loose flock to the well-paying mine, but soon find their new lives bleak. Safety provisions are almost non-existent and tools are not adequately supplied. The only outlets for workers are the bars and fairgrounds where copious amounts of alcohol are consumed and brawls quickly ensue.

In Rummelplatz, Bräunig paints his characters as intrinsically human and treats the death of each worker, no matter how poor, as a great tragedy. Bräunig occupies a cult-like status in Germany, and his translation of his masterpiece is an excellent introduction for English-language readers.

German original published by Aufbau Verlag, Berlin, under the title Rummelplatz in 2007.